…In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist…
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell address to the nation, January 17, 1961
* * *
This incident occurred in May and June of 2004. I have written it in its entirety as dictated to me. However I changed the names and the locations to protect the identities of the real Jason Sorren and Ariel Hammond.
The reason it took ten years to release this book is because “Jason” did not want the story told until he was certain he and “Ariel” would not be subjected to further reprisals.
You decide. Has “Jason” told the truth or has he made up the whole thing?
Thursday May 13, 2004
Come on ask it already! Jason said to himself.
For an hour Jason had been sitting next to his boss at the witness table before the House Armed Services Subcommittee investigating arms smuggling, waiting for the question and at the same time dreading the answer.
Congressman Forrest, the committee chairman, glared at them from the raised dais. His face was as austere as the stone statues around Washington.
“Do you know a Maurice Bishop?” Forrest asked.
Jason focused on his boss. The microphone arched upward off the green tablecloth looking like a cobra ready to strike if the wrong answer were given.
Undaunted, his boss leaned into the viper’s head. “No, I do not.”
And there was the lie.
Jason thought he had steeled himself for that lie he knew was as inevitable as the question itself. But hearing it out loud rocked him. His shirt under his armpits felt clammy. The corner of his mouth ticked.
He ran his tongue over his dry lips. Afraid his face would show his distress, he turned his head from the inquisitors and glanced out the windows. The Capitol building was under renovation. Construction scaffolding crisscrossed the facade. From inside the hearing room the gray steel tubing looked like prison bars. How appropriate!
As a litigator, he was used to witnesses lying. Even his clients lied to him. The note tucked deep in his briefcase seemed like irrefutable evidence that his boss had lied under oath, a lie that could possibly lead to his boss’s indictment for treason.
As an officer of the court he was obligated to report knowledge of a crime to the proper authorities, in this case the congressional committee. But had his boss committed a crime? What if his boss had a reasonable explanation for the note? If there was anything he learned in his legal career, it was that there were three sides to every case: the plaintiff’s story, the defendant’s story, and the truth.
He was the head of the legal department for the company. He found the note in the course of working for the company, which made it lawyer-client confidentiality. If he gave the note to the committee, and his boss explained it away, he would have broken the most sacred code of the legal profession. Even if he was only sanctioned and not disbarred, his career would be over. Who would trust him?
The bang of a gavel jolted him, and he turned back to face the panel.
“Witness dismissed,” Congressman Forrest said.
Jason snapped the latches of his briefcase closed, the sound evoking a vision of handcuffs clamping around his wrists. If the note proved that his boss did lie and he held onto it, it could be construed that he was complicit in his boss’s crimes. His teeth clenched, and he ushered his boss away from the witness table. Reporters converged on them, waved microphones and cell phone recorders in their faces, and fired questions hoping for that one damning sound bite that might win them a Pulitzer.
“How bad is the security at your factories?”
“Have you found the security breach?”
“How do you think your RI-360 got from the bottom of the ocean and into the hands of Chechen and Iraqi insurgents?”
At six-two and two hundred pounds, Jason presented an intimidating appearance. His arm outstretched, he pried open a gap in the wall of reporters and guided his stern-faced boss through the gauntlet.
The reporters followed, many yelling, “Don’t you feel any remorse for the American soldiers killed by your weapon?”
Without missing a step, Latham headed for the elevators.
“Stairs,” Jason said. “Go ahead. I’ll hold them off.”
As his boss moved quickly down the stairs, Jason turned to the trailing reporters blocking their way. “Mr. Latham has nothing further to say. Thank you.”
Hustling after his retreating boss, Jason thought about the huge sacrifice he had made that allowed him to rise to become lead council for America’s largest weapons manufacturer.
When he’d decided to go to law school eleven years ago, he had changed his name, wiping away his family heritage. His uncle, who had treated him like a son after his father was killed, had been devastated, but Jason knew he had to distance himself from the Sorrentino crime family if he were to become a respected and honorable lawyer. He wasn’t about to let anyone destroy the reputation he’d worked so hard to achieve.
Reaching the first floor, Jason guided his boss along a corridor between meeting rooms and across the Hall of Columns, the high-domed corridor where between twenty-eight fluted, white marble columns were statues contributed by the states to honor the extraordinary citizens in each state’s history. Every major figure in forming the United States’s great history was represented.
As they passed room H-120 a gold lettered engraving above the door caught his eye. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning, but without understanding. Louis Brandeis.
Jason thought, Well meaning? How could what his boss had done ever be construed as well meaning? Without understanding? Like everyone in that meeting room who heard him, his boss knew exactly what he had said, “No, I do not know Maurice Bishop.”
That lie was delivered in consummate repose. Not a quiver of his boss’s lips. Not a flicker of his eyelids. Not a drop of perspiration formed on his boss’s forehead. With every dyed black hair on his seventy-year-old head impeccably in place, his boss remained as stoic as when he stated his name and title to the committee, Ross Latham, Chairman and Chief Executive of Rathborn United Industries.
They passed through the revolving door and onto the Capitol plaza.
“Ross, we have to talk,” Jason said.
“Call my secretary on Monday. I’ll tell her to fit you in.”
Seemingly annoyed that an employee, even his lawyer, would use that tone to him, Latham scowled. “About what?”
Jason stopped forcing Latham to stop with him. Closing within an inch of his boss’s ear, he whispered, “About your meeting with the man on the most-wanted list of every law-enforcement agency in the world.”