While running tests on a popular microprocessor, gifted chip designer Ethan Alon makes a puzzling discovery: an undocumented section with unknown functions. Ethan and his friend Rina Hardin crack the encryption and discover a clandestine network monitoring defense systems around the world, but especially focused on the Middle East.
With the help of military analyst Barrett Parker, they discover the program is the work of scientists from Project Flower-an actual Israeli-Iranian missile program from the 1970s. These scientists came to mistrust politicians and generals and designed a system to prevent or at least limit wars. Their program is astounding, but it has a flaw-the Samson Heuristic.
The flaw becomes apparent when intelligence operations come undone and overtax the system. American, Iranian, and Israeli militaries are on high alert, and war seems imminent. Ethan and Rina race to fix the Samson Heuristic while in a Tel Aviv command center-under the noses of generals who know nothing of Samson. Meanwhile, Barrett and like-minded analysts build opposition to war from inside bureaus in Washington and Jerusalem.
The future of the Middle East lies in the balance.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.77(d)|
Read an Excerpt
THE SAMSON HEURISTIC
By Danny Rittman, Brian Downing
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Danny Rittman and Brian Downing
All rights reserved.
"Everything looks overexposed out here," Barrett grumbled to himself as he drove into the studio parking lot. The direct sun, treeless yards, and cloudless skies make for a brightness which caused people to comment that his photos were too harsh and that software could take something off. "But that's what New Mexico looks like," he'd tell them. "Overexposed ... way overexposed." He found a place to park in the visitors section and walked toward the television studio that did contract work for international news stations. "At least it's easy to park here, even in downtown Albuquerque."
Barrett stiffened and looked warily as a man exited the building and came toward him. The man walked past him, got into his car, and drove off. Barrett continued to watch him a few moments more before entering the building.
"Barrett Parker," he announced to the receptionist, "I'm scheduled for an interview on Al Jazeera at two." She made a quick look on her screen and replied, "Studio 4, just down the hall to the left." He nodded and walked down the hallway, stopping to check his longish hair and short beard for the proper amount of dishevelment which he thought conveyed aloofness from convention. No security badge or sign-in book. New Mexico isn't like that. Los Alamos and Sandia Labs are like that. The rest of the state is low-key. It was like that in Billy the Kid's day and before.
New Mexico received a fresh infusion of offbeat people when hippies flocked there in the sixties. Some of them lived in buses converted into houses of sorts or in dwellings built to resemble flying saucers. Most of the offbeat New Mexicans weren't his crowd though he shared their eccentric spirit. Most of them mistrusted him because of his expertise in military matters. It just didn't fit with their world; no decent person should know what a Raptor or a Misagh-2 was. Barrett thought that was part of the problem with the country. Most people who oppose involvement around the world know nothing about world affairs and simply repeat old rallying cries from the sixties. In the absence of thoughtful criticism, national security institutions roll on and foreign policy gets messier and messier, deadlier and deadlier.
He sat in the black leather chair in a ten-by-ten chamber and looked into the camera three feet in front of him. Behind him a large LCD television showed a Jpeg of the stately Sandia Mountains to the city's east, providing an attractive backdrop to his head and shoulders atop a six-two frame whose athleticism was still immediately recognizable despite being fortyish. A technician adjusted the camera and handed him an earpiece and lapel mike.
"Hi Barrett," came the mellifluous voice of Khadija, the producer in Qatar, the small principality in the Persian Gulf that funds Al Jazeera and seeks to become a force in world affairs. "Another tweed jacket, I see. I presume you're wearing jeans and Tony Lamas beneath it."
"These are Luccheses, my mysterious Qatari friend," Barrett said as he raised a boot up for the camera. "I don't have Tony Lamas."
"I was right about the jeans though. I thought everyone wears Tony Lamas in New Mexico and Texas."
"That's like saying everyone where you live wears—"
"Sound check, please!"
Barrett began counting to ten as Khadija got the volume and compression right. "We'll go live in two minutes," she said. The anchor gave an intro on the increasing tensions with Iran then launched into the interview.
Anchor: We're pleased to have Barrett Parker with us to look more deeply into the situation. Barrett, is war with Iran imminent?
Barrett: I don't think so. We're still quite a ways off from anything serious. Right now, we have a geopolitical game of good cop, bad cop. Israel is threatening to attack while the European Union is trying to negotiate a settlement.
Anchor: But the talk out of Israel is very ominous.
Barrett: The prime minister doesn't have sufficient support for war. Only 32% of Israelis support unilateral attacks, and major figures in Mossad—that's the Israeli equivalent of the CIA—and the military are expressing skepticism about the judiciousness of an attack. A former Mossad chief called it the stupidest thing he'd ever heard of. His words, not mine.
Anchor: Of course. What about an American strike?
Barrett: At present, that's highly unlikely. The US has a different "red line" for attacking Iran than Israel has. Israel wants to attack before Iran moves its uranium enrichment facilities into mountain sites that are very difficult to destroy. The US is not as concerned about uranium enrichment. Iran can do that as long as it's for peaceful purposes.
Anchor: Are Iran's purposes peaceful?
Barrett: We have no firm evidence that Iran is making a weapon. It can have enriched uranium, even highly-enriched uranium. Without a triggering mechanism and warhead though, the uranium is not an immediate threat or even militarily useful.
Anchor: Isn't the United States under pressure, from both congress and the general public, to go along with the Israeli prime minister on this?
Barrett: Yes, there's a good deal of such pressure. However, the president knows that war with Iran would unleash a wave of bombings and assassinations around the region and oil prices would skyrocket. Rising oil prices will weaken world economies amid a sluggish recovery. Furthermore, the president has a very high opinion of himself and he does not want to go down in history as a president who continued the military ambitions of predecessors he opposed. Remember, he criticized the muscular foreign policy of his predecessors—and rather harshly too.
Anchor: His predecessors being the Neo-conservatives.
Barrett: That's right—the Neo-cons. The president and most of his advisers oppose reliance on military force.
Anchor: So you see nothing imminent.
Barrett: Correct. Watch the number of aircraft carriers the US has in the waters around Iran. Also, watch oil prices on the London and New York exchanges. They've been flat during all the recent sound and fury. Just a small bump here and there. In other words, people with billions of dollars at stake aren't greatly concerned.
Anchor: Anything going on behind the scenes you can tell us about?
Barrett: Well, I imagine the US and Israel are very eager to find out if Iran is currently going beyond uranium enrichment and building a weapon system.
Anchor: How would they find out?
Barrett: Satellite imagery and eavesdropping can provide some information, but my guess is that they're trying to get people inside a couple of research facilities to see for themselves. That will be difficult—and very dangerous too.
Anchor: Any idea where those research facilities are?
Barrett: Sure. Fordo, which is near the holy city of Qom, and Parchin, which is near Tehran. Fordo is a uranium-enrichment site and Parchin is where weapons production might be occurring. No one knows for sure, at least outside of the IRGC. Those are the places to watch.
Anchor: Fordo and Parchin. And the IRGC is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps?
Barrett: Yes, the IRGC is Iran's military elite. It's also involved in many business enterprises and intelligence operations. Many people think the IRGC has political ambitions. They'd like to wrest control of the country from the religious figures.
Anchor: Do you think the IRGC has political ambitions?
Barrett: Yes, I do. Generals have been getting into politics since Julius Caesar marched his legions across the Rubicon. It's gone on quite a bit ever since.
Anchor: Indeed. How might the IRGC realize their ambitions of wresting political power from the mullahs?
Barrett: Historically, wars have shifted power and prestige to militaries, and the present crisis will give the IRGC the opportunity to expand its influence. Wars are run by military experts, not religious ones.
Anchor: Thanks for your insights, Barrett.
Barrett: Thanks for having me.
Khadija added her thanks as Barrett relaxed for a moment to enjoy the exhilaration of finishing a crisp interview.
"Khadija, how is it that I've never had the chance to see you, not even on a monitor."
"I'm a woman of mystery, Barrett. Seriously though, you should live here in the Gulf and become a regular. You'd know the region even better than you do already. You might look less intense and perhaps smile a bit more, even if it's just for the camera."
Barrett rolled his eyes playfully, knowing she could see him.
"Not much to smile about in the Middle East these days, Khadija. Besides, I spent some time in the region, as you will recall from my CV."
"Yes, but Qatar is quite different from Iraq, especially when you were there."
"I still prefer the tranquility of New Mexico. But you will say hello to Farrah Esmail in your sports department for me," Barrett said as he loosened his tie and leaned back.
"I'll tell her you were thinking of her. Hey, I saw a slight smile come across your face. Maybe now you'll come here."
"I'm afraid I must remain here with my wolf. Remember him?"
"Yes, you sent me the photo of him with a hat on his enormous head. What did the hat say on it?"
"It said, 'Dysfunctional Veteran—Leave Me Alone'. He lets me wear it sometimes. Speaking of Jesse, the old boy needs to be fed soon. Otherwise, he'll start looking at the neighbor's cattle as jumbo burgers—rare, no fries."
"Give him a hug from me—if you dare! But why do you wear that hat, Barrett?"
"Khadija, I'm a man of mystery."
Barrett removed his earpiece and mike and headed for lunch at Kelly's on Rt 66.
The sports bar section wasn't crowded and the gaggle of regulars sat about watching a rerun of a college football game from the eighties. Barrett settled in a booth that allowed him to see anyone walking in.
"Still solving the problems of the world?" the lithe blonde waitress jibed as she brought a Guinness and menu. Barrett was an enigma to her, though a somewhat appealing one. Handsome but standoffish. Witty but reserved.
"I'm sure trying, Dee Dee. Yet things get worse everyday."
"Not wearing your veteran cap today, I see." she said holding back a laugh. "It makes a lot of people here wonder!"
"It makes me wonder too, Dee Dee." Barrett smiled slightly as he watched her walk back toward the bar.
The Kirkuk airport in northern Iraq grew impressively after Saddam's ouster in 2003. Once chiefly a base for suppressing the Kurds and ensuring Baghdad's control of Kurdistan's oil, Kirkuk now served the hundreds of engineers, construction crews, politicians, and diplomats who came and went.
More than a few intelligence people also came and went from Kirkuk. Kurdistan was now practically independent from Iraq and it held a critical strategic position in the region. Anthony Sabatini had been in northern Iraq before and felt a measure of pride in its independence and growth. His ranger team had trained local militias in explosives and sniper tactics and tried to get them to coordinate operations. The latter mission wasn't entirely successful with the fractious Kurdish tribes. Nonetheless, when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Saddam was pushed out in surprisingly short order and Kurdish troops, including Anthony's people, played an important role in tying down an Iraqi mechanized infantry division.
Along the way, Anthony learned some Kurdish to mix into the Farsi he studied in army schools. Skills like that proved useful over the years as the special forces and the CIA worked hand in hand. The two organizations composed the backbone of American foreign policy in the Middle East—and increasingly elsewhere too. No longer in the military, though still involved in related activities that used former rangers with exotic language skills, Anthony was back in Kurdistan.
Walking through the airport, he felt sure he could spot others in the intelligence field. They had a certain look, especially the American ones. "Too big, too athletic," he'd complain to others. They looked like Big Ten running backs. The faces of the diplomats they claimed to be were less determined and conveyed acceptance of doubt—an unwelcome characteristic in the army and CIA. He recalled the CIA employee nabbed in Pakistan in 2011. The instant Anthony saw his photo he knew that he wasn't with the State Department and that Pakistani intelligence likely knew that for a long time. It was as plain as his broad shoulders and stout neck. Anthony was no running back. He was six feet and just over 190 pounds. A Big Sky Conference safety at best. Undersized, but a hard hitter.
Many countries had intelligence people in Kurdistan. India and Britain each had them there seeking ways to increase their influence in the area. The US and Israel used Kurdistan to conduct operations inside Iran. So did the Saudis, though they were there chiefly to write checks and listen to briefings. That's what they did best.
Iran undoubtedly had Revolutionary Guard officers there. They were all over the rest of Iraq, primarily in the Shia south. The IRGC officers were welcome down there, though not in the Kurdish north. The Kurds saw the IRGC as oppressors of their kin across the border in Iran, and Tehran saw Iraqi Kurds as intent on acquiring the Kurdish areas of Iran. The Kurds were now getting plenty of foreign help—from intelligence officers.
Anthony was escorted to the military section of the airport where he met with the CIA station chief and a local colonel. A Black Hawk with Kurdish army markings awaited him. The Kurds of northern Iraq had their own army, constitution, and flag and were for all practical purposes a separate country. Fear of Turkish and Iranian reprisals prevented a formal declaration of independence, but every Kurd in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran prayed for the day.
As the Black Hawk lifted up noisily and executed a stomach-churning pitch to the east, Anthony saw construction cranes rising up from the ground throughout Kirkuk. Off to the north, shiny metal tubes of a new pipeline system glistened in the late afternoon sun as they stretched north into Turkey where they fed into the pipelines that took oil out of Kazakhstan. The pipelines brought energy to Europe and hope to the Kurds—hope that empires and statesmen and secret agreements had long crushed.
Anthony carried no elaborate communication gear or transponder. They would be giveaways if found at the border and get him into worse trouble than what the Big Ten running back in Pakistan had faced. No pistol either. For now, he had an iPod Touch. There was nothing out of the ordinary on it except encryption programs for the camera and the Skype app. There was some Kurdish music loaded from an iTunes account under the name of Agrin Saleh. It was the same name on his passport and other papers.
The iPod would automatically erase the encryption programs and recent data if he didn't enter a code every twelve hours. A security measure, in case of capture. A transponder and pistol awaited him at a safe house in Tehran.
Santa Clara, California
Silicon Valley was waking up. Unlike San Francisco, which stayed overcast until late morning, Santa Clara was accustomed to clear morning sun that suggested bold new things ahead. It had a palpable eagerness only rarely found elsewhere. People wanted to get to their workplaces and discover things, create things—things that changed how people lived and communicated.
The forecast said it would hit the low nineties and the prospect of an unpleasant afternoon made people head for work early, before their energy and creativity wilted. The Valley had this defining energy since the late 1970s when a handful of young people built empires with their enthusiasm for computers. The best of them weren't motivated by money, though there was a great deal of that as housing costs ably indicated. The best of them were driven by imagination and will. A few were motivated by ideas that were vanishing fast—an appreciation of beauty and a need to do good.
Ethan Alon began his mornings by letting the sun creep up through the open curtains and by idly listening to the cuckoo clock rap out its rhythms.
Switzerland's peaceful gift to the world—the cuckoo clock. Breakfast shall be ... oh, cantaloupe and pomegranate juice. I'll stop for coffee on the way in.
After a bracing shower, he donned beige corduroy slacks and an Aztec-design shirt then headed into the still uncrowded streets.
It was just before seven and other early risers were driving or biking down the roads to the glass office buildings along El Camino Real. A few trucks were on their way to the supermarkets or heading back to warehouses in Oakland to the north. Ethan pulled his Prius into the Boudin Bakery—part of a small chain that made coffee, breads, and pastries. It originated in San Francisco and expanded throughout the Bay Area and even as far south as San Diego.
Excerpted from THE SAMSON HEURISTIC by Danny Rittman, Brian Downing. Copyright © 2014 Danny Rittman and Brian Downing. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fine read.. It gets a little, just a tad, boring in the middle of the book. Looks like the authors take their time on details and technical stuff that can be a little too much for me at times. Nevertheless, it is a good book. I'm a fan now...
An Adventure for Anyone. Action Extravaganza, computerized thriller. A classic!!! Equivalent of a great action movie!
Strong Suspense and funny! The combination of hi-tech and military/politics is astonishing.I read the book twice. I am a fan of these guys! Very recommended!!!