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It was Tuesday, March 21st, and all that could be heard in the bullpen was the ordinary yet comforting clacking of agents in from the field typing away at keyboards, along with the shuffling of classified documents this particular morning at the Central Intelligence Agency. One agent let out a yawn as he stretched back in his creaky office chair. Fluorescent lights buzzed overhead. Another agent looked up from her work and kneaded her forehead, sipping her thermos full of water-like office coffee, as if it would lend her the motivation to continue her work.
Earlier that same day, the deputy director of the CIA turned his desktop TV on the news. He half-listened to the morning roundup as he organized his files. He took a sip of his coffee as he picked up the remote to switch off the television, but swiveled to look at the screen where he heard the news readers’ monotone “breaking news” alert. He turned the volume up instead of turning the TV off.
“...maybe sending a message to the American government through a more subtle channel: an escalating series of U.S. central intelligence leaks that last week exposed a National Security Agency operation in the Middle East…”
The deputy’s mouth dropped open in complete and utter shock. He slammed his mug down on his desk, splattering the files with droplets of coffee, and ran out of the room.
Meanwhile, the director was just arriving. She unlocked her door and set down her bag next to her large mahogany desk. The director sat down in her office chair, taking a sip from her mug and booting up her computer. She began to outline the coming morning’s briefing when there was a knock at the door.
The director looked up from her computer screen to see an over-enthusiastic, low level agent beaming at her. She sighed and said, “Come in.”
The zealous agent walked into the room with his clipboard. “Good morning, ma’am, I was wondering if you’d be willing to go over today’s schedule and ongoing projects with me before the briefing!”
Barely looking up from her screen, she replied, “My answer is the same as yesterday. You can wait, agent.”
“I was just thinking it would be an effici-”
“Efficient? It isn’t an efficient use of my mornings to have these ten minute talks every day. However, it would be more efficient to brief you with the rest of your coworkers at the 8:00 a.m. briefing.”
He turned slightly pale. “My apologies ma’am. Should-”
She continued typing. “Right. I’ll see you at 8:00 a.m., agent. Please see yourself out.”
She glanced up at the clock on the wall, then turned back to the briefing to resume her work. Moments later, there was a knock at her door. Immersed in her work, she didn’t look up.
Anticipating the overly eager agent’s return, she preemptively reminded him, “Agent, we’re meeting at 8:00 a.m.”
The director pushed her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose and looked up to see the deputy director.
“Apologies. How can I help you, deputy?”
He ran a hand through his hair. “Well, I was organizing my files this morning, listening to the morning news, same thing I do every morning.”
The director laced her fingers together and pulled them apart. “Go on.”
He continued, “When I got here this morning, I turned on the news and, well, let me just get to the point.” He took a breath and dabbled sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief. “I think we have a mole.”
She leaned forward and stared at him grimly across her desk. “Deputy, this is a very serious accusation. Are you aware of the consequences?”
“Yes ma’am.” He gestured to the television and raised his eyebrows in a question. She nodded and he switched the television on.
The news reader was looking in camera. “...As a matter of tradecraft, intelligence agencies, including the NSA, secretly own, lease, or hack so-called staging servers on the public internet to launch attacks anonymously. By necessity, those machines are loaded up with at least some of the agency’s tools. Snowden theorized that the Russians penetrated one of those servers and collected an NSA jackpot.”
The director stared at the television and took a breath. “What do you propose we do about it, deputy?”
“We could question the agents in the bullpen?” he replied.
She thought for a moment and tapped her fingers on her desk. “I say we bring them in two by two.”
The deputy director nodded his head in agreement saying, “Okay, I’m going to go notify the agents. Would you like to start the interviews the agents now or later?”
“I’ll come with you now.” The director stood up and walked out the door with the deputy director. They walked down a short hallway to the door of the bullpen and paused.
The deputy turned towards the director and asked, “Ready, ma’am?”
The director nodded her head, turned the handle, and pulled open the door.
Some agents’ heads peered up at them from across the room in apprehension. It’s not often that the director just walks in unannounced.
The director cleared her throat and looked across the room, taking in the buzz of the office. “Good morning, agents. Please take a seat as I have a pressing announcement. I’m here to alert you to the fact that there may be a breach involving a possible mole in this very office.”
The agents stared at her, disbelieving looks on their faces.
She continued, “I urge you all to stay calm and go about your jobs as normally as possible within this room. We are just taking preliminary action on this situation.”
The agents stared at the director, with a look on their faces that just screamed disbelief.
“The deputy director and I will be taking you into conference room A,” continued the director while gesturing to a door inside the room, “to question you two by two.”
The deputy picked up where the director left off. “We would like to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible to return to a normal workday, and-”
“And exterminate the mole, then proceed to repair any damage we may have sustained,” interrupted the director. She looked at a list of the agents working in the room and continued, “Alright, let’s get started with agents…” she briefly trailed off as she ran her finger up the page. “Abbey and Allen. Please come with me, this shouldn’t take long.”
Agent Abbey stood up abruptly when the director spoke his name. His hands fluttered nervously around his waist as he walked into the conference room followed by the director. Agent Allen walked in with ease, knowing she had done nothing wrong.
“Please, take a seat,” encouraged the director.
Agent Abbey stumbled into a metal trash can while walking towards the chair. He muttered an apology nearly under his breath, then sat down in the plain office chair. Agent Allen looked at her counterpart, annoyance obvious in her gaze, then sat.
The director cleared her throat and began the questioning. “Let’s get to it. Have you heard of anyone participating in suspicious activity in this office? Actually, let me rephrase that. Have you heard of a mole in this office?”
Agent Abbey immediately replied, almost cutting off the director, “No. I haven’t heard of any mole.”
The director nodded and turned to Agent Allen, “And you?”
Allen, remaining collected, said, “No, ma’am.”
The director sat forward in her chair and leaned over the table. “Are you aware that if you’re lying to me, and there is an informant, then your career in the CIA would be over?”
Abbey paled in response. Allen replied to the director with equal seriousness. “Are you impugning my integrity?”
The director looked down her glasses at them, then dismissed them. “Send in Agents Barkley and Cook. Thank you.”
The interviews continued for hours. Despite thorough questioning and the director’s austere disposition, every agent reported no knowledge of a mole.
After sending out Agents Zadravec and Zoz, the director slammed her clenched fists into the table and clenched her jaw. “I’ve got nothing. They don’t know anything about any mole.”
The deputy director sighed. “What should our next course of action be? Will we have to shut down?”
The director’s brow furrowed and unfurrowed as her mind raced. She tapped her fingers on the table in the same rhythmic pattern over and over.
The director turned to address the agents when there was a knock at the door.
The deputy director, agents, and even the director froze.
The director walked to the door and pulled it open to reveal a tall man dressed in a light blue coverall, carrying a cage and a long, aluminum pole with a loop of cord on the end -- an animal control pole. “Hi! I’m Bob from Bob’s Bugs Be Gone, we deal with insects, arachnids, rats, possums, small garden snakes and skunks?. I was called about a mole problem?”