“They think that we will hand them over to the Saudis so they can torture them for us.”
Dickerson thought about it for a second and said, “Not a bad idea.
” Rapp shook his head. “Actually, it’s not such a good idea. The Saudis like to say they’ll share information with us, but they rarely give us the whole story. They suck them dry, and then they kill them, and we only get what they want us to know, which never includes anything that might connect them to certain wealthy subjects as well as highplaced government officials.”
“So what do we do?”
“With the four men in custody?” Rapp asked.
“Nothing,” Kennedy answered for him, “unless the president wants to sign an executive order that authorizes us to use extreme measures.”
“And a blanket pardon would be nice,” Rapp added with a smile.
Dickerson suddenly looked less than enthusiastic about the new direction of the discussion. “The president was hoping you would take a more active role in the search for the three men who are still at large. This Lion of al Qaeda character has really got under the president’s skin.”
He was under Rapp’s skin as well. “So, I’m not going to get the blanket pardon?”
“I don’t think so, but there is something else I think I can help you with. I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but there are certain elements on the Hill who are already maneuvering to make this Agency and you, Director Kennedy, the scapegoat for what happened last week.”
Kennedy said, “I was not aware of that, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
“Well . . . you have a PR battle that you have been losing for some time.”
Both Rapp and Kennedy nodded. It was universally agreed that when the CIA did something well, it was never discussed, but when they screwed up, it was plastered across every media outlet for weeks, if not months.
“I think I can help you more effectively defend yourselves. Get out in front of these other groups before they strike. I can help shape your message. Get it told in the right way over the best outlets.”
“And just how are you going to do that?” Rapp asked in a skeptical tone. “The media elite in this country don’t exactly like us.”
“I’ve got something they won’t be able to resist.”
“What’s that?” Rapp asked.
“You, Mr. Rapp.”
“Come again?” Rapp asked, looking more pissed off than confused.
“You’re a hero. What you and Mike Nash did last week is the type of thing legends are made of, and I don’t even have to exaggerate your accomplishments. The media will eat it up and you and Mr. Nash will become untouchable. There won’t be a politician in this town dumb enough to try and take you on. You will become this generation’s Audie Murphy.”
“Mitch,” Kennedy cautioned.
“No way in hell am I—”
“Mitch,” Kennedy cut him off, “just calm down for a minute. I want to hear what else he has to say.”
“Well, I sure as hell don’t.”
Kennedy gave him the look of a mother about to cuff her teenager across the head, and after he’d backed down a bit, she looked at Dickerson and asked, “In exchange for what?”
“He . . .” Dickerson said, referring to the president but not wanting to use his name, “thinks it would be best if you found these three men first.”
“Why?” Rapp asked.
Dickerson took a long moment to answer. “Let’s just say that he thinks you might be able to cut through some of the red tape.”