A Short Story by Arne Sommer


Now, before we discuss the present situation, sir, I'd like to give you some background information. It will make it easier to understand how we got here.

ABC is a sort of spinoff from the Tesseract Security Group, or TSG. We don't actually know how old TSG is, as they have been involved in a lot of mergers and buyouts. But one theory is that they started out as a transportation company, much like Wells Fargo. Then they ventured into transportation of valuables, and eventually became a bank.

But unlike Wells Fargo, they never quit the transportation business. They continued transporting people and valuables, and started to offer bodyguard services. They have an excellent track record; no client has ever come to harm. Not a single one. They have one philosophy; "do it right, or don't do it at all". And it isn't just talk; they adhere to it.

Now, you doubtless remember Escobar. His main mistake was the high profile. The next generation of drug lords held a very low profile. One of the most successful one, known as Bebe, was so careful that DEA didn't even know he existed. Then FBI arrested a Florida lawyer, in relation to some shady property deals. The lawyer panicked, and spilled the beans on a major money laundry operation by Bebe. TSG was involved in a part of it, but DEA and FBI was adamant that TSG was not to blame in any way.

TSG didn't take their reputation beeing tarnished without a fight. They started hiring a lot of ex-cops, ex-soldiers and ex-agents from FBI, DEA and CIA. Note the "ex" part. It took FBI several months to catch on, and the initial thought was that TSG revamped their client vetting process. But they kept hiring people, so that idea couldn't explain it all. We don't know exactly how many new employees they got, but the operating profit disappeared.

About seven months after the arrest of the florida lawyer, DEA got a call from a TSG director, asking for a meeting with them the next morning at their Dallas Division headquarters. The Dallas Division wasn't happy with the request, as the DEA leadership were due to visit them later that day, but went along. The security had been hightened, and a meeting that would be over several hours before the top brass arrived shouldn't pose a threat. They were also curious as to what TSG wanted. TSG declined to answer questions.

The TSG arrived as arranged, heavy on manpower. Only two of them entered the building, went through security and was escorted to the meeting room. The TSG representative introduced his guest as Bebe, and said he wanted to turn himself in. Without any condiditions, except that discussing why, and the TSG involvement in getting him there, was off limit. TSG presented the conditions in writing, and the meeting was over after two minutes. The DEA leadership tour program went out the window.

It became clear afterwards that TSG had ventured into the intelligence sector, and they turned over quite a lot of useful information to the DEA, FBI and local law enforcement in the following years. And they still do. Free of charge.

The FBI made some enquiries, and reported back to the State Department that TSG was as honest as they proclaimed to be. They vetted potential customers very thoroughly, and turned down a lot of them. In certain circles it enhanced a company's reputation to be known as a TSG customer.

A couple of years later TSG tipped off the Alabama State police about a potential armed robbery. The police didn't handle it very well, and the robbery ended in a bloodbath. The Alabama State prosecutor decided to deflect the blame, and got a search warrant for a TSG site in Alabama based on the assumption that TGS knew a lot more than they had told the police.

The raid was done on a saturday night, by a fully armed SWAT team and a lot of State troopers. It didn't quite work out, as they hadn't bothered to check the site plans. The property had perimeter walls, and the gate was closed. And unmanned. They used the calling system, and was let in after a short discussion. They drove up to the builing, and was met by the night guard. He wouldn't let them enter the main building, claiming he didn't have access. He offered to call his manager, and the State prosecutor was persuaded by the SWAT commander that it would be a good idea.

The first to turn up were the FBI, heavily armed. Then the DEA turned up, also armed. But they were all outgunned by a platoon from the US Marine Corps. Then the TSG manager turned up, calm as hell, and tried to explain to the State prosecutor that the request to enter the facility respectfully had to be declined, due to national security issues. And that the FBI, DEA and the Marine Corps were there to protect the site. The prosecutor was angry as hell, and wouldn't stand down. Until he got a call from the governor, who had been dragged out of a dinner party by a phone call from the White House. The message was crystal clear. TSG did contractual work for the FBI, DEA, CIA, DHS, and some others. Highly confidential, and no one without proper security clearance would be allowed access. The SWAT team left. So did the State prosecutor. The press accepted the official explanation about an interdepartemental anti terrorist excercise.

Then we can talk about ABC, or Afghan Border Control. We don't know who came up with the idea, our side, the UN or TSG itself. But the deal, as sanctioned by the UN Security Council was that TSG would supply the manpower and management of ABC, and that ABC were to take over control of the Afghan border with Pakistan, the so called Durand Line. Your predecessor saw this as a way out of the Afghan mess. ABC were chartered with responsibility to protect the border with any means necessary. They would only answer to the Security Council, and everybody were happy. The Chinese, Russians and the Pakistani enjoyed the US loosing control, and the US though that independence meant that the Afghan authorities couldn't meddle.

They all underestimated ABC and TSG. The State Department should have known better by then.

ABC essentially sealed the border, building crossing stations where legitimate travellers were given a bed for the night, free of charge. Initially they had a lot of border violation attempts, but that basically stopped after some months, and as far as we know none were successfull. Now, that is impressive. For comparison we can take our own border with Mexico, which is about 40% longer than the Durand Line. We all know, or should I say "don't want to know" how many successful border violations we have. But to be fair, ABC shoot to kill, and we don't. And ABC is seen as a friend by the natives, as they have stopped the prior violence in the border region.

The charter also gave them responsibility for the airspace, to prevent drones and smaller aircrafts from beeing used for smuggling and terrorism. And now it was Pentagon's time to underestimate ABC. They waited a couple of weeks after ABC took over control before they resumed the drone missions into Afghanistan. Or they tried to, as the first drone was shot down seconds after entering Afghan airspace. ABC said nothing, so the idiots in Pentagon sent another drone a couple of days later. That one was jammed after it entered Afghan airspace, the failsafe failed to self destruct the drone, and ABC somehow landed it. (We have a sattelite picture of a truck taking the undamaged drone into one of their facilities.) Now, the security implications of this little episode grounded the drone program for quite some time. ABC complained to the Security Council, offered a nice set of images proving that the border violation was done by us. They offered us an olive branch, saying they accepted the incident to be a mistake, but stressed that any future violations by a government agency would we regarded as a declaration of war. Now that made the Chinese, Russians and the Pakistani grin. And the general in charge of the drone program was sacked.

No more drones over Aghanistan. But we had satellites, as the sulking CIA tried to comfort themselves with.

So you'd think that everybody would have learned not to mess with ABC by then. Or not to underestimate them. That leads us to the episode on monday.

Monday at 8AM local time ABC released a press statement that they had just had an "incident" at the Torkham border crossing, and that a press conference would be held there at 9AM. Nobody knew what was going on, so everybody tuned in at 9AM to watch. It turned out that ABC had taken several highly respected journalists on a tour, so they had a fully qualified press officer on site - and the journalists were allowed to ask questions. Live.

This officer is quite impressive, a former South African Army Colonel. His career had been sidelined as he was white, but he was chief of staff material. And here he was, as a press officer. Still a colonel.

He started the press conference with a bang, so to speak. They had intercepted an attempt to smuggle a dirty bomb into Afghanistan. A nuclear bomb. The bomb had been disarmed, and the investigation was underway.

He stopped the barrage of questions, and said he would show them pictures and give details. As they came in. He showed his earpice and warned that he might be interrupted as new information came in.

Then he took them, and us, the tv audience, through the incident. Step by step, with a lot of short breaks as new information came in. He stressed that the truck driver knew nothing about the bomb, and was cooperating fully. They tracked the truck back to Peshawar, and almost forty minutes into the press conference they presented pictures of several pakistani citicens connected to a garage. The pictures impressed the CIA.

The show lasted almost three hours, and I use the word "show" on purpose. One of CIAs behavioural analysts figured out that it was a show after about an hour, and it took another half hour before he had convinced his manager. Then they asked themselves the fundamental question "why", and the only possible answer was that the press conference itself was part of an operation - or investigation. Nobody questioned the incident itself, as the evidence was overwhelming.

The press officer continued feeding us with new information and collaborating pictures, satellite images and phone logs. The evidence led to the US Consulate in Peshawar, and things started to become interesting. More images, more names, now US citicens as well.

Then they took a step back, showed more images from the garage and explained how the perpetrators had hidden the bomb. This went on, almost like a commercial break, for almost five minutes before they dropped the bombshell. A taped phone conversation recorded only minutes earlier, between two high ranking CIA officials at Langley. A panicked conversation where they tried to come up with ways to protect themselves from the fallout when their roles became known. An even higher ranking official was named, and was said to be on his way after ordering them not to panic until he arrived and could take charge of the cover up.

One of the journalists asked the question noboby else thought about. Shouldn't internal phone conversations at Langley be impossible to tap? The answer was "yes, they should. But obviously they aren't". And a very small grin, as he proclaimed that the man behind the incident had been detained. On his way to Langley. He presented the name, photo and a copy of his personel file. A highly classified confidential personel file. By then nobody seemed to wonder how they had gotten hold of that.

And no, Mr president. No, we don't know where they hold deputy director Dillon, and they have declined to answer, stating that they don't really trust us. And I cannot say that I blame them.

It seems that Dillon and his cohorts, supported by parts of the pakistani ISI, wanted ABC to fail, and a dirty bomb going off would certainly help that endeavour. ISI miss the old times when they had influence in Afghanistan, and our lot feared the consequence of a successful trial period for ABC. The logical consequence would be for them to take control of the northern Afghan borders with the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. And that would almost certainly stop the flow of hashish and opium destined for Russia. A supply that pose a threat to the national security of Russia.