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Read Terminal Compromise Part 77

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At 65, much of the private sector would have forced him into retirement, but elected Government service permitted him the tenure to continue as long as his const.i.tuents allowed. Claude Pepper held the record and Merrill Rickfield’s ego wanted to establish new definitions of tenure.

His involvement with General Chester Oliver Young was recent, in political terms; less than a decade. During the Reagan military buildup, nearly 3 trillion dollars worth, defense contractors expanded with the economy, to unprecedented levels and profits.

Congress was convinced that $300 Billion per year was about right to defend against a Cold War enemy that couldn’t feed its own people. The overestimates of the CIA, with selective and often speculative information provided by the country’s intelligence gatherer, the NSA, helped define a decade of political and tech- nological achievements: Star Wars, Stealth, MX, B1, B2 and other a.s.sorted toys that had no practical use save all out war.

With that kind of spending occurring freely, and the Senate Over- sight Committee in a perpetual state of the doldrums, there was money to be made for anyone part of Washington’s good ol’ boy network. General Young was one such an opportunistic militarist.

Promoted to one star general in 1978, after two lackl.u.s.ter but politically well connected tours in Vietnam, it was deemed pru- dent by the power brokers of that war to bring Young into the inner rings of the Pentagon with the corresponding perks such a position brought. But Young had bigger and better ideas.

He saw countless ways to spend taxpayers money protecting them from the Communist threat of the Evil Empire, but had difficulty getting support from his two and three star superiors. It didn’t take him long to realize that he had been token promoted to keep his mouth shut about certain prominent people’s roles in the Vietnam era. Events that were better left to a few trusted memories than to the history books.

So Young decided to go out on his own and find support from the legislative branch; find an influential proponent for a few specific defense programs by which he could profit. Over the course of a few years, he and Senator Rickfield became fast friends, holding many of the same global views and fears, if not paranoias. When Allied Dynamics began losing Congressional support for an advanced jet helicopter project, Young went to Rickfield for help. After all, Allied was headquartered in Rickfield’s home state, and wouldn’t it be a great boon to the economy? The recession was coming to an end and that meant jobs.

Rickfield was unaware, initially, that Allied had an arrangement with General Young to donate certain moneys to certain charities, in certain Swiss bank accounts if certain spending programs were approved. Only when Rickfield offered some later resistance to the Allied projects did Young feel the need to share the wealth.

After 25 years in Congress, and very little money put away to show for it, Rickfield was an easy target.

Rickfield’s recruitment by Young, on Allied’s behalf, had yielded the Senator more than enough to retire comfortably on the island paradise of his choice. Yet, Rickfield found an uncontrolled desire for more; considerations was his word for it, just as he had grown used to wielding power and influence in the nation’s capital. Rickfield was hooked, and Credite Suisse was the cer- tain Swiss bank in question. Ken Boyers was involved as well, almost from the start. They both had a lot to lose.

“No, I must a.s.sume that you are not a fool, and I know for a fact I am not one, so on that one point we do agree.” Political pausing often allowed your opponent to hang himself with addi- tional oration. Rickfield found the technique useful, especial- ly on novices. “Please continue.”

“Thank you.” Sir George said with a hint of patronization. “To be brief, Senator, I want you to keep your money, I think that dedicated civil servants like yourself are grossly underpaid and underappreciated. No sir, I do not wish to deny you the chance to make your golden years pleasant after such a distinguished career.”

“Then what is it. What do you want from me?” The Senator was doodling nervously while Ken paced the room trying to figure out what was being said at the other end of the phone.

“I’m glad you asked,” said Sir George. “Beginning next month you are chairing a sub-committee that will be investigating the weaknesses and potential threats to government computer systems.

As I remember it is called the Senate Select Sub-Committee on Privacy and Technology Containment. Is that right?”

“Yes, the dates aren’t firm yet, and I haven’t decided if I will chair the hearings or a.s.sign it to another committee member. So what?”

“Well, we want you to drag down the hearings. Nothing more.”

Sire George stated his intention as a matter of fact rather than a request.

Rickfield’s face contorted in confusion. “Drag down? Exactly what does that mean, to you, that is?”

“We want you to downplay the importance of security for govern- ment computers. That there really is no threat to them, and that government has already met all of its obligations in balance with the new world order, if you will. The threats are mere scare tactics by various special interest groups and government agencies who are striving for long term self preservation.” Sir George had practiced his soliloquy before calling Senator Rick- field.

“What the h.e.l.l for?” Rickfield raised his voice. “Security?

Big deal! What’s it to you?”

“I am not at liberty to discuss our reasons. Suffice it to say, that we would be most pleased if you see to it that the hearings have minimal substance and that no direct action items are deliv- ered. I believe that term you Americans so eloquently use is stonewall, or perhaps filibuster?”

“They’re not the same things.”

“Fine, but you do understand nonetheless. We want these hearings to epitomize the rest of American politics with procrastination, obfuscation and procedural gerrymandering.” Sir George had learned quite a bit about the political system since he had moved to the States.

“And to what aim?” Rickfield’s political sense was waving red flags.

“That’s it. Nothing more.”

“And in return?” The Senator had learned to be direct in mat- ters of additional compensation since he had hooked up with the earthy General.

“I will a.s.sure you that the details of your arrangements with Allied Dynamics will remain safe with me.”

“Until the next time, right? This is blackmail?”

“No. Yes.” Sir George answered. “Yes, it is blackmail, but without the usual messiness. And no, there will be no next time.

For, as soon as the hearings are over, it would be most advisable for you to take leave of your position and enjoy the money you have earned outside of your paycheck.”

“And, if I don’t agree to this?” Rickfield was looking at his options which seemed to be somewhere between few and none. Maybe he only had one.

“That would be so unfortunate.” Sir George smiled as he spoke.

“The media will receive a two page letter, it is already pre- pared I can a.s.sure you, detailing your illegal involvements with Allied, General Young and Mr. Boyers.”

“What’s in it for you? You don’t want any money?” The confusion in Rickfield’s mind was terribly obvious, and he was sliding on a logical Mobius loop.

“No Senator, no money. Merely a favor.”

“I will let you know what I decide. May I have your number?”

“I do not need to contact you again. Your answer will be evident when the hearings begin. Whatever course you pursue, we will make an appropriate response.”

“Scott!” A woman called across the noisy floor. “Is your phone off the hook?”

“Yeah, why?” He looked up and couldn’t match the voice with a person.

“You gotta call.”

“Who is it? I’m busy.”

“Some guy from Brooklyn sounds like. Says he got a package for you?”

Holy s.h.i.t. It’s Vito! Scott’s anonymous caller. The one who had caused him so much work, so much research without being able to print one d.a.m.n thing.

Not yet.

“Yeah, OK. It’s back on.” The phone rang instantly and Scott rushed to pick it up on the first ring.

“Yeah, Scott Mason here.” He sounded hurried.

“Yo! Scott. It’s me, your friend, rememba?” No one could forget the accent that sounded more fake than real. He had been nicknamed Vito for reference purposes by Scott.

“Sure do, fella,” Scott said cheerily. “That bunch of s.h.i.t you sent me was worthless. Garbage.”

“Yeah, well, we may have f.u.c.ked up a little on that. Didn’t count on youse guys having much in the ethics department if youse know what I mean.” Vito laughed at what he thought was a pretty good joke. “So, we all screw up, right? Now and again? Never mind that, I got something real good, something youse really gonna like.”

“Sure you do.”

“No, really, dig this. I gotta list of names that . . . “

———-

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