Authors: Richard A. Clarke
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror
Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action
The Scorpion's Gate
The Forgotten Homeland
G. P. Putnam's Sons
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Clarke, Richard A.
Breakpoint / Richard A. Clarke.
1. TerrorismâFiction.Â 2. TerrorismâPreventionâFiction.Â 3. Political fiction. I. Title.
PS3603.L377B74Â 2007 Â 2006027009
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
To those who seek truth through science,
even when the powerful try to suppress it
Writing a novel is a solitary experience, but publishing a book is a team effort. The team behind
are all-stars: Neil Nyren at Editor, Len Sherman at Agent Plus, Beverly Roundtree-Jones playing Executive Assistant, and Rob Knake as Sounding Board and Researcher. I am also deeply indebted to Mudge, my friend and guide through cyberspace. Many helped me understand technologies and trends, most notably the brilliant futurist and scientist Ray Kurzweil. Others assisted me in exploring the locations that appear in
from Elbow Cay to Hong Kong, from Rappahannock to Russian River. To them all, my sincere and very appreciative thanks.
Many readers of
The Scorpion's Gate
thought they saw real people slightly disguised as fictional characters. Some may think that about the characters in
Both books are works of fiction and, therefore, all the characters are fictional.
0730 Eastern Standard Time
Off the New Jersey Coast
The yellow flame leaped into the air where the ocean hit the land. It was followed by a boiling, churning blue-black cloud, climbing up around the now orange-red fireball. The cloud kept growing, forming into a pedestal shape above the water's edge.
“Atlantic City, Atlantic City,” the pilot said calmly into his chin microphone, “Coast Guard forty-one ten. We see what looks like a gas pipeline explosion at our ten o'clock position about fifteen miles ahead. Estimate position of flare as Pine Harbor. Over.”
From the flight deck of USCG 4110, an old twin-engine Casa 212 maritime patrol aircraft flying over the New Jersey coast, the plume had stood out against the dull-gray Sunday-morning sky. “Roger, forty-one ten. Proceed Pine Harbor for a visual and report,” the radio cackled. “We'll check with Ops at headquarters to see if they know what happened.”
Lt. Anne Brucelli had been out of the Academy for five years and loved flying, loved being part of the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.
She was looking forward to her new assignment in the vertical liftoff Osprey aircraft, but for now she was happy just to be in command of an old Casa. It got her up in the air, over the sea, and looking at things from a perspective that most people never had the chance to enjoy. Her copilot today was an Academy classmate, Lt. Chuck Appleton. He flipped down her visor and tapped it for telescopic mode. “Jesus, Anne, there's another flare way out there at our two o'clock,” Appleton called. “That's over by Banning Beach.” From the low cruising altitude of five thousand feet above the coast, the visual horizon was almost eighty miles. The second flame seemed to be coming from somewhere on western Long Island.
Before they could report the second flare, they heard a crackling and then: “Coast Guard forty-one ten, this is Atlantic City, cancel that. Proceed south instead to Miller's Hook and perform low-level surveillance on white blockhouse at the end of point. Copy that? And, Anne, this one came to us from Department Ops, Homeland Security.”
Brucelli pulled the bright red striped aircraft into a tight bank to reverse its direction of motion, reaching the waters off Miller's Hook in four minutes. Appleton looked again through the visor that showed him the image from the aircraft's nose-mounted cameras. He zoomed in on the end of the point of land in front of them. “Got a visual on a small white building, no windows. Got a fence around it. White truck next to it.” He moved his head slowly to the right and examined the road on the Hook. “Two bikers driving inland pretty fast; otherwise it's pretty empty out there.” The aircraft continued its rapid descent toward the narrow promontory.
The pilot flicked the toggle to report in. “Atlantic City, Coast Guard fortyâ¦Holy shit! Hang on, Chuck.” A yellow-red tongue filled the cockpit windshield with flame, as she pulled the plane into a steep left bank. A klaxon sounded loudly and then a recorded female voice replaced it over the speaker, saying calmly, “Left engine fire. Fire in the left engine requires your attention.”
Brucelli hit the big red fire-suppression button above her head and struggled to right the spinning aircraft. As she did so, Lt. Appleton spoke clearly into his chin mike, “Mayday, Mayday. Coast Guard forty-one ten. Going down half mile off Miller's Hook, request SAR support.” The problem, he knew, was that the unmanned aerial vehicle that would normally have been on patrol over the Jersey shore was down for maintenance. They were the search-and-rescue patrol that morning and they were going to crash.
Horizon Communications Network Operations Center (NOC)
New Creighton, New Jersey
Less than fifty miles to the northwest, under a rolling hill of manicured grass, Constance Murphy was getting the handover brief from the midnight shift director at the Horizon Communications Network Operations Center. From the command balcony, Constance looked out at a two-story-high map of the United States, criss-crossed in yellow lines, connecting blinking green dots. They called it the Big Board. Below, on the floor of the NOC, the night-shift engineers were handing over their seats to their daytime replacements. The blinking lights represented twenty percent of the world's internet traffic, which was routinely carried on the fiber-optic cables of Horizon Communications. Running in pipes and conduits under wheat fields, along rail beds, over bridges, and up city streets, twenty-three thousand miles of Horizon Communications' specialized glass fiber carried the photons that routers would convert into electrons and then into billions of Internet Protocol packets of ones and zeroes: e-mail and web browsers, buy and sell orders, travel reservations, pornography, and inventory updates.
As she stood sipping her coffee, Murphy scanned the teams on the floor below and half listened to Joshua Schwartz, the midnight watch director, say five or six ways that everything was routine. Then something in her peripheral vision caught her attention and she looked up to see a light just south of New York City switch from green to red. Then another light, east of the city this time, blinked red. She put her hand on Schwartz's arm to stop him from talking and nodded toward the upper right of the Big Board.
“Whatâ¦?” Schwartz said, furrowing his brow and squinting, “That's all three of our Atlantic cables. Why?” He quickly sat down at his computer console, his fingers flying across the keyboard. “New Creighton is getting no reading from the Pine Harbor, Pleasant Bay, or Banning Beach routers. Syn-Ack messages are being black holed. Nada. How could all three go down at once? There are two rollover, backup routers at every landing.”
Constance Murphy stood over Schwartz and looked at his screen, “That says we got nothing going to or from Europe.”
“That's because we don't, Connie. We just had all nine routers at our beachheads simultaneously decide to shit the bed. Horizon Communications is cut off from Europe!” Schwartz shook his head. “We'll have to go hat in hand to Infotel and ETT and ask if we can redirect our load onto their fiber until we figure out what the fuck is going on.”
Murphy picked up a green phone on top of which a big light was blinking furiously. “Horizon Communications, Murphy.” As she listened to the voice at the other end, she stared at Schwartz and her eyes grew. “Hang on one second,” she said into the phone and then leaned forward. She grabbed a long, flexible microphone that was connected to speakers on the floor below. “This is Murphy. Night shift, do not depart. Repeat, do not depart. Day shift, activate the Emergency Engineering Notification Plan.” Then she looked back at Schwartz. “I got ETT on the green phone. We ain't switching load to them. All
beachhead routers are deader than a doornail, too.”
They looked at each other, their expressions changing from dumbfounded to horrified. Finally, Schwartz stood up. “You call a VP. I'll get onto the National Communications System.”
Aboard the MV
Two Miles Off Squirrel Island,
Booth Bay Harbor, Maine
“It's too cold to be diving, no?” the captain asked in Russian.
“Not with these,” the diver replied, slapping his side. “New suit. Latest technology from Russian Navy labs. Never feel the cold. Besides, I'm just there to guide the drone. It does all the work, hauls the cargo down to the bottom, sends us back the pictures.”
was registered in Panama and flying its flag. In smaller letters under the ship's name on the stern, it said “ColÃ³n.” The captain and crew were Lithuanian, and paid by the company that owned the ship, in Antigua. For this trip, they were also being paid by someone else who had also hired the six Ukrainians who had boarded in Newark. The ship's instructions were to stop in a few places off the coast and let the divers place their experiments on the ocean floor, using the drones that had been in a container on-loaded in Hamburg. For this odd business and for total secrecy about it, each crewman got $50,000 and the captain got a million in cash. So maybe they were really the Russian Navy, the captain thought, as he watched the divers readying themselves. Maybe it was placing listening devices on the ocean floor again to find the American submarines. It was smart to use Ukrainians, in case they were caught. Moscow could deny. Moscow was good at denying.
The diver went over the side. Despite the new Russian gear, he felt the cold right away, piercing to his bones. He tried to think of how heated his body had been two nights ago, with the American hooker. She was not like the women he had hired in Europe. She was athletic, muscular. And yet she had beautiful fruit aromas, one in her hair, one around her full breastsâ¦. His daydream was terminated by the voice in his ear. “Do you see the sled, Gregor? Is it stable?” He looked through the new underwater binoculars and saw shades of green and black on the ocean floor beneath him.
“I see it fine. It's sitting right next to the cable. Sitting flat. The big rock next to it will protect it from shifting in deep swells. Nothing fell off the sled on the way down. I can even see the little light blinking.”
His whole body involuntarily shivered. Then he heard the voice from the surface again in his ear. “Good. Then come up. We need to deal with the crew.”
Homeland Security Department, National Communications System
Two miles west of the Lincoln Memorial, in one of the many high-rises in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, a quickly called meeting started in the Board Room of the National Communications System. The NCS had been established after the breakup of Ma Bell in the 1970s. It was a place where all the phone and internet companies could come together, without worrying about illegal-collusion charges, to share information necessary to keep America's communication systems running in support of the Pentagon and, of course, the consumers. It was one of the few places where federal bureaucrats cohabitated with competing vendor companies.
Around the table, both industry and government representatives were comparing notes, balancing coffee mugs, and trying to activate the flat screens that were discreetly placed into the mahogany-and-cherry conference table.
“Okay, okay, let's get going,” Fred Calder, the director of NCS, said loudly and seated himself at the head of the high-tech table. Around the table, the talking stopped as people sat down behind signs that read “Defense Department,” “Infotel,” “FBI,” “PacificWestel,” “Homeland Security,” “ETT,” and a host of other three-letter agencies and corporations. “Jake Horowitz is the director of infrastructure protection at NCS. Jake, give us what we know.”
“Here's what we have so far. Between 0730 and 0745 this morning explosions took place at seven of the ten Atlantic beachheads, the shacks near the beaches where the transoceanic fiber-optic cables come ashore from Europe and go into routers and switches. About the same time, three of the Pacific crossing beachheads in Washington State were hit by explosions and ceased to function.” The room grew quieter.
“New Jersey State Police have preliminary reports that suggest at least one explosion was a truck bomb. No one was injured in any of the explosions, because these places are usually not staffed. A Coast Guard plane saw one of the explosions and then went missing.
“Although three of the ten Atlantic beachheads are still functioning, they are the older ones and together carry about ten percent of the load. State Police in Massachusetts and the Mounties in Nova Scotia are setting up defenses at the remaining three beachheads. Teams from Horizon Communications, Infotel, PacificWestel, and others have begun to shift the load to the Pacific fiber, to get to Europe the other way round, but we got serious capacity problems and we are dropping packets all over the place.
“Couple of the older Sytho routers at PacificWestel began flapping under the load, so we are coordinating flow control, but we have no way of knowing what traffic is priority and what is grandma writing to the kids at college. We're still at less than twenty-five percent of normal outbound traffic to European Internet Service Providers, and a lot of that is garbage because of dropped packets. Latest thing we heard is that traffic to the domain name root servers is way off. They act like the four-one-one of the internet, converting www addresses into numbers. Traffic to them is off because most of the world can't get to eight of the ten roots, which are all here in the States. Means a bunch of internet traffic doesn't know how to get where it's supposed to go.”
“What about protecting the Pacific beachheads? Isn't it just about seven
. there now?” the FBI rep asked.
“That's being done,” Fred Calder responded. “We placed calls to the state police in the three West Coast states.”
“State is unable to get through to any U.S. Embassy in Europe, Africa, the Mideast, or South Asia, doesn't matter whether its classified or unclassified comms,” the Department of State rep declared.
“You still have voice to the embassies, right?” the man from ETT asked.
“We can talk to them, but no data links,” the State Department man complained.
John Peters from Treasury punched the button activating his microphone and announced in a high-pitched voice, “The New York, American, and NASDAQ exchanges are all reporting an inability to communicate test messages with London and the other European markets. Will we have this fixed by opening bells tomorrow?”