One Rough ManBook - 2011
They call it the Taskforce. Their existence is as essential as it is illegal. Commissioned at the highest level of the U.S. government. Protected from the prying eyes of Congress and the media. Built around the top operators from across the clandestine, intelligence, and special forces landscape. Designed to operate outside the bounds of U.S. law. Trained to exist on the ragged edge of human capability.
Pike Logan was the most successful operator on the Taskforce, his instincts and talents unrivaled-until personal tragedy permanently altered his outlook on the world. Pike knows what the rest of the country might not want to admit: The real threat isn't from any nation, any government, any terrorist group. The real threat is one or two men, controlled by ideology, operating independently, in possession of a powerful weapon.
Buried in a stack of intercepted chatter is evidence of two such men. The transcripts are scheduled for analysis in three months. The attack is mere days away. It is their bad luck that they're about to cross paths with Pike Logan. And Pike Logan has nothing left to lose.
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The message went out to a Yahoo! address, where it would sit for a day, then be forwarded to another address, then another, before being transferred to a thumb drive and driven across a border to another Internet café, sent again to another account, transferred via cell phone verbatim, then copied to a CD, and eventually find its way into the hands of Al Qaeda leadership.
Back when I was operational, I had a quote from George Orwell hanging inside my Taskforce locker that defined the essence of what I believed I was: People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do them harm.
He had seen the sausage factory of decision-making by the inner circle of the U.S. government and determined it was a recipe for failure. What was needed was decisive action, without a bunch of quibbling from Congress, or, heaven forbid, from the great unwashed of the American electorate.
Every computer file, such as JPEG, MP3, or WAV, has unused data streams within itself, basically empty pockets that serve no purpose. The steganography program simply fills up this empty space with the data that one wishes to hide. Thus, while the picture of Aunt Sally still looks like a picture of Aunt Sally, someone who knows there is hidden information within the picture can extract and reconstruct it.
“Don’t kid yourself, sir. We’ve been lucky. Ever since 9/11 we’ve been hunting terrorists more concerned with their place in history than conducting a well-thought-out attack. They’ve been happy just to shove some explosives in their underwear. This guy getting so close to radiological material scares the shit out of me. Some lone wolf gets his hands on WMD and his place in history won’t have to be well thought out.”
The greater good had been used to defend a lot of actions in the past, including Pol Pot and Hitler. In contrast, the constitution of the United States itself was based on the individual—every individual. When does the greater good become evil? When was it okay to kill one innocent to protect many? When the many said so? Or when the one has a vote?
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