Tom Diaz

Archive for the ‘Cronatos Hybamper’ Category

We Had Our Chance Three Times Before—Moses, Jesus, And Mohamed. Now The Destroyer Is Here

In Cronatos Hybamper, Political Satire on January 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm

blackpearl

“All right,” Jyonah Fujimaki said more calmly. “All right. Yes, perhaps a trinity, but not necessarily in the sense of any given religion. More like in the mystery sense. I don’t pretend to know all that could be revealed here. But, you, Dr. Rivera. What was the first test of the atomic bomb called?”

“I don’t know,” Rivera answered acidly. “A ‘test?’”

“You do know!” Fujimaki shouted angrily. “What was the name of the project?”

“Oh,” Quin rolled her eyes. “Trinity. You mean, Trinity?”

“Very good,” he replied. “Very good. And what did Dr. Oppenheimer observe at the moment of the explosion?”

Quin shook her head.

“What is this, Doctor, Trivial Pursuit?”

She only barely knew who Oppenheimer was, much less what he might or might not have said. General Sanders furrowed his brow. It was on the tip of his tongue. The furtive guard moved a bit more quickly, sensing that he was far enough out of the angry scientist’s visual field to risk a few more steps.

“’I am become Death,’” whispered Minister Biryukov. “’I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.’”

“Yes. Excellent, Minister. Your English has improved remarkably. I am become Death. We had our chance three times before—Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. Now the Destroyer is here. And how arrogant, even of the confused Dr. Oppenheimer. We are not destroyers of worlds. We cannot be destroyers of worlds. Only God can do that. We can only destroy each other. Black Pearl is here to show us a New Eden and tell us to beat our swords into—”

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Although Cronatos is in form a “political satire,” its entire fictional premise—what makes the characters act as they do—is the sudden and simultaneous appearance of three mysterious objects. One of the characters, a brilliant astrophysicist named Jyonah Fujimaki, proposes that these objects are in fact the final manifestation of God, giving humanity one last chance.

The objects appear in deep Alaska, Siberia, and the Negev Desert. They can only be accessed through invisible portals. They look like shimmering black pearls, each about 30 meters high. The kicker is that, within the portal, each appears to be creating an entirely new universe, one in which nothing electromagnetic works. In the face of this phenomenon, politicians, religious leaders, military commanders, spy agencies, and corporate magnates do pretty much what they do in real life—hence, the satire.

How “realistic” is the idea? Hell, I don’t know. I know of few religious traditions that would say the entity that they call “God” actually appeared in a way that human beings could experience directly (face to whatever) without being fried or scared senseless. The Deity’s appearances are usually indirect, mysterious, and through understandable media, such as prophets. Or, in this case, mysterious Black Pearls.

What I insist is indeed “realistic” is that existing religious and political establishments would uniformly resist such a “last warning” and seek to discredit it. End of Days or not, the establishment will cling to its human ways. It always has and always will.

You can read more and open an introduction to the novel here:

From Miniskirts to Shoulder Boards—Women in the Russian Military

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, Putin, Russia, Russian Army, Ukraine, War and Rumors of War on January 13, 2017 at 11:50 am

putins-miniskirt-army

The mysterious and intoxicating beauty rarely left Russia. But she was definitely confirmed by multi-sourced intelligence to be the most dynamic senior force in the Russian military research and development hierarchy. If there was a glass ceiling in the Russian armed services, she refused to accept it. Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova was one of a handful of women who had not merely overcome, but blasted through, the sexism that still abounded in Russia’s hierarchy of power. Even President Gribov was said to treat her as a full equal, not merely some sexy dangle to be shown now and again, but a true equal.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Three strong women play pivotal roles in the novel Cronatos Hybamper. Others have lesser but key places in the narrative.

Things get very complicated when Russian Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova and a CIA operations officer go toe-to-toe. (You’ll have to read the novel to get the full significance of that very deliberate double entendre. I won’t spoil the plot by leaking any more classified data on that series of events.)

One might fairly ask, so what is the status of women, and especially high-ranking women, in the real life of the Russian armed forces?

Well, it turns out that there actually is woman who is a Russian Deputy Minister of Defense. Her name is Tatiana Shevtsova. However, unlike Col. Vodovatova, Shevtsova’s career was made in the civil service and not in the military.

Another woman, Natalia Poklonskaya, was supposedly the youngest general in Russia when she resigned and was elected to the Duma, or parliament. But, her rank was also not military. She was formerly the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Crimea. She also has the distinction of being the only woman on the United States’ list of individual sanctions against Ukrainian separatists and Russians.

Poklonskaya enjoys international fame for her beauty, according to Wikipedia:

After a video of Poklonskaya at a press conference on 11 March 2014 was uploaded to YouTube, her attractiveness and youth went viral among Japanese and Chinese internet users and also became the focus of attention of Internet communities…Within a month, the press conference was viewed over 1.7 million times. Many fan-created anime-style images of her uploaded to the Internet also attracted international media attention. A music video by Enjoykin based on Poklonskaya’s press conferences and interviews has had 20 million views on YouTube.

The only “real” female Russian military general I could find in my background research was General Yelena Knyazeva, deputy chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Department for International Military Cooperation. According to the Russian outlet Sputnik News. “She became Russia’s first woman general in almost two decades and second after woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who was bestowed the rank of the Major General Lieutenant of the Air Force in the middle of the 90s.”

I’m not sure that General Knyazeva’s views on gender would fly in the U.S. military, however. “Maybe it would be good [for women to do voluntary service], but I think it’s better for women to get married, have children and bring up their sons who will serve their Motherland,” Knyazeva, the only one-star female officer in Russia’s Armed Forces, told RIA Novosti.

On the lighter side, one should not miss the current (real) Russian President’s so-called “Army in Miniskirts.” An interview with one of the female soldiers can be found on a Pravda Report on You Tube.

You can buy the novel and read about Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova and the other strong women characters in Cronatos by following the link below, which also opens a long read from the book’s beginning pages.

 

 

Answer Me This, Just for the Hell of It: Is Satan Real?

In Cronatos Hybamper, Political Satire, War and Rumors of War on January 12, 2017 at 3:50 pm

nick

“Call me Nick,” the wizened old man in the open vehicle said.

His perch was a ridiculously outsized bucket seat in what looked like a big, rusted-out toy wagon. He licked his thin lips, drawn back like two unevenly twisted rubber bands. The resulting expression was something between a lecher’s smirk and a dead man’s grimace.

“Or Nicholas. Or Nikolai. Whichever pleases you. I answer to them all. If you don’t like any of them, I have others I can suggest.”

“Okay, Nick,” Staff Sergeant Keiko Boynton nodded. “Nick is good.”

She smiled at him. Maybe he was fucking with her, the way he talked in smart-ass riddles. Still, she thought, that was no reason to assume that the locals are unfriendly, or that this one in particular was dangerous. She could see nothing on him or in the vehicle that looked like a weapon. He was just a Jawa, a bare-chested, wrinkled old guy wearing tan cargo shorts and flip-flops cut out of old tires.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

“Nick” is an interesting character. He shows up at the damnedest places in the novel, Cronatos Hybamper. Even people who have met him face to face develop doubts about his reality.

Let’s say—just for the sake of discussion—that the character Nick in the novel is actually “Old Nick.” The Devil.

Do you believe such a being actually exists?

Or, do you think that Satan is just a Biblical metaphor, or the invention of medieval moralists, or just silly? And thus, by extension, the character Nick must be regarded as entirely fanciful?

Not that there is anything wrong with using the Devil as a literary device in a novel, even in pursuit of a “higher” mythological or theological meaning:

…Satan is a character about whom one is always tempted to tell stories, and one may best understand him not by examining his character or the beliefs about his nature according to some elaborate and rootless metaphysical system, but rather by putting him back into history, into the narrative contexts in which he begins and which he never really leaves. That is, we must try to see him as an actor, or what Aristotle called an “agent,” with a role to play in a plot or mythos.

Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy—Satan and the Combat Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 4.

In the United States, at least, polls show that a very large number of people believe that the Devil, Satan, is as real as it gets.

Gallup asked Americans if the devil is something they believe in, something they’re not sure about, or something they don’t believe in. Sixty-eight percent said in a May 2001 poll that they believe in the devil, 20% said they don’t, and 12% said they aren’t sure. Majorities of Americans of every political inclination, region, educational level, and age group said they believe in the devil.

Gallup, “The Devil and the Demographic Details,” by Jennifer Robison

Here is a chart from the same article.

belief-in-the-devil-graph

It perhaps won’t surprise anyone that belief in Satan’s existence varies by geographic region as well as religion and political affiliation.

belief-in-the-devil-by-region-graph

Bottom line from Gallup?

Over the centuries, science has been able to explain many phenomena that once seemed supernatural. Bad weather, ill health, and heretical opinions may not be the work of the infernal after all. With the advent of evolutionary theory and modern psychology, these days we’re more likely to think of people who do terrible things as broken human beings, rather than agents of the netherworld. Furthermore, religion has ceded its civil authority, and religiosity has declined somewhat in American society. So we might expect belief in the devil to have largely evaporated. It hasn’t. Regardless of political belief, religious inclination, education, or region, most Americans believe that the devil exists.

This leads inevitably to the question, why? Why do people in a modern, aggressively “secular” culture believe in the literal existence of this creature known by so many names? Libraries of books have been written about Satan and this question of why (not counting scripture and its gloss). I have half a dozen in my own library, as well as books of art about how the Devil has been represented throughout the ages.

Here is one representative explanation of Satan’s necessity from a Christian perspective:

In Satan, nothing that is good, humane, or redeemable can reside. Unless the wretched sinners cling to the mercies of God provided through Jesus Christ, the reprobate would spend all of eternity suffering in the never-ending fires of Hell where they would be tormented by hordes of hideous creatures…Even if we wanted to move beyond dualistic notions of absolute Good (God) and absolute Evil (Satan), the fact remains that the current religious imagination of Christians, fueled by centuries of reinforcements from popular culture, is locked in this binary world-view that dates back to the early church and its struggle against paganism. To hint that evil comes from God (as did some biblical passages), or that Satan can lead believers to good consequences, continues to be considered blasphemy among most Christians.

Miguel A. De La Torre and Albert Hernandez, The Quest for the Historical Satan (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), p. 197.

On the other hand, the Christian Post reported in 2009 that most U.S. Christians “do not believe that Satan is a real being or that the Holy Spirit is a living entity.” Rather, citing another survey, the Christian Post stated that “nearly six out of ten Christians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan ‘is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.’” Christian Post, Jennifer Riley, “Most U.S. Christians Don’t Believe Satan, Holy Spirit Exist,” April 13, 2009.

You can read more about Nick in the novel, which you can preview and order from this link.

The Rain in Moscow Wasn’t Purple: Of Honey Traps and Con·cu·pis·cence

In bad manners, Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Putin, Russia, Russian Intelligence Operations, The Great Stupid, Trump on January 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

sweet-apple

Two weeks after her arrival, [redacted] was delighted to have been invited to Monica’s Moscow flat for lunch. The flat was surprisingly roomy. It was just the two of them. Vasily could not break away from work. There was a good champagne, and lots of it. One thing led to another, skillfully guided by the charming Monica. Before mid-day, the two … were lying in bed, naked and deliciously exhausted. They had enjoyed every variety of passionate sexual embrace imaginable. This was all recorded on high-quality sound film by KGB technicians, working in an adjoining room from behind a strategically placed two-way mirror.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Forgive me for being repetitious, but once again the headlines are ripped from my novel, Cronatos Hybamper.

I have no idea whether the “unconfirmed” allegations about President-elect Trump described below are true or not. But use of the so-called “honey trap” has been a staple of the Russian intelligence services for at least a century. So, my only point here is that my little fictive device has a long, solid, eminently believable foundation in real life.

I don’t want to include a plot-spoiler in this excerpt, so you’ll have to read the novel to find out who was the victim of the honey trap in Cronatos.

Buzzfeed posted a version of the actual memo containing the alleged Russian “kompromat” activities in this story, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia.”

A dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.…

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians.

The New York Times alluded to the sexual antics that are described in some detail in the Buzzfeed post in its story, “Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him,” by Scott Shane, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 10, 2017.

WASHINGTON — The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and President-elect Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.

The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.

The Washington Post’s story skipped the salacious part and went with full pabulum suitable for reading by children and in church, “Intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims Russia has compromising information on president-elect,” by Greg Miller, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Steven Mufson, January 10 at 10:04 PM

A classified report delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said.

To read more about the honey trap in Cronatos and its consequences, read the novel, which you can sample and order here:

 

 

A Spy May Be A Spy By Any Other Name, Or Gait—But You Won’t Recognize Them

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Movies, Political Satire on January 10, 2017 at 5:22 pm

real-argo-and-carter

Lisabeth Purnell was certainly clever enough to appreciate the grand irony of her opening at the White House as Ingrid Carlsbad, appearing in a one act play about the power of redemption, accompanied by ear-shattering thunder and dramatic sweeps of rain.

Who really knows the heart and soul of anyone among us? she asked herself.

Like many intelligence officers in the clandestine service, Purnell used more than one pseudonym. Ingrid Carlsbad just happened to be her favorite fake name. Bogus names threw off of her trail any curious civilians—including clandestine agents of hostile services—who might be inclined to follow up after events in the open like this briefing.

Lisabeth was also wearing light disguise. This was a subtle collection of invisible, almost magic alterations to her facial structure, her hair, and certain parts of her body. Lifts and slight orthopedic adjustments to her shoes changed her height, and the pace and cant of her walk. The CIA had used these techniques for decades to ensure that no one who happened to see an actual covert operations officer in such a public context would recognize the real person in a chance encounter elsewhere.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Lisabeth Purnell (aka Ingrid Carlsbad) is just about the coolest character in my novel, Cronatos Hybamper. A CIA operations officer, she “had the perfect cover for her work in Moscow Station. And she had a score to settle. This was a dangerous combination for the Russians.” You can read her story and how she got her revenge in the novel.

There are several good sources on the use of disguise by agents in the field. Three that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to are these podcasts from the Spycast series posted by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. They feature Antonio (Tony) Mendez and his wife Jonna Mendez, both of whom worked in the CIA’s Technical Services Division. At separate times, each was Chief of Disguise for the agency.

Tony Mendez was the real agent who got out the American diplomats trapped in Tehran, the story featured in the movie Argo. The pair have written several books about their craft and episodes from real life.

Here are links to the three podcasts:

A discussion of the intricacies of developing disguises for use in hostile environments, the advantages of selective aging, and the secret history of facial recognition technology. https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-1/

Jonna Mendez discusses some of the operations she was involved in as well as opportunities for women in the intelligence community. https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-2/

The story of how Tony Mendez mounted an elaborate deception and disguise operation to exfiltrate six Americans from Tehran before the Iranians were able to track them down.https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-3/

One of the rescued diplomats wrote an article praising the film and Mendez, but explaining how the cinematic version differed from real life. See, Mark Lijek, “I Was Rescued From Iran: It wasn’t like the movie.” Slate.

Both of the Mendez couple have written books. Here are links to just two, and there are more. The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA, and Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History.

To read a sample of Cronatos Hybamper and order the book, click on the link below.

 

 

The Latest Aircraft Carrier is a rowboat

In Chicken Hawks and Other War Birds, Corruption, Cronatos Hybamper, Defense Spending, Ethics in Washington, Expendable Youth, Political Satire, politics, True Patriotism, War and Rumors of War, Washington Bureaucracy on January 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm

carrier-landing

“Now, the job we and the military writ large face is going to require funding. And lots of it. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. And don’t be shy about the numbers. We’ll get our foot into the door and shove it open from there. Those expensive experts are going to help us, whether they know it or not. Think big! If it helps, General, think of Cronatos Hybamper as chump change, lint in your pocket. The latest nuclear aircraft carrier is a rowboat. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

The Secretary nodded and smiled. General Sanders was like a hound on a new bone. He would be the perfect fulcrum at—what was the man always calling it—“the serendipitous yet decisive axis of intersecting strategic forces?” Gus Scoggins settled back into the limousine’s cushioned seat. It’s just wonderful, he thought, how God, apple pie, the axis of intersecting strategic forces, and the American security interest have a way of magically coming together in a way that helps those who help themselves to it.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Secretary of Defense Gus Scoggins, the focus of the quoted passage from my novel Cronatos Hybamper, knew jack about things military when he was offered the post of Secretary of Defense. But he did understand how to make money out of opportunity. He was, after all, one of the richest men in America.

The new Secretary of Defense was happy to leave the strategic thinking to the generals, men like General Sanders, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What Scoggins saw clearly was that the Department of Defense is like a massive seed corn silo. And when the troubling, extraordinary incident spotted by Cronatos Hybamper came along, he was ready to take a giant shovel and start spreading the gullible taxpayers’ wealth among his friends in the technology-defense-industrial-mega-complex.

Scoggins knew that what goes around in defense funding circles would come back around to him and his many money interests sooner or later.

Read more about Scoggins and his wonderful tax milking machine in the novel. You can read a sample by clicking on the link below.

Generals in the Political Mine Field

In bad manners, Cronatos Hybamper, Ethics in Washington, Political Satire, politics, Turf Wars on January 7, 2017 at 5:56 pm

truman-macarthur

The general nodded absently, as if dismissing his driver. He was thoroughly enjoying himself. This was just getting better by the moment. It was precisely the kind of “serendipitous yet decisive axis of intersecting strategic forces” for which he had long prepared and on the foundation of which he had fashioned his ascent and tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a tenure that was going quite well among his old conservative friends on the Hill. There had been some idle talk of his running for very high office, talk that he had, of course, squelched, and yet at the same time not squelched. No military man could engage in politics, or at least give the appearance of engaging in politics. Many star-studded forebears of his had stepped on career-fatal landmines walking that walk too early and too visibly.

“In two words,” he replied to such hints, exactly as he had also often explained his high national security concept to the Pentagon’s bewitched civilian overseers in Congress. “Be prepared. Simply, be prepared.”

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

It’s not that generals don’t, or perhaps even shouldn’t, get involved in politics. But timing and the right touch are everything.

My fictional General Raymond (Ray) Sanders, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose thoughts are illuminated in the above quote from the novel, understands that. Too soon, too obvious, too disrespectful of civilian authority and a general’s political future gets blown up. A bit of patience, a bit of reluctance, and his political star rises.

General Douglas MacArthur tried to have his cake and eat it too in 1948. Rather than resign from the Army, where he was riding high as a hero, and campaign for the Presidency, he played an “if nominated, I will shall run” strategy. He got only crumbs. Thomas E. Dewey got the nomination.

A few years later, MacArthur again blew it while he was in command of the Korean War. He ignored an order from President Harry S. Truman to stop undermining Truman’s strategy by communicating his private wisdom to the Congress. When some of that wisdom was read on the floor of the House, Truman sacked MacArthur, later explaining:

I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.

Lock them up?

MacArthur’s peer and professional rival General Dwight David Eisenhower played the game better–calmly, coolly, and with poise. “Ike” sailed into the White House.

Here in an excerpt from the thoughts of a prominent military scholar on the subject of generals in politics:

The 20th century also witnessed its share of generals vying for the political spotlight. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, hero of the Southwest Pacific campaign in World War II and Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, made no secret of his desire to secure the Republican nomination for president in 1948. He made no headway in the primaries, however, garnering only 11 delegates. The nomination went to Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.

Another war hero, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, was still in uniform when he was drafted to run for president as a Republican in 1952, but he retired before accepting the nomination. Ike went on to become a popular two-term president.

Several other general and flag officers have run for president or vice-president since then, but they have all done so as retirees: General Curtis Lemay (vice presidential candidate with Governor George Wallace of Alabama) in 1968, General Alexander Haig (candidate for the Republican nomination) in 1988, Vice Admiral James Stockdale (vice presidential candidate with Ross Perot) in 1992, and General Wesley Clark (candidate for the Democratic nomination) in 2004.

With this long list of senior military leaders competing in the political arena, does the military actually have a tradition of being “apolitical?” If it does, it can be traced back to several prominent military figures, among them General George Washington, General of the Army General William T. Sherman, hero of the Civil War and originator of the “Shermanesque” statement categorically declining consideration for public office, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II. Marshall refused to even vote for fear of compromising his “professional independence and judgment.”

“Generals And Politics,”by Peter R. Mansoor, August 8, 2016

Read about the rest of General Sanders’ political career in Cronatos Hybamper, which you can sample and order here:

 

 

 

 

The Most Intelligent Men in the Washington Play Pen. Or Not.

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Turf Wars, War and Rumors of War, Washington Bureaucracy on January 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

clapper-hearingedited

“Our biggest challenge with implementing the Cronatos system,” Wes McRae, the Director of National Intelligence, quipped at a seemingly casual but well-planned off-the-record moment in a joint briefing that he and the Secretary of Defense gave on Capitol Hill, “Was separating out the workers’ farts from the chemical leaks at the Russian’s special warfare facilities.”

McRae was the iron-fisted paterfamilias of the intelligence community, a giant man with bushy eyebrows and an unflinching gaze. He was given to good wine, fine cigars, black cowboy boots, and the classics of literature and music. Although the DNI post had once been little more than royal eunuch and far less than godfather, Wes McRae had changed that. He had clawed his way to the top of the heap and had the requisite skills—the ability to ruthlessly kick or exquisitely kiss ass, as the strategic moment demanded—to enforce his will through fear, favor, and tactical brown-nosing. As long as half of the secret world loved him and half hated him, he was happy, because he then always had the deciding vote. Lesser aspirants came to learn the pleasures of life in such posts as outer Bolivia, deep Minnesota, and anywhere in Chad.

No one had ever proven that Wes McRae had leaked a single syllable about any elected or appointed member of the civilian government. Everyone, the President included, knew that he could. No one wanted to find out if he would.

The second was a portly, balding man in a dark gray pinstripe suit. He was Manfrey J. Ferbe, director of the CIA. Ferbe held an office that once commanded the heights of the intelligence world, and from those heights a great deal of America’s foreign policy. No one but the President of the United States told the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency what to do or when to do it.

That was true until Wes McRae was appointed to the theoretically higher post of Director of National Intelligence, charged with coordinating the work of all of the intelligence agencies. Generations of CIA directors had just ignored any nominal superior, including the DNI. But McRae succeeded where previous DNIs had failed. He wrestled the agency into limping submission to his superior authority as top dog of everything that even hinted at intelligence.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

If you write a novel that touches on the geopolitics of the United States, it’s fun to feature the preening cuckoos at the top of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The two excerpts above reflect the struggle between the Director of National Intelligence and the subordinate agencies.

Well, daggone it! No sooner did I write Cronatos Hybamper than a wee-wee match broke out in the real world spook play pen. Guess I was ahead of the curve.

[Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn] … has called President Obama a “liar,” declared the U.S. justice system “corrupt” and insisted that he was pushed out of his assignment as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of his views on radical Islam. The claim has left former superiors seething, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., according to current and former officials who said Flynn was removed because of management problems.

Dana Priest and Greg Miller, “He was one of the most respected intel officers of his generation. Now he’s leading ‘Lock her up’ chants,” The Washington Post, August 15,2016.

You can read the rest of the future here.

Radio Burst Nuisance Calls Not from Annoying Spam Call Centers: Space to Earth, Space to Earth, Space to Earth

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence on January 5, 2017 at 4:14 pm

sentinel-1_radar_vision

In a layperson’s terms, Lt. Kinard had hit every reset and diagnosis button the system offered. He had wracked every available synapse in his brain. Yet he was still looking at the same bizarre, hardly believable result. Four separate satellites seemed to have independently and simultaneously observed a trio of three separate radio microbursts, one each from the Negev Desert, deep Alaska, and Russian Siberia. Each radio burst lasted 3 nanoseconds. Each was broadcast at precisely the same time. There was no discernible variation in the tones. Even when amplified and slowed down, there was nothing to decrypt, and no evidence of a lurking hidden carrier entwined within the identical tones. The geographical sources of the microbursts were identifiable by the usual techniques of target mensuration, refined to a point somewhere within one meter of a notional center. The satellite system had a extraordinary ground resolution distance—highly classified, of course. But none of the resulting images of the target locations showed evidence of any possible human source, or, for that matter, any recent human activity. The terrain for hundreds of kilometers around each point of origin was as undisturbed and unremarkable as virgin territory. No foot prints, no structures, no debris. Nothing.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

This is fiction, of course. But radio bursts are real.

I stumbled into the inspiration to use radio microbursts in my novel while I was researching the use of exactly such very fast, encrypted communications by spies.

One search or another led me to a couple of sources on radio bursts from various points on Earth that were picked up by surveillance satellites. On the face of it, they appeared to be radio transmissions from those points. But further examination showed that they were actually echoes, that is, signals from deep outer space that were bouncing off of our planet.

Naturally, scientists have been curious about the original sources of radio bursts from space. According to news reports, they have finally figured out the origin of at least some of them. Here are examples:

From The Washington Post:

For the first time, scientists have nailed down a source of fast radio bursts, one of astronomy’s most enigmatic phenomena.

A dim dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion light years from Earth is sending out the mysterious millisecond-long blasts of radio waves, researchers report Wednesday in Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters. The bursts traverse vast expanses of time and intergalactic space before reaching our planet.

“This really is the first ironclad association of a fast radio burst with another astronomical source, so it’s a pretty huge result,” said Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at West Virginia University who reported the first detection of a fast radio burst (FRB) in 2007.

FRBs are extremely brief pulses of radio waves, flaring with the power of about 500 million suns. Scientists have recorded just 18 of these signals, but studies suggest there could be as many as 10,000 a day.

From The New York Times:

Astronomers have traced a series of brief, enigmatic bursts of radio waves to a galaxy far, far away and indeed a long time ago — some three billion years or so.

But as much as you might be hoping or dreading it to be true, this is probably not E.T.

“We’ve joked about spaceship battles and death stars blowing up, but we think we can explain it with ordinary physics,” said Shami Chatterjee, a Cornell astronomer.

Dr. Chatterjee is the lead author of a paper published in Nature on Wednesday that details the search for the source of the radio waves known as “fast radio bursts,” intense pulses of radiation from the sky lasting only a few milliseconds.

See? Truth really is more boring than fiction. the source in Cronatos Hybamper is tons more interesting and scary.

 

Bar-B-Q GRU Style—Who Was That Colonel Burned Alive for Treason?

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Nuclear Weapons and War, Obama, Putin, Russia, Russian Active Measures, Russian Army, Russian Intelligence Operations, War and Rumors of War on December 31, 2016 at 6:11 pm

look-into-a-crematory-furnace

Looming over the sergeant’s internal ruminations was the inescapable fact that Minister of Defense and General of the Army Vyacheslav Maximovich Biryukov—recently returned from a secret trip to America—had no patience for mistakes. None. And, like most senior Russian military and security service commanders, the Minister was also clinically paranoid. He often perceived innocent failure as deliberate sabotage, gossip around the samovar as whispering intrigue.

If a room fell silent the instant he entered, he was known to seal the door and call everyone who happened to be in the room into his office, one at a time. His unblinking gaze pinned each to a chair, like a butterfly in a museum of natural history, treated as a prime suspect in a vague crime, the specifics of which only Biryukov knew. He saw no need to explain the offense to his specimens. Each suffered a thorough interrogation, a talent for which had helped make the general’s fame as a junior officer of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. Most survived the ordeal. An unlucky few were referred for “further processing” and fell from favor. One or two disappeared and were never seen or heard from again.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Well, isn’t this timely?

No sooner do I write a novel in which an alumni of the GRU (Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye) is a prominent character than the “real” news accommodates me. President Obama expels a pot full of GRU officers from the USA!

Long regarded as the understudy of the infamous KGB and its successor services, Russian military intelligence is now front and center in the Moscow-Washington showdown…But on Thursday the GRU suddenly emerged from the shadows when the waning Obama administration imposed sanctions on the four top-ranking GRU officers for their roles hacking the private email correspondence of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta. The entire spy agency, along with the FSB, was also sanctioned institutionally.

Michael Weiss, “The GRU: Putin’s No-Longer-So-Secret Weapon,” The Daily Beast.

I am not sure that “understudy” is a word properly applied to the GRU, but Weiss mentions the story of Col. Oleg Penkovsky, who played a key role in preventing war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Penkovsky was “a GRU colonel and… a double agent being jointly run by Britain’s MI6 and the CIA…When Penkovsky’s betrayal was discovered it cost him his life.”

“Cost him his life” may be an understatement. Therein hangs a gruesome tale. Or not, depending on whose version of which story you believe.

A GRU defector who wrote under the pen name of Victor Suvorov described the horrible execution of an unnamed colonel in one of his books, Inside the Aquarium: The Making of a Top Soviet Spy (New York: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 2-3. Supposedly, his class of GRU recruits were shown a film of an anonymous colonel being cremated alive. The black and white silent film was a cautionary lesson in keeping one’s mouth shut.

The fire doors open smoothly to each side, the coffin is given a gentle push and it bears its unknown occupant into the roaring flames. Then the camera gives a close-up of a living person. A face swimming in perspiration. It is probably very hot near the furnace A face is displayed from all sides of what seems an eternity. At last the camera pulls back to show the person full length. He is not in a gown. He is dressed in an expensive black suit, terribly crumpled. His tie is tightly screwed round his neck. The man himself is bound fast with steel wire to a stretcher, and the stretcher has been propped up against the wall so that the man can see the furnace…At last it is the turn of the man bound to the stretcher…I study the man’s face in the hope of finding there signs of madness. It’s easier for madmen in this world. But there are no such signs on that handsome face. It is simply that he doesn’t want to go into the furnace and is trying somehow to make that clear. But what can he do except scream? So he screams…Then his patent leather shoes go into the fire, and that is that.

Some believe that the unfortunate colonel was Penkovsky. Some think it was not. Others think the whole story is fiction.Who am I to judge?

Here is how that every-ready open source Wikipedia sums up the matter.

GRU agent Vladimir Rezun, known for his controversial books under the pseudonym Viktor Suvorov following his defection from the Soviet Union to the United Kingdom, claimed in Aquarium to have been shown a black and white film in which a GRU colonel was bound to a stretcher and cremated alive in a crematorium as a warning to potential traitors and since Penkovsky is the only GRU colonel known to have been executed, Suvorov’s story was taken by many to be an account of Penkovsky’s execution. A similar description of the process was later included in Ernest Volkman’s popular book and Tom Clancy’s novel Red Rabbit. However, Suvorov in an interview in 2010 denied that the man in the film was Penkovsky, and claimed that he had been shot. Greville Wynne in his book ‘The Man from Odessa’ claimed that Penkovsky committed suicide.

There is more grist for the imagination.

One of the 24 episodes of the CNN-BBC documentary Cold War is about the spies on each side. It includes actual footage of Penkovsky’s interrogation and an interview with his interrogator, Alexander Zagvozdin. Here is the relevant excerpt from a brief cut posted on YouTube:

“I know for sure that Penkovsky was shot. I can’t tell you anything else. I know his body was cremated. I don’t know anything more. And I’m not interested.”

There’s a lot of wiggle-room in that answer. Was he shot to death? Or just enough to let him savor the smoke on the way in? And, just by the way, why wouldn’t you be interested?

For a brief and very sober account of Penkovsky’s story, you can find the CIA’s version at “The Capture and Execution of Colonel Penkovsky, 1963.”

[Oh, wait, I guess one should properly write “CIA’s version,” rather than “the CIA’s version,” as the article “the” is tres gauche when applied to either the name or the acronym of the organization. Get it? It’s CIA. Not, the CIA.]

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