Tear Down That Wall, Mr. Crypto – Flash Fiction
Three anti-personnel bombs exploded in Brussels, killing 31 people and injuring hundreds of others. The cheerleading factions in several countries went to work explaining the slaughter.
Some neighborhoods cheered the attacks while the vast majority deplored it. In general, people worldwide were vehement in their condemnation. They blamed the abstractions of government just as the terrorists had planned.
When law enforcement authorities pieced together the origins of the attacks, they raided several apartments in an ethnic neighborhood of Paris and found plans to set off simultaneous dirty bombs in several major cities across the world. The cities weren’t identified but some of the planners were identified by various means, including communications surveillance from “Stinger” aircraft.
Sixteen terrorist operatives and functionaries were arrested. Along with the arrest of these individuals, law enforcement authorities seized a treasure trove of computers, smartphones, weapons, and purloined radioactive material sold to them by former Soviet scientists in Kazakhstan.
Among those arrested was a senior member of a foreign terrorist operation sent to Europe to direct the ‘death of Europe.’ Hamza Al-Youssef was a sneering, resentful, alcohol-besotted, irreligious hater of western civilization who tried to spit on his interrogators and refused to say anything.
More than one American intelligence operative had suggested waterboarding. The manner of witness interrogation became the focus of national debates in several countries for just one day before it was displaced in the news cycle by news of the planned dirty bomb attacks.
The operatives who had suggested waterboarding for Hamza Al-Youssef were rebuked and censured by their own government. The censure of the aggressive ‘rogue’ intelligence agents was applauded in some quarters and condemned in others.
Frightened though she was, Hamza Al-Youssef’s number three American citizen wife bravely came forward to say that her husband communicated with ISIS leadership in Libya by a telephone he had left in her possession. She told FBI agents she was not to reveal her possession of the phone under pain of death. She entered the FBI witness protection program and was ensconced with her five children in a nice neighborhood in Minot, North Dakota.
The smart-phone Hamza’s wife turned over to authorities was encrypted by an American Silicon Valley company of high worldwide repute. The sales success of the Crypto Corporation phones made the company a stock market leader that enriched thousands of early investors in the technology.
The sleek Crypto phones were popular with anyone with the need for privacy: government, drug cartels, organized crime networks, unfaithful marital partners, child pornographers, hackers, and idealistic high school students who were angry at having their rooms searched by concerned parents.
The FBI urgently needed to unlock Hamza’s Crypto phone to determine the cities where the dirty bomb devices would be exploded. Government sources estimated that 40,000 people would be murdered within the week and that another 400,000 could suffer the effects of long term radiation poisoning
The CEO of Crypto Corporation refused to cooperate with the FBI and became an instant cult hero. The FBI could not convince the Crypto Corporation CEO of the urgency of opening the phone. The FBI Director sought the aid of the President of the United States who made several subtle public statements insuring that corporate secrets would be assiduously protected to no avail.
The popular media championed the cause of Crypto Corporation. Why should a juggernaut of the American economy be forced by an overbearing government to shoot itself in the foot by subjecting its millions of customers to FBI and intelligence agency snooping? The meme was taken up by many ambitious politicians who found in the crisis an opportunity to appeal to their financial supporters in their constituent regions.
It was quite surprise when a top Mafia figure, under indictment through wire-tap surveillance himself, broke from the herd and proclaimed: “What are youse nuts? Open the goddam phone, you mutts! If youse don’t, there won’t be nobody making money around here!”
This amused the public and occupied the news cycle for almost one whole day. But on the following day, radioactive explosive devices exploded in six major cities across the world.
It turned out that damage and death estimates had been severely underestimated. The world media got right to work lamenting the ‘tragic consequences’ of the intelligence failures and impugning their governments for underestimating the catastrophic nature of the ‘dirty bomb’ threat.