Full Faith and Allegiance – Review

Mark Greaney. Tom Clancy: True Faith and Allegiance. New York: Putnam, 2016. Print.

Still another chapter in the life and saga of Jack Ryan, True Faith and Allegiance should keep the Clancy technodudes happy. It more or less follows the Clancy formula, keeping up with both the technology and politics going on in the world.

A few of the recent Clancy novels I have suggested might be prescient. So far, thankfully, that is not the case with True Faith and Allegiance. However, one of its main premises is based on a few things that had happened before the novel was written.

News reports have told us that people have gotten a hold of enormous data files from the Social Security Administration and the U. S. government’s Office of Personnel Management. Those files contain information that could be used to hurt people—Social Security numbers especially could be used not only to falsify identification for illegal immigrants (which we know has been done), but also for identity theft.

What if some foreign government or group of hackers got a hold of the files containing the applications of everyone who had applied for a government security clearance since the 1980s? This would have included several million people from all walks of life: many military personnel including all officers, many government bureaucrats and officials, and contractors who frequently work for the government.

The applications run to over a hundred pages and include all kinds of personal details. From these we can learn about any arrests, all your family members and close friends, your education, your employment history, people in certain occupations you have known or associated with.

If people wanted to target a specific government official or person in the military, not only would they get much personal information, but nowadays by following the person and others mentioned in the application like friends and family members on social media, they could get very specific information.

In True Faith and Allegiance, ISIS gets access to the information above. They begin targeting military officers, politicians, and federal law enforcement officials who have fought them. Now through making connections with social media, they know when and where such people go for coffee in the morning or attend their kids’ soccer games.

Lenin once said, “The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize.” When people begin to realize that they are being specifically targeted and killed in such a way that some of the most intimate details of their lives are known, that becomes terrifying.

I recall that during the Vietnam War captured American pilots were often confronted by their interrogators about every duty station they had been assigned. This gave the impression that America was full of spies reporting back to North Vietnam. Soon they realized that the enemy was getting information published every week in the Military Times and Navy Times. With these classified applications and social media, it is possible to find out much much more.

It even makes me wonder if I should be keeping a blog…

The folks at the Campus get involved with this combination of cybersecurity and terrorism. It is another wild ride. It follows the successful Clancy formula. Also in this one President Jack Ryan has a significant role to play. He is not at all involved in the detection or capture of the bad guys, nor is he a target. However, he does have a lot of wise things to say as he makes public observations and holds a couple of press conferences as ISIS operatives target very specific military and government officials.

For those not familiar with the Clancy novels, they usually follow the Columbo technique rather than the Sherlock Holmes method. In other words, the readers usually know what the bad guys are doing. Much of the suspense comes from seeing how the good guys figure things out. And, alas, a lot of time it is realistic. In other words, they are not able to prevent the crimes or acts of war. So it is with Full Faith and Allegiance.

Indeed, at one point it appears that the plot is just about wrapped up when the plot takes an unexpected turn, and we realize how clever the enemy operatives can be.

Many times the epilogue to the stories are fun. Sometimes they have general observations about the nature of things as quoted in Threat Vector. Sometimes there is poetic justice or a humorous twist. Rainbow Six has a very funny epilogue, for example.

Full Faith and Allegiance may go too far. There is an element of the humorous twist as one of the bad guys gets dropped off in a country that is looking for him but does not have the same rule of law that most Western countries do. Because of his heartlessness, the punishment seems to fit the crime.

However, the other part of the epilogue may have gone too far. I am not sure. I would be interested to see what others say about it.

Still, Greaney has learned pretty well from his mentor, and I am not yet tired of Jack Ryan stories.

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