/ Day 14. When The Ghost Chases You

He sat in a non-descript café, nervously tapping his feet and nursing a cold coffee. Patrick Harris’ nerves were frayed. Having the weight of the world on your shoulders does that to a person. For the past two months he’d done everything in his vast repertoire of tricks to stay one step ahead of the law. He’d only used cash to buy things, never taken the same route anywhere twice, slept in a different place every night and kept as far away from friends and family as possible. He’d even managed to hack into the FBI’s voicemail to keep tabs on their plans for him. This would be the first time in two months he was actually meeting someone–a lawyer–face to face.

Patrick had a knack for getting through layers of security and at sensitive information through various means, most of which didn’t involve using a computer. He was a practitioner of the art of social engineering, and he was good at it. As a young child he realized that he could get what he wanted by figuring out the puzzle of saying the right things to the right people in the right sequence.

Two months ago, he’d decided to use his skills to find out about his father who was MIA in Iraq. The military wouldn’t tell his family anything and he’d had enough of the stonewalling. So, he’d made various calls to low-level people and slowly started gathering the information he’d needed. It started with benign things like pretending to be an aide on his first day, minutes from an important meeting, and in need of a certain general’s itinerary. People were always willing to help out one of their own, so “sure thing” he’d get the document. Then, using information gleaned from the itinerary, he’d impersonate someone else in need of something else. At every stage, the privileged information he’d gotten from the previous attack would be enough to convince his target of the story he was feeding them. After all, no civilian would know what he knew. Little by little, he’d phoned his way through the Pentagon and various military bases until he’d finally gotten access to what he thought was information on his father. In fact, what he’d gotten was so much more. Having compromised a certain general’s identity, he’d gained, for a limited time anyway, access to all the documents the general did. And this being the digital age, a lot of it was accessible online. On a military base. Using an RSA token. And NSA clearance. How he’d managed to pull all that off would go down as one of the greatest social engineering stories he could never tell.

Seizing the window of opportunity, he’d downloaded everything he could onto a portable hard drive and high-tailed it out of Dodge. Because as he well knew, the people he was fooling would soon see through his lies and he wasn’t going to be around for when they did.

He’d spent the next two months reading through as many of the documents as he could, trying to find out what he could about his Dad. What he ended up reading left him mortified. The information he was sitting on would make conspiracy theorists laugh with incredulity. The things his government had authorized, the atrocities it had committed. The duplicitous dealings, the human rights violations, experiments, disasters and cover-ups. The sordid list seemed to go on forever. His perception of his country was forever changed and he was no closer to finding out about his father.

He was now compelled to reveal his trove to the general public. He had no choice. To turn a blind eye would be to spit on the graves of the countless victims he’d read about. To not inform his countrymen and women of the truths he’d learned would be to spit on the Constitution. Besides, the full weight of the US government was leaning on him now and the only way he could get out from under it–at least a little anyway–was to go public. And that’s what he was here to do. He’d hand over copies of the documents to this lawyer who would disseminate some of them to the news media. He’d then push the rest of it online himself.

The café door opened and several men walked in. They were in too good shape, too well groomed and too well coordinated to be buddies going out for a latte. They set up a perimeter, covering all the exits and then a man he hadn’t seen in a very long time walked in.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that you’re in the middle of a military exercise and need to vacate the premises immediately. Thank you for your cooperation,” he said in a loud, clear voice that would read him bedtime stories as a child. Once everyone had cleared out the man walked over and sat at Patrick’s table. “Son, we need to talk.”

Continued in, Day 15. Haunting the Ghost


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