Friday, July 4, 2014

David Ignatius Digs In The Director

The Director
Most businessmen would never cross the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States by refusing to turn over data on individuals without a court order, but Graham Weber is not most businessmen. He is a self-made billionaire with a blue collar background and still values liberty.

When Weber wins his case, the President of the United States capitalizes on the man's notoriety among privacy advocates. He appoints Weber as the new director of the CIA and gives him a directive to clean out all old ghosts and bring the agency up to date. Easier said than done.

The Director teeters between covert thriller and espionage procedural. 

As an outsider, Weber begins to familiarize himself with the CIA and its newest challenge to remain relevant in a post- WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden world. On one hand, an open digital world makes covert operations and clandestine operations that much at risk of becoming public. On the other, digging deeper into big data and secretly hacking suspicious individuals in the name of national security seems to be the only way to maintain an illusion of security.

Almost immediately, Weber feels the weight of the scales that attempt to balance liberty and security despite his personal belief that liberty truly is indivisible. You either have it or you do not.

As if his new challenge isn't enough, someone else decides to set his agenda in Hamburg, Germany.  A young Swiss hacker named Rudolf Biel walks into the American consulate seeking protection. He says the agency has been hacked and has a list of agent names to prove it.

Hamburg base chief Kitten Sandoval decides to play it walking by the books. She offers Biel protection while she contacts the new director through proper channels but will not allow Biel to stay overnight. Biel scoffs at the offer and insists the agency can't protect him. He leaves, promising to return in three days.

By the time the message makes Weber's desk, he turns to James Morris, the young and ambitious CIA Information Operations Center director, to find Biel. Morris insists that one hacker finding another will be easy, but Biel turns up dead nonetheless. It seems he was right. There is a mole inside.

Without any clear allies, Weber attempts to adjust his business instincts to work inside the maze of deception and double dealing that encompasses not only the agency, but also the federal government itself. Every agency, it seems, has invested decades into developing inter-agency assets to play out their various political incursions all over the world. The only rule anyone abides by is don't get caught.

As the outsider, Weber methodically starts to build his own trusted circle in a world where no one can be trusted. He has too move fast to do it too. Whatever Biel tried to warn him about is being fast-tracked toward a conclusion that could bring the entire national security system crashing down.

A few graphs about author David Ignatius. 

David Ignatius
As a American journalist and novelist, David Ignatius has a knack for building political commentary into his fiction. Sometimes this works in his favor and sometimes it does not. In The Director, it mostly does in painting a complete portrait of the American intelligence agency that spans its storied past and speculates its near future while carefully balancing the risk of independent hackers robbing people against the ricks of big government snooping into everything.

Where the novel lacks for some espionage thillseekers is in the limited physical thrill. This isn't a Cold War spy novel with exotic locations and James Bond gadgets. On the contrary, much of it plays out in cyberspace and in the hallways of the intelligence community. It's mental muscle, not physical.

As a journalist, Ignatius seems to match his protagonists' views. He has been criticized for being both critical for and defensive of the CIA and national intelligence. He was raised in Washington D.C. before leaving to attend Harvard. He graduated cum lade in 1973 and was awarded a Frank Knox Fellowship from Harvard University and studied at King's College, Cambridge University.

The Director By David Ignatius Spooks 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

As a thriller, The Director tends to be slightly too obvious for its own good and often too passive to capture the kind of tension people are looking for in a spy novel. But as an espionage procedural, The Director does find more lift in weighing very relevant issues within the intelligence community while creating a tension of a different kind as he reveals just how exposed everyone is online. It's well worth the read for anyone who ever wonders if there is a ghost in the machine.

The Director: A Novel by David Igantius can be found on Amazon or downloaded for iBooks. The audiobook, available on iTunes, is read by George Guidall. Guidall sounds like a natural fit for Weber and gives the book an edge with his reading. You can also order The Director by David Igantius from Barnes & Noble.
blog comments powered by Disqus