“Your morning paper Mr. President.“
“Thank you Stuart.“
The President of the United States took the offered reading from his aide and continued to stir his coffee. Just like the past two years, the morning ritual of coffee and paper played out. One thing he had learned in his career was that taking the time to see what society deemed important gave him a great advantage when it came time to deal with the press. He leaned back in his chair going over the first section, mentally taking notes about each article’s focus. As the minutes pass and his coffee dwindled, he moved on to sports and entertainment. He had always liked Monday mornings as they gave him a chance to read about the weekend’s activities and get a fresh start on the week.
“Can you line up ‘Mercury Rising’ for the next Movie Night? I think Jill will like that one.“
“Of course Mr. President.“
Stuart shuffled off to put in the request after refilling the coffee pot. It seemed to be his boss’ life blood at times. Minutes later he returned to find the President almost done with the paper.
“Stuart.. it says that Donald Gray passed away last night. That name sounds familiar; was he on one of the councils?“
“Yes, the Distributed Security Council I believe.“
“Hmm.. and what do they do again?“
“I’m not sure really Mr. President. I can look into it if you’d like.“
“No matter, I was just curious.“
The week had been shitty to say the least. Nice relaxing Monday, and the next thing he knew it, the government was crumbling around him. The President sat at the end of the table looking out across the table at his staff. How could the whole world fall so quickly, leaving him in the dark more than ever?
“Day two folks, and I still don’t have an answer.“
The most powerful man in the world looked out over the table at the blank faces staring back. They were more in shock than he was it seemed. “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? None of you have an answer for me?! You have three days to figure something out. Three days.“
It was only Tuesday and four of his top advisors had resigned in the last twenty four hours. The president looked down on the table and reread the headlines that had started this mess. “Roswell Only the Fourth Coverup.” Each time he glanced down he expected to see some cheezy tabloid name at the top of the page. But the top of the stack that held that headline read ‘New York Times’.
He pushed the top paper aside to reveal ‘The Miami Herald’. For the first time in history the paper had ditched every single ‘A Section’ article in favor of the twelfth page spread that ran this morning. Half the front page was dedicated to bold headlines reading ‘CIA: Cocaine Import Agency’. The next eleven pages gave a detailed list of operatives that were smuggling the drugs into the country. Names of planes and boats followed, along with photocopies of the books detailing kilos and dollars. Those twelve pages summed up the last sixteen years of drug running the CIA had been involved in. As he read through the summary, he could only curse more after seeing them downplay the importation of weapons as if it was no big deal. Three hours of sleep, and it could barely be considered that. He had struggled to get some sleep, but kept thinking about the living hell he could call this week. No chance of getting to sleep, he sat up and called for his aide. With a quiet groan, Stuart appeared in the doorway.
“I’ll call the advisors sir.“
With that, Stuart stumbled back out the door.
No one said a word. They sat there with folders and laptops sprawled in front of them, grim looks on each face. Newspapers sat stacked at each corner of the large table. The President cleared his throat and began.
“Well, what lovely news do we have this morning? Wednesday, May 7th, 1998. Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA has been doing domestic spying on major political figures, industry leaders, CEOs, and others. Detailed listing of who in the phone companies were NSA operatives, lists of domestic surveillance teams, and more.“
He looked up and surveyed the people sitting near him. Each and every person hung their head in shame, as if to personally take blame for the material he read them.
“Well well, it must be ‘NSA Day’. Looks like we have some kind of network map listing every router the NSA has been sniffing on that internet crap. Hell if I know what a router is, but I can only assume it is a bad thing if Newsweek is doing a twenty-page spread on it. And here… ‘key escrow’ and ‘backdoored encryption’ gets its own section. The biggest baddest spook house gets hung out to dry. Do we have the first clue who is behind any of this?“
With that question the room burst into small conversations. Groups of three and four people talked in hush voices trying to trade enough information to figure out who could have leaked such details. Not only the specifics, but the overwhelming proof that followed each and allowed the papers and magazines to run these types of stories without fear of retribution.
Thursday went further downhill if that was possible. Seventeen people had resigned that week, each fearing some kind of retribution for the information leaks. The president knew most of them had no clue what was going on, but he did know they had a right to be scared.
“Do any of you people have any idea what this is doing to the administration? Can we all understand the world of shit we are in? Are all of you that far out of the loop? So much that you can’t find who the hell is behind this?“
With disgust, the president picked up the latest newspaper and held it up for all to see.
“Can anyone tell me what the ISA is and why they would kill JFK? Or better yet, how the director of the BATF has been using and dealing cocaine for the past seven years? Or maybe why the Media Control Board has systematically come up with a new scandal ever three months to keep people interested in the government? Am I the only one who finds all of this disturbing?“
Friday’s meeting was the first that anyone had cracked a smile the entire week. Before the president could start in on his yelling and screaming, George Hanna of the distributed security council stood up. “Sir. I have a full report explaining the events that have unfolded this week. Some of the details are sketchy, but we have a pretty good idea of what happened we think.“
“By all means George, continue. Tell us how this clusterfuck could have happened.“
“Well sir, it started last week with the death of Donald Gray. As you may know, he was another member of the council and one of the longest standing members. It seems we lapsed in our background checks, and that lapse finally caught up.“
A dozen thoughts flew through the president’s head that second. How could he have let this happen? Who was supposed to tell him about this kind of thing? What did this council do that a single person could be so powerful? What more could he expect? He looked to George and nodded for him to continue.
“Under article 1, section 1, paragraph 2 of the Distributed Security Council bylaw, everyone must leave the room except for you Mr. President. The rest of you are sworn to secrecy. The DSC has kept people in check until now, don’t let this single lapse fool you into believing you are safe if you violate this law.“
The tone of voice and way he recited the article suggested the laws and procedures were being followed verbatim. That scared him more than anything else. When George pulled out his handgun and placed it on the table, he didn’t know how to react. The line to the door shrunk much quicker with the informal motivation.
George walked over to close and lock the door behind the last person. Walking back toward the table, he reached into another pocket and pulled out a small metal pyramid and placed it on the table where his gun sat. He reached for a chair to pull up so he could face the president for the talk. “Well Mr. President, this is what we know so far. Understand, that this information does not leave us. If for any reason you or anyone on your staff try to use us for blame..“
The President interrupted: “I think I have an idea George.”
“Good. Donald Gray was not supposed to happen. Without going into a history of the council and our procedures, let me try to explain. Donald has been a solid but sideline member of the panel for the past thirty eight years. During that time he has performed a wide variety of functions including what we call ‘support’ writing.
That entails access to just about every sensitive document in our country. From the initial reports, it looks as if he has been making liberal use of the copiers. Thirty eight years of research would explain a single person having copies of everything that has been spilled to the reporters. You’re probably thinking that we should have some safeguards against this sort of thing, and of course you are right.
During the past decade Donald has lost every living relative which is our first line of defense. Normally we catch that sort of thing and develop alternative methods of loyalty encouragement. Because of his dealings with the council and long standing membership, he has had access to several slush funds that we control to do the work required. As you now see, it is quite ironic that our own government tax dollars have paid these papers to run the stories and ensure everything ended up in the articles. No family, no personal belongings, no friends.. absolutely nothing to tie him to anything. Donald had set things up so that once he passed away, the information would be anonymously mailed to the various media sources. And it went down exactly as he planned. Which brings us to finding a solution to this whole problem. The people want to know why the government has been hiding this. They already know about all of the secret/top secret bullshit, the conspiracy theories, rogue agencies and more. Since we are that rogue agency they fear so much, and the entire council doesn’t care to lose their jobs, we feel it would be generous for you to take the blame.” Without hesitation, the President burst out laughing at the man sitting in front of him.
“That has to be the most absurd thing I have heard in my life. Of course I won’t do that.“
George smiled once while nodding. He picked up the gun and handed it to the president who was hesitant to take it.
“Go ahead. I don’t want you to get the idea we are going to kill you or anything. Besides, I am sure we can come up with something agreeable to all parties.“
With that, George picked up the small metal pyramid on the table and pocketed it. With a half bow, he walked away and left the room. Monday rolled around and the President resumed his morning ritual of paper and coffee. He went over his notes in preparation for his speech this morning. Everything seemed to be laid out perfectly and would hopefully explain the past seven days to the American people. Without warning his eyes glazed over. The notes he held found themselves on fire and being dropped into a nearby trash can before continuing on with his preparations. As he walked to the other end of the white house, he silently went over his speech and tried to guess what questions the reporters would ask. Anything that his current training wouldn’t cover? He certainly hoped not. Like a royal procession, some of his staff followed him toward the press room as usual. Looking around, something seemed a bit out of place, like someone missing. No matter.
The President of the United States stepped up to the podium and faced the crowded room. He recognized many of the journalists in front of him as well as a few members of media relations for the white house mixed in to ask strategic questions. As he surveyed the room, one face caught his attention and instilled fear into him. George sat toward the back of the room, hands in lap as if nothing ever happened.
“Good morning. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for showing up. The past week has seen some interesting headlines and a lot of fear and speculation has grown due to it.“
While he spoke, he couldn’t help but notice George reach into his pocket and withdraw something. From this distance it was hard to be sure, but it appeared to be the same metallic pyramid as before. Originally he had assumed it was a device to prevent electronic eavesdropping, but now he wasn’t sure. He continued on with his speech giving very little detail and wider speculation as to the source of all the information. His media analysts had indicated that until they could come up with a solid story, no details or they may hinder the investigation later.
“With that, I would like to open it up to the floor for questions.” That is all it took for the journalists to go into a frenzy, causing each person to almost climb on each other trying to be recognized. The president started to call Sally from ABC but something occurred to him. His eyes lost focus and he spoke into the microphone, calling George’s name. “Thank you Mr. President. I’d like to ask a very direct question. Who is behind the information leaks, and what is going to be done about it?” The president slowly looked down to the microphone before continuing. Instead of a neutral but varying voice, his eyes lost focus once again as he turned to a more monotone inflection.
“To answer that, I would like to speak plainly and honestly. I am tired of mincing words and lying to the public. The truth is, like my predecessors before me, I have repeatedly given the order to hide certain material from the American people. It has come time to make them aware of certain activities their government has been involved in. So, I say to you, that I am responsible. I have leaked this information to various contacts in the media. I have used taxpayer dollars to ensure that this information was printed as lead stories. I have worked directly against certain agencies designed to protect this information.
To answer the question about what is being done, I can only offer this solution..“
With that, the president removed a familiar handgun from his suit jacket. Before anyone could react, he held it to his mouth and squeezed the trigger. National TV got a good idea what was on the President’s mind. As the crowd gasped and lunged forward to get a better story, George pocketed the metal object and walked out of the room. Beneath the roar from others around him, he quietly said “I think that was agreeable to both parties” as he walked away.