Thursday, December 30, 2004

Are the Bad Guys Reading Tom Clancy ?

The Associated Press reports tonight (via Yahoo News Asia, and the Drudge Report) that the FBI is investigating a Monday incident where “a mysterious laser beam that was directed into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500 feet.” The beam appeared when the plane was about 15 miles from Hopkins International Airport at Cleveland, Ohio and stayed with the plane for several seconds, as if the aircraft were being tracked...
The pilot safely landed the aircraft, and air-traffic controllers determined by radar that the laser beam came from a nearby residential area.
The story says that in a similar incident, also on Monday, two other aircraft reported green laser lights shined into their cockpits. Also, in September, a pilot for Delta Air Lines reported an eye injury from a laser beam projected into his cockpit during an approach to Salt Lake City, about five miles from the airport. This aircraft also landed safely.
The whole story may be found here:

It is unclear what is going on – whether pranks are involved, stray lasers from construction projects, laser light shows; or something more sinister. The injury to the Delta pilot in September, the fact that several incidents occurred on Monday, at places far from each other, and the indications that the laser was tracking the Cleveland aircraft certainly argues for a sinister interpretation.
Are there Bad Guys out there someplace reading Tom Clancy, the adventure novelist ? This is not a joke. In Chapter 39 of Debt of Honor, one of Mr. Clancy’s excellent Jack Ryan novels, (El Jefe recommends them all highly) published in 1994, Clancy’s two ace CIA agents “Ding” Chavez and John Clark use an extremely powerful light, somewhat like a laser, to cause a couple of Japanese military aircraft (modified Boeing 767’s), to crash by using their light to blind the pilots during their final landing approach. The resemblance to these incidents is not exact, but is still pretty eerie.
It gets stranger. This same book, published in 1994, neatly anticipates September 11. In another chapter, a fanatical suicide pilot crashes a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol Building in Washington DC. The Capitol is believed by the 9/11 Commission to have been a possible target for the fourth September 11 aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93, that crashed in Pennsylvania when its passengers tried to thwart the hijackers.
One of the functions of intelligence organizations is figuring out plausible ways for the Bad Guys to hurt us, so that we can better protect ourselves. Seems like the Good Guys at CIA could do worse than put together a Threat Team someplace made up, at least in part, of people who read Clancy novels and similar such things.
This is not a joke either. Several historians of World War II, among them John Toland, as well as John Prados, (author of Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II -- El Jefe considers this work among the finest one-volume general histories of the Pacific War available), tell the story of Hector C. Bywater, a journalist and naval writer of the 1920’s and 30’s. Bywater, in 1925, published a novel entitled The Great Pacific War, concerning a then hypothetical future war between America and Japan. Bywater’s novel opens with an attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbor – with additional attacks on US positions in Guam and the Philippines. This is exactly the strategy Japan followed in 1941.
At the time Bywater’s book was published, and received serious attention from the critics, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, Isoroku Yamamoto was just beginning his tour as Japanese naval attaché in Washington, D.C. Some authors even believe that Yamamoto met Bywater. Toland says the Japanese Naval Staff even adopted Bywater's book--a novel, remember-- as part of the curriculum at their Naval War College.
Truth sometimes starts as fiction, which can make fiction downright spooky.