Chapter Twenty-Three (Click on “Older Posts” at bottom right for more chapters)

A Personal Assault

Daniel Meghan is driven to NSA headquarters from the airport’s landing tarmac at BWI in a black, self-guided Chevy Suburban followed and escorted by a similar SUV. The two vehicles traveled only 20 minutes arriving at the agency complex at 1:55. The NSA is massive, composed of 1300 buildings that flank the main headquarters which is covered in one-way dark glass, and  lined with copper shielding to trap signals and sounds to prevent espionage.

They arrive and are greeted by the agency director John Milecky, along with three security attachés of the Agency. The group is escorted to security and met by the head of the Cyber Command Division.

After multiple security checks and  a full-body scan, the team proceeds to the ninth floor for their meeting. Dan’s phone and watch have both been confiscated for analyzation prior to entrance to the Director’s office on the 12th floor, where they are met by several members of the Computer Security Center.

Once seated around a large table in a room adjoining the Director’s office, John Milecky performs introductions, and delves directly into the issue.

“I don’t need to tell you that this meeting and what’s talked about today is of the utmost secrecy. You must know we put a great number of resources together to collect and analyze your dossier before contacting you,” said the Director.

“Well you must have done it fast. The News barely got my article out before you contacted me,” answered Dan. “Neither I, nor other editors and our publisher, were sure I should post my report on the ‘contacts’ content.”

“We received the same content as the general public, and though the informant spoke of contact with ‘specific individuals’ we knew of no person receiving a different message until your report came through by the AP,” confesses Milecky.

Head of Cyber Command, Bolton Jackson enters the conversation. “And we have been busy, Mr. Meghan, checking around the globe for hints how and where the breach was created. It broke into our systems past our root directory. From what we gather from our affiliates and other security agencies worldwide, it is the method of primary distribution in security situations. We know that it was also sent by email, text and social media and transcribed in numerous languages. Most perplexing is that it was delivered in code to computers everywhere at a primary level. We presume that this was done to make us all aware of the complexity of the breach and the abilities of the sender to bypass encryption and other safeties built into our systems.”

“And so it did its job,” quipped Dan.

“It certainly did,” answered Jackson.

Cryptologist Mark Semlar intervenes, “There are many remarkable features to the breach: One, as far as we can see, no information was accessed, copied or deleted from our data bases, nor have we had  or heard of any disruptions in any other agency; two, we have had no further contact with or from the interloper; three, we have little idea of what was intended by the breach, except, perhaps as a warning....”

Dan interrupts at this point, ”I didn’t hear of the general message prior to receiving my own. Mine, as you know, was more of a conversation....and much like a plea.”

Milecky jumps in, “A plea...?”

“Yes, a plea,” answers Meghan. “They, or whoever or whatever they is, seems to know a hell of a lot more about us than we do about them. Even...in their ending message...after I asked who is doing this. Their answer was “no one” and then “It just IS.”

“But why, YOU. Why not the Times or the Post,” answered back Milecky.

“Here’s my take on that,” Dan says getting out of his chair and walking around the conference table. “ The Times, Post, the NSA and everyone with a computer or device logged in to the internet received the general message. Who or whatever sent the message got your most stringent security measures.

"They, or it, knew that I, as a reporter, would inform others, and that their message to me was sure to be distributed to the public. I was more fascinated than afraid of what they had done, while you guys probably went ballistic over the fact that you were hacked.

“But I’m repeating myself....I said that all in my article.”

“You did, Dan,” says Milecky. You seem to then suggest that the world’s network of computers, has run amok...and that our fears of hackers and intruders from other countries...Russia, China, Iran....North Korea...play no part in this communication?”

“I am a reporter,” states Dan. “I am not a security analyst, or the head of any country. For God's sake I can’t even drive my own car anymore without an argument from it. Today, you had a person seated at a steering wheel who did nothing on my way from the airport here. Our energy systems select for themselves the most efficient use of fuel sources; we can have implants in our brains answering questions for us and directing almost every move we make; our machines are making decisions with 0% errors while workers are having to be retrained to assist their non- human bosses. What do you expect is happening?”

Cyber Director Jackson responds, “The machines are taking over.”

“Could be,” answers Dan. “But it seems that they still have some questions for us before they do...or even if they do.”

“So you believe what, Mr. Meghan,” asks Milecky.

“I don’t know what to believe. I think you know more about this than I.”

“We may, and we may not,” answers Milecky. “What we do know, we cannot share with you, and in many ways, we would have preferred you contacting us rather than broadcasting your opinions to the world.”

“Whoa! Maybe that’s why I was contacted and not you, nor other news sources. Whoever did this wanted the world to know what is happening, You don’t want the world to know that you’re not in control. By ‘them’ coming to me, an average “Joe,” they got a fair review to confirm their own message.”

“Yes, but you know nothing of what’s going on out there, and the damage that can be caused by this kind of breach,” states Milecky.

“May I ask a few questions?” asks Dan.
“I can only answer that after I hear the questions,” answers Milecky.

“You have no doubt contacted or been contacted by the leaders of most of the countries around the world – allies and perceived enemies. Is that so?”

“Yes!” answers Milecky.

“Do most or all of them seem surprised by the breach?”

“Yes.”

“Did they, in fact, get the same message?”

“Yes.”

“Do they all feel threatened by the content of the message?”

“Yes.”

“By now, most of them have read or heard of my editorial?”

“Yes.”

“And you have discussed my offer....to have others who may have been contacted to contact me directly?”

“Yes.”

“And I am here today to report to you first on any one who takes up my offer to contact me regarding this issue?”

“Yes.”

“Because of this discussion, and yours with other parties around the globe, do you think I should be concerned about my safety?”

“Yes, we do?”

“Thank you for your candor, Mr. Milecky. One more question?”


“Go ahead, Mr. Meghan.”

“If I don’t agree to cooperate in every way with your wishes, am I free to return to Buffalo, my office, and my job?”

“No, Mr. Meghan. You are what we call a ‘security risk’ and we will be forced to detain you.”

“I see. So what conditions will allow me to return to my life, as I know it.”

“We need to be assured that you report to us any and all contacts you have with the intrusive force. If we are guaranteed you will do that, we will provide as much protection as possible from endangerment, and let you return to Buffalo.”

“And how will you assure that guarantee,” asks Dan.

“We will need to insert a small transmitter that will follow your movements,  and aural and optical input. It will be placed under your ear and beneath the skin, so we can see what you see and hear what you hear.”

“Okay, and what else?”

“We will, of course expect that you will communicate with no one but us about your conversations with an credible contacts.”

“Understood.”

“Then, you plan to cooperate, Mr. Meghan?

“Apparently, I have no choice, do I?”

“Apparently not.”

“Well, then I guess we get this show on the road, and you get me back to Buffalo.”