“Good morning, Jim.”
“Can I get you some coffee?”
“That’d be great, thanks.”
Al walked over to the coffee machine sitting on his credenza. He grabbed a Navy mug and filled it from the freshly made pot.
“You take it black, don’t you?”
“Here you go, Jim. Have a seat.”
“So, why the five AM meeting? The Russians aren’t invading, are they?”
Al picked up a thick, red-edged folder from his desk and handed it to Jim. The folder had the words TOP SECRET SAP GOLD EEL written on it in big red letters. SAP is Department of Defense jargon for Special Access Program, which means the file is only for those who need-to-know. And Jim needed to know. Gold Eel was just a randomly generated codeword assigned to the file. This one was changed on a weekly basis to further protect the program’s identity.
Jim opened the file and began reading. “Gold Eel,” he said, his voice trailing off as he read.
“That intel is two hours old. They’re stepping up production. The President is tired of public opinion being against our making a move but we can’t very well tell the public that their second-in-command is working for us.”
“So you need me to launder this then?”
The age-old dilemma of intelligence data consumers is how to use it without revealing its source. Compromising a source could put someone’s life at risk. Compromising a method could flush millions of dollars and years of work down the drain.
“We could say we found the info on the body of a dead soldier floating in the ocean.”
“Hah! Right!” Al laughed at the obvious joke. “Anyone who paid attention to their high school history teacher would see through that.”
“What about a massive information compromise?” Jim said in a more serious tone. “Say we allow someone to gain access to a bunch of classified documents, including this one.” He paused. “Well, an alternate version of this one, of course.”
“We could say hackers worked their way in through low-level security or something. Being the conscientious sort, you know, the ‘too many secrets’ sort, they could release it to the public. Some of it to the media and the rest of it through that leak website. It would be a coup for them and an embarrassment to us, but that’ll just provide us with deniability.”
“Covers will be compromised. Lives put at risk.”
“Even more deniability. After all, we wouldn’t deliberately leak information that would endanger the lives of our own assets, would we?”
“I like it,” Al smiled. “We’ll have to make sure Mongoose is protected.”
“And other high-level assets too,” Al wanted to be clear.
“Certainly. I’ll have a whitelist ready for you by the end of the day.”
“Then we’re agreed,” Al stood, signaling an end to the meeting. “How are the wife and kids?”
“Good, good. Little Jimmy lost his first tooth yesterday,” Jim said as he put on his coat.
“Tell Janice I said hello,” Al said as Jim walked out the door.
Read more from the archive.