Chapter Seventeen

Located in Fort Meade, Maryland, the National Security Agency (NSA) is the national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense, under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence. The NSA is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. The NSA is also tasked with the protection of U.S. communications networks and information systems, and relies on a variety of measures to accomplish its mission, the majority of which are clandestine.

Originating as a unit to decipher coded communications in World War II, the NSA was officially formed by President Harry S. Truman in 1952 and has since become largest of the U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of personnel and budget. It currently conducts worldwide mass data collection and tracks the movements of hundreds of millions of people using metadata, surveils the domestic internet traffic of foreign countries, and engages the hacking of computers, smart-phones and the internet to gain information.

The security breach that occurred in the early morning of January 24th came as a complete the Director of National Security, the Central Security Service, and the Commander of the United States Cyber Commanders as well as the more than 100,000 individuals working across 16 agencies.

Though a “soft warning,” since the breach did not interfere, corrupt, modify or delete any data, the message was clear that the security of the NSA and its affiliates, as well as the entire interconnected community of citizens throughout the world, had been  hacked. The moment the first message came through, the phone lines, email servers, and intranet communications were overwhelmed by contacts wanting to know what had happened.

Most importantly, the POTUS wanted to know, and no one at the NSA had an answer.

This is not to say they weren’t checking ALL of the avenues to files and security data, as well as the “unbreachable” password codes generated by the banks of quantum computers used through the agencies. Except of the message seen or heard around the world, nothing seemed out of order.

It was not until 9:35 A.M. EST that the agency learned anything of the emails and messages already released to specific individuals, the first being the one delivered to Daniel Meghan, reporter and editor for the Buffalo News.

In minutes after all the editors had fact checked the release from Dan, the text of “The Elephant in the Room, and What We Know About Him,” was uploaded to the paper’s internet site, at which point the Associated Press picked up the story and transmitted it to its 285 news bureaus in 112 countries. From there, it was picked up by the more than 1,300 newspapers and broadcasters in the AP system around the globe.

Caught with its virtual “pants down,“ the NSA got its first indication of personal communication through an editor at the Buffalo News. At that point the phone and email lines at the New York paper were crippled by the sheer quantity of calls coming in to Dan Mehgan. This was a good thing for the paper, but paralyzing. Dan had no idea just how many news bureaus, spokespeople, and reporters had been personally contacted, or how many overall had been selected, but he had figured that his readers and people worldwide should be informed.

Dan started taking the calls at 10:05, and quickly realized the paper’s lines were being overwhelmed with calls. His email and texts were building so fast that all he saw was a vast stream of messages flowing upward on his screens. They started with people he knew of, and soon became an unanswerable barrage from everywhere.

The Director of National Intelligence was forced to send a courier to the newspaper to get through with a private message, and his private phone line for Dan to call.

Dan had to use George’s mobile line to call out, and the moment there was one ring, the NSA Director answered.

“Dan, I’m John Milecky, Director of National Intelligence here in Maryland.”

“Hello,“ said Dan. “That was quick!”

“Apparently not quick enough,” answered Milecky. “You’ve been a busy guy this morning,”

“I would say so, sir,” said Dan. “And it looks like I’m going to be even busier.”

“That’s right, Dan. We’re going to need you down here right away. Our courier has reserved a car to get you to the Buffalo Niagara Airport. We have a plane waiting  to get you down here to Washington.”

“Okay, do I have any time to pack?”

“We’ll get you what you need when you get here,” said Milecky. “Have you heard anything more from ‘your friend?’”

“Not a peep, but I’m almost certain I will, sir.”

“Why so certain?”

“It seems to make the best sense in that from what they say, they/it/whatever wants contact. No doubt, I was selected because of my job, and they seemed to be banking on the fact that I would communicate their contact. If I am right, sir, that means that they can either ignore me and move on, or use me to communicate.”

“But why wouldn’t they have contacted the Washington Post or the Times, Dan?”

“I don’t know, but I got your attention quick enough, so I guess it knows what it’s doing.”

“Your article said that you were contacted on your iPhone.”

“Yes, sir. And on my computer, but I saw the message first on my phone.”

“And you responded, how?”

“They had me click the letter “A” in “red” below their text.”

“Do you have the conversation saved anywhere?“

“I assume it's in my messages. It came from the local area code, 716,” answered Dan.

Dan retrieves his phone from his jacket pocket, “Yep. The number and message conversation are all there.” It’s the first time Dan thought to look, even while writing the story.

“Then we’ll see you down here about 2:00 pm. The plane will be landing at about 1:10 if the weather holds.”

“Always a question here in Buffalo,” quips Dan.

At that the line goes dead, and Dan is whisked away to a waiting car.