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By Pete Earley
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The greatest nightmare for the free world today would be an extremist in hiding, controlling and coordinating radical Islamic groups at the highest level around the globe.
In Duplicity, two bestselling authors — former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Pulitzer Prize finalist Pete Earley — weave a grim and gripping tale of this worst case scenario. From home front fears to an international crisis, this thriller is terrifyingly plausible, ripped straight from the headlines.
When President Sally Allworth decides to reestablish America’s Mogadishu embassy in Somalia weeks before Election Day, her challenger says she is playing politics with American lives. That turns out to be true when the embassy is attacked and hostages are taken. Station chief Gunter Conner and Marine captain Brooke Grant end up the unlikely survivors of this Benghazi-style strike. And suddenly, they are the only hope for saving their captured colleagues.
With his in-depth political knowledge of friends and foes on the political stage, only Newt Gingrich could weave such a spellbinding tale of events and personalities, one that could actually happen . . . if America’s leaders aren’t wary of a world full of duplicity.
Table of Contents
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Although this is a work of fiction, all religious quotes attributed to radical Islamist terrorists in this novel were taken from actual verbal and written statements.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Nuruddin Ayaanie "Rudy" Adeogo, Somali American congressional candidate
Sally Allworth, president of the United States
Timothy Coldridge, presidential challenger
Gunter Conner, CIA station chief, Somalia
Mary Margaret Delaney, political strategist, Coldridge campaign
John Duggard, military contractor
Payton Grainger, CIA director
Captain Brooke Grant, military attaché
Abdul Hafeez, Al-Shabaab terrorist
Mallory Harper, White House chief of staff
Ebio Kattan, Al Arabic correspondent
Decker Lake, former U.S. attorney general
Sergeant Walks Many Miles, embassy guard force, Somalia
General Abdullah Osman Saeed, Somali general
Thomas Edgar Stanton, chair, House Intelligence Committee
THE CURTAIN RISES
You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.
—Robert A. Heinlein, Logic of Empire
Central Intelligence Agency
Gunter Conner was not used to seeing fresh fruit, doughnuts, silverware, and plates when he arrived at the regular Monday-morning briefing inside the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. Employees usually sauntered in carrying their own snacks. Today was different because Payton Grainger, the CIA's director, was expected. As a rule, the director never attended mundane meetings, especially at this low step on the bureaucratic ladder, but Grainger had recently launched an effort to revitalize poor morale inside the agency by mingling with the rank and file. Conner correctly assumed that Charles Casterline, who ran the Monday briefings, had ordered the refreshments. Casterline was the ultimate schmoozer. In a bureaucracy that loved acronyms, Casterline was the chief of the OA (Office of Operations and Analysis) at the CTC (Counterterrorism Center) inside the NCS (National Clandestine Service), the covert branch of the CIA.
Conner went directly for the coffee, taking it black. His head was splitting. Reaching into his pocket, he palmed a Xanax, discreetly raising it to his lips. It was his substitute treatment for anxiety when mind-numbing alcohol wasn't available. He slumped into a seat along the conference room wall.
"I'd like to start by welcoming Director Grainger," Casterline said, rising from a conference table in the center of the room where all of his managers and other brass were seated.
Conner tuned him out. His eyes wandered and he noticed several of his younger colleagues along the wall were fidgeting in their chairs, trying to juggle a fruit plate and plastic fork on their knees while holding a hot cup of coffee. A few were licking white powdered sugar from their fingers. It was only when Casterline was nearing the end of his briefing that Conner reconnected.
"Oh, we've had a report of a prison in Dera Ismail Khan being overrun by Taliban fighters," Casterline explained as if this news was an afterthought. "Some eight hundred prisoners escaped, including a few dozen militant jihadists."
When no one at the conference table reacted, Conner interrupted. "Excuse me."
Washington bureaucracies follow certain protocols, some written and others not, and one of them inside the CIA was that employees who were sitting along the conference room wall had the status of children in the early 1800s. They could be seen but not heard unless called upon.
An irritated look washed across Casterline's face, while Director Grainger gazed over his reading half-glasses much like a proctor monitoring a final exam.
"That prison break is the eleventh escape during the past two months in the region," Conner volunteered.
"And your point is what?" Casterline asked curtly.
"It's part of a pattern."
"We've been through this before," Casterline replied in a clearly exasperated voice. "This prison break and other escapes in the region are happening because they are allowed to happen. Either guards are bribed or they don't know squat about security."
"I disagree," Conner replied.
"Well, you're wrong," Casterline retorted, his irritation turning to an only slightly veiled anger. "The last time you brought this up," Casterline continued, "I told you to write down your theory in a paper for peer review, or to be more precise, the last time you announced that all of us have been dealing with terrorists in a profoundly wrong manner, I had you explain why in writing."
Removing his reading glasses, Director Grainger said, "This is the first time I've heard any of this."
"That's because no one in the CTC or NCS accepts Mr. Conner's thesis," Casterline said.
"Just because you and my peers don't agree doesn't mean I am wrong," Conner replied. "It simply means none of you has figured it out yet."
Casterline's eyes narrowed at the insult, but before he could respond Conner added, "Any analysis which starts out with a geographic focus on radical Islamists is by definition profoundly wrong. As I explained in my paper, radical Islamism is not a geographic issue even though we keep trying to resolve it through geographical solutions."
"This is not the time to have this discussion," Casterline snapped.
Grainger, however, was intrigued. "You've just insulted your direct supervisor and, actually, everyone in the CIA's top management, including me, as well as your peers, by telling us we're fighting our nation's war on terror incorrectly."
"With all due respect, I was simply pointing out the obvious," Conner answered.
Now Grainger joined the others in frowning as Conner continued. "We went after Al-Qaeda and killed Osama bin Laden. We celebrated, but then the Taliban reemerged. We went after it and then came ISIS and tomorrow it will be some other radical group. Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, the Army of Islam. We'll hunt and kill the leaders without ever ripping out the roots. We need to begin fighting these radical Islamists as if they were a virus, rather than waging war on regional factions."
"A virus?" Grainger asked.
"We're looking at Islamic terrorism through traditional military and diplomatic eyes, when we should be looking at it as if we were epidemiologists facing a worldwide epidemic. We need to view Islamic terrorism much like the Ebola outbreak in Africa several years ago."
"Seriously?" Casterline said in a voice laced with sarcasm. "Did I just hear you lump Ebola and terrorism together?"
"If our military approach is too myopic for you," Grainger said, "tell me what your epidemiologic approach would be."
"We should do what every scientist does when a virus first appears," Conner replied. "Identify the threat—how many new cases are appearing and how rapidly they are spreading. Then move into an analytical phase. Are there discernible patterns in why and how this disease spreads? Finally, we need to develop intervention strategies to isolate and eradicate the disease, not try to manage it. We need to recognize that we will never win an ongoing campaign against terrorism by fighting a war against each separate group. We should be fighting a radical Islamic epidemic."
"There are currently more than a hundred identifiable terrorist groups in the world," Casterline said, challenging him. "Each has its own agenda. Each has its own leader. These prison breaks, for example. We have been told the Taliban was responsible for the Pakistan attack. In Yemen, the jailbreak was led by Al-Qaeda. In Nigeria, it was Boko Haram. In Afghanistan, it was the Followers of Allah. There is absolutely no evidence that these divergent groups communicated between themselves or that these breaks were coordinated. The only thing that unites these factions is their hatred of our country. If they didn't hate us, they would be killing each other. So looking at the whole, rather than the parts, accomplishes nothing useful."
Conner shook his head in disagreement. "I believe these prison attacks are being coordinated, but even if they aren't, you are missing my points, and your inability to understand and accept them is why our current approach is failing. First, we must recognize that radical Islamism is our enemy; it is the virus that gives birth to these divergent groups. If we want to eradicate it, we must first understand why radical Islamism is flourishing. Islam is hardly a new religion. Why are the numbers of radical Islamists rising, even in our own country? My second point is directly related to the first. Since radical Islamism is the common ideology of all these terrorist groups, that means they can be united. Just because we refuse to look at the bigger picture, doesn't mean our enemies are blind. Which brings me to my third point. I believe there is a new Osama bin Laden–like figure currently consolidating power among radical jihadists and yes, we need to identify and stop him before he unifies Islamic terrorists."
"So there's a Super-Osama lurking in the shadows," Casterline said mockingly, "an Islamic boogeyman breaking terrorists out of prisons and forming a coalition of extremists—is that what you're telling us?"
Several of Casterline's fellow managers at the table chuckled. Buoyed by their laughter, Casterline continued, "Tell me, Mr. Conner. If there were a dozen prison breaks in the U.S., would you conclude that a mastermind drug dealer was behind those escapes simply because the inmates who were freed were convicted drug dealers? Or would you conclude that convicted drug dealers escaped because more than half of all inmates in federal prisons are there on drug charges? You're connecting imaginary dots that only you can see. There is no rising Super–Osama bin Laden in the shadows, no modern-day jihadist messiah about to crush us through unification."
Director Grainger had heard enough. Returning his reading glasses to his nose, he glanced at the next item on the agenda and said, "Until you have evidence that backs up your theories, Mr. Conner, they're nothing but theories and, as entertaining as they may be, our agency acts on facts, not speculation. Let's move on."
When the briefing ended ten minutes later, everyone stood while Grainger shook hands and exited. Casterline glared at Conner and barked, "In my office. Now!"
As soon as they were alone, Casterline let loose with a profanity-laced reprimand that ended with him saying, "If I could, I'd fire you."
"I felt an obligation to speak."
"Why?" Casterline asked rhetorically. "Because you didn't say anything new this morning. You and I both know our exchange was window dressing. It might have been the first time Director Grainger heard it, but you've been trying to sell that prattle about a Super–Osama bin Laden for the past three years, and no one here is buying it."
Conner kept still. The quicker he took his licks, the quicker he could leave.
"Listen," Casterline said. "You and I both know why you're obsessed with your theories. Everyone in the agency is aware of what happened to you and your family in Cairo and everyone regrets that, but you can't let a personal tragedy that happened three years ago skewer your professional judgment. And after three years, all of us are ready to move on."
Conner felt his face becoming flush. "What happened to my family is why I know my so-called obsession is true."
In a voice that was now more exasperated than angry, Casterline replied, "Conner, you were once a good operative, but ever since Cairo you've alienated every one of your coworkers with your conspiracy theories and combativeness. What makes you think you're the only person in this agency who knows what he's doing? What makes you think you're so much smarter than all the rest of us?"
"Being the smartest in the CTC may not be as huge of a challenge as you suggest," Conner replied.
The blue veins in Casterline's neck looked as if they might pop. "Get the hell out of my office."
Conner's anxiety was worse when he reached his desk. Opening a drawer, he removed a bottle of Xanax and swallowed another pill without bothering with water. He glanced at a metal bookshelf next to his desk. The bottom two shelves were crammed with red, blue, and black note binders that held unclassified studies that Conner had once felt were significant but now couldn't recall why. The third and top shelves held a half-dozen autobiographies that Conner had felt obligated to buy because they had been written by former colleagues but hadn't bothered to read. Next to them were books that he had read: the Historical Dictionary of Terrorism by Sean Anderson and Stephen Sloan; Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow; Washington Station by Yuri B. Shvets; The World Almanac of Islamism edited by Ilan Berman and Jeff M. Smith.
Tucked on the top shelf near its left corner was a worn copy of a more sentimental book, a novel that Conner had discovered at age thirteen. He had carried it with him to undergraduate school at Rutgers University, where he'd majored in mathematics because nothing else seemed challenging; to graduate school at American University, where he'd earned an advanced degree in public anthropology; and eventually to his Langley office.
Conner rolled his desk chair over to the bookcase, its wheels squeaking on the tile floor. The racket was a reminder of how he'd let his physical appearance slip. He often forgot to shave. He often wore the same suit. He often forgot to shower. A diet of fast food had pushed his weight to 250 pounds and given him a watermelon-shaped belly that hung unattractively over his belt on his six-foot frame.
Conner plucked his copy of W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage from the shelf. It didn't take him long to find the passage that he was seeking.
Suddenly the answer occurred to him: he chuckled: now that he had it, it was like one of the puzzles which you worry over till you are shown the solution and then cannot imagine how it could ever have escaped you. The answer was obvious.
The answer was obvious, so why didn't anyone else see it?
Conner continued reading. It was as if the book were an old friend offering him solace. Like the novel's protagonist, Conner had been trying to decide if there was a meaning to life when he first came across Maugham's classic as a teen in his father's library. By the time he'd read it, he'd reached the same conclusion as the central character. There was no meaning, no master plan, no choreographed destiny designed by an omnipotent being who rewarded those who worshipped him and condemned those who didn't. There was no god. The good and bad in life were caused by great and evil men, not a supernatural being.
Conner replaced the volume on its shelf and wheeled back to his desk. Being an atheist had been easier when he'd not lost what he treasured most in life.
He stared at a framed photograph on his desk. The snapshot showed him with his wife, Sara, and their two children, Benjamin and Jennifer. They were standing outside Dulles Airport with packed bags ready to begin what Sara had called "their great Cairo adventure."
He leaned forward, reaching for the photograph, but his hand began trembling so he pulled it back.
He needed proof and he owed it to himself to find it.
London Chancery Building
Grosvenor Square, Westminster
Captain Brooke Grant watched the seconds ticking by on her Luminox F-117 Nighthawk watch while feigning interest in the monotonous chatter coming from the lips of Robert Gumman, the U.S. State Department's regional security officer (RSO). Unless he stopped talking soon, Brooke would be late for a dinner date. She already was pushing her luck. The restaurant was less than a ten-minute cab ride away, but Friday rush hour could be deadly and she couldn't keep a general waiting. She'd give Gumman two more minutes before heading to the exit.
As a deputy military defense attaché, Brooke didn't report to Gumman, nor did she respect him. He was a former Denver police captain who'd gotten his job in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) by pulling political strings. A Colorado senator happened to be one of Gumman's former fraternity brothers. Behind his back, everyone called the RSO "Dumbman."
On most Friday afternoons, Gumman would have been found perched on a bar stool in a Mayfair pub trying to pick up a lonely woman on an early summer vacation. But he'd received a call from a stateside crony who'd warned that the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs was going to pay a "surprise" visit to the embassy on Monday. That had prompted this afternoon's hastily called security briefing.
Brooke checked her watch for a second time and quietly cursed her boss for sending her to Gumman's briefing. She worked for the Defense Attaché Office (DAO) but she had the least seniority of any attaché stationed in London. The senior attachés conferred with their foreign counterparts and were responsible for warning the U.S. ambassador of "any potential threat against the embassy," primarily from spies or terrorists. As a deputy attaché, Brooke was stuck monitoring endless meetings and attending mindless diplomatic social gatherings. She was the only female Marine attaché in London, was twenty-nine years old, single, and attractive—attributes that her boss suggested were helpful when it came to establishing relationships with attachés from other countries. But Brooke knew she was being shown off at diplomatic affairs and sidelined from more meaty assignments for another reason besides sexism. Her uncle, General Frank Grant, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had a well-earned reputation for being overly protective of her. No one in the military wanted to put her in harm's way or give her a task that she might fail to complete.
A third glance at her watch convinced Brooke she'd had enough. As she rose from her chair, Gumman stopped mid-sentence. "I'm not done yet, Captain."
"Yes," she replied. "That's obvious."
As she left the room, she couldn't help but notice envious smiles from those left behind.
Brooke exited the embassy's entrance and walked quickly across a narrow courtyard to the front gate, where security officers in a glass booth kept track of all comings and goings. The embassy she was leaving was supposed to have been relocated to a more modern one, but endless construction problems, cost overruns, and bureaucratic squabbling had delayed that move. Brooke turned to her right on the crowded sidewalk that edged picturesque Grosvenor Square Garden and headed toward a side street to hail a cab, but as she neared the ten-foot-tall bronze statue of former president Ronald Reagan at the corner of the embassy complex, she nearly collided with a man walking from the opposite direction.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she exclaimed, stepping to her right, but he didn't react. He continued toward the embassy's main entrance. Surprised by his rudeness, she turned to watch him and suddenly sensed that something wasn't right about the stranger.
At first glance, Brooke assumed the man was homeless. Destitute men often panhandled in the garden park across from the embassy. He certainly looked the part, dressed in dirty khaki pants, unlaced worn sneakers, a wrinkled topcoat over a black hoodie, and large sunglasses. He was also carrying a pair of old-fashioned, hard-sided suitcases with brass clasps and cheap brown plastic handles.
Brooke wasn't certain what it was about him that seemed out of place, but she felt suspicious enough that she decided to alert a bobby standing less than ten feet away near the Reagan statue. The Metropolitan Police were responsible for security outside the embassy grounds.
"Officer, I think you should talk to that man carrying those suitcases," she volunteered.
The bobby, who seemed in his fifties, glanced at her Marine Corps uniform and then at the homeless man walking away from them.
"Lots of quirky lads round here, miss," he replied nonchalantly. "Tourists make easy marks for begging."
"I don't think he's really homeless," Brooke replied. "And he's carrying two large suitcases."
"Who exactly are you?" the policeman asked.
"Why's that matter?"
"Okay, luv," he said, shrugging. "I'll go have a chitchat with him after I finish up here." The bobby had just finished having his photograph taken with one female tourist, and her friend was waiting for her turn.
"Listen," Brooke said, lowering her voice. "There could be something in those suitcases."
"Besides his dirty unmentionables?" The officer smirked. "These homeless bums are always carting their worldly belongings with them either in trash bags or old suitcases."
In that moment, Brooke recognized what it was that seemed out of place.
"He's not homeless!" she exclaimed.
Spinning away from the bobby, she broke into a run toward the stranger and the embassy's front entrance.
Her target was only a few steps away from the security booth when she tackled him from behind, striking him with such force that both suitcases flew forward from his hands, hitting the pavement in front of them.
Two security guards from the embassy's glass booth rushed outside. The bobby also had chased after her, drawing a truncheon from his belt as he ran.
Brooke was now lying on the man's back, holding his arms with her outstretched hands to keep them away from his body. As the shock of being tackled passed, he began to move.
"Help!" Brooke shouted. "He's got a bomb."
Bystanders, who had paused to watch the ruckus, panicked. Snatching up her toddler, a mother shrieked, "Run!" A man nearby hollered, "Bomb! He's got a bomb."
Dropping to his knees, the bobby pressed the man's neck against the ground with his baton while the embassy security guards helped Brooke pin his arms to the ground.
"You'd better be bloody right!" the policeman snapped.
"There's wires here," one of the security guards yelled, nodding at the suspect's wrists.
A strand of black wire was dangling from each cuff. They'd been attached to the suitcases but had snapped when Brooke tackled the suspect from behind and he'd lost his grip on the heavy cases.
Another bobby hurried over from the park and used his radio to call for backup while more security officers emerged from the embassy.
"Lock the building down," one of them called over his shoulder. "No one gets in or out. Warn the ambassador."
By now, there were so many men pinning the suspect to the pavement that Brooke could release her hold. She stood and noticed that she'd torn her sleeve and was bleeding from a nasty scrape she'd gotten when she'd taken down the stranger.
"The bomb squad's coming," a bobby said.
The sound of approaching sirens was followed by the arrival of the squad's commander and six other officers, all wearing heavy padding. "We'll take over from here," the commander declared. One took hold of the man's head, another placed his knee on the prone man's spine, while the other four each took charge of a leg or arm, keeping the suspect immobilized.
"You folks need to move away now," the commander said.
Brooke reluctantly retreated but stopped about fifty feet away and watched as the bomb disposal commander cautiously ran his fingers over the man's outer clothing. "I can feel a vest," he announced. "Let's roll him over."
The suspect started to resist but stopped when an officer pressed a forearm against his throat. "Bloke, we can search you alive or dead. You bloody choose."
The suspect turned limp and the commander cautiously opened the man's topcoat, exposing a vest with bricks of plastic explosives duct-taped to it.
"Here it is!" he said when he spotted a detonator. The bomb's maker hadn't tried to disguise it, nor was it complicated. Within seconds, the commander had disconnected it, rendering the device harmless.
A Scotland Yard detective stepped in to take charge of the suspect. After removing the man's sunglasses, the detective photographed the would-be bomber's face. Within seconds, a facial recognition program linked to Scotland Yard's computer network had identified him based on his passport, which had been scanned when he arrived at Heathrow Airport.
Askar al-Seema was a Somali American who'd been born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and had arrived twenty-four hours earlier on a flight that had originated in Somalia. His name had not been on any No Fly lists.
The detective summoned Brooke as his underlings were handcuffing al-Seema and pulling him up on his feet.
"What made you suspicious?" he asked.
Looking into al-Seema's face, Brooke said, "We bumped into each other on the sidewalk and I sensed something wasn't right, but it took a few moments for me to figure out why. The first tip-off was his sunglasses. What homeless man can afford Dolce and Gabbanas?"
"He could have stole them," the detective countered.
"They weren't the only tip-off."
Al-Seema's eyes were filled with contempt as he listened.
"He's wearing cologne."
"Cologne?" the detective repeated. He stepped forward and sniffed al-Seema's neck.
- On Sale
- Oct 13, 2015
- Page Count
- 464 pages
- Center Street