Review: Command Authority by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney

Command Authority is a compelling read. It is the 14th novel comprising the Jack Ryan Sr./Jack Ryan Jr. franchise catalog, which began with The Hunt for Red October, published in 1984, and I have followed the series since that time.  This novel, Command Authority, as well as the previous two installments, were written by Mark Greaney, one of several authors Clancy has utilized to expand his franchise. Sadly, Clancy passed October 1, 2013. What this does to the Ryan escapades is anybody’s guess, but the estate may decide to follow what Ludlum’s has done with Jason Bourne and simply continue the series.

Command Authority Tom Clancy Mark GreaneyCommand Authority first takes us back 30 years, to a meeting between a GRU Special Forces Captain and a special member of the KGB.  The purpose of this meeting is not fully revealed until much later as events unfold, piece by piece.  Present day finds Jack Ryan Jr. in London working on not military or political but financial intelligence – and a case involving Russian intelligence and criminal elements that will ultimately lead him into the upcoming fray.  Meanwhile, Ryan Sr. meets with a former foe and now friend (a retired SVR chief) at the White House, who warns the president that the new Russian chief-of-state seeks to return his country to the days of old – just prior to dying due to being poisoned with a radioactive isotope.  In Moscow, a Croatian assassin takes the fall after pulling off a devastating bombing that takes out someone in addition to, and much more important than the “targeted” UK finance man (and former British agent) – the current head of the SVR.  Thus, the stage is set for another action-packed, political/espionage thriller in this series.

The new president of Russia has what most would call skeletons (literally) in his closet and he will do anything – everything – to keep those tucked away and out of sight as he continues executing his plans (and opposition) for what he envisions as Russia’s domination.  He will stop at nothing to achieve his agenda, including merging the separate FSB (internal) and SVR (foreign) intelligence agencies into one, under the leadership of his chosen man.  Meanwhile, in the UK,  Ryan Jr.’s investigation into the world of financial crimes gets him involved in some extremely close-calls that eventually leads him to reconnect with his team (the US off-the-books black ops group known as The Campus) after he uncovers a conflict that began three decades earlier, one that Ryan Sr. had investigated, when based in the UK as a CIA analyst.  This tale is detailed through the inter-woven backstory, and those events now threaten the world’s balance of power, unless Jr. can connect all the dots in time for his father, the president.  The action in the story shifts back and forth between the present, primarily in Russia and Ukraine (with ops planning in DC), and 30 years prior, in England, Switzerland and Germany.

Are there flaws?  Yes, a few.  One example is when the bad guys find out about and attempt to breech a CIA safe house in Sevastopol, Ukraine.  During the amount of time outlined in the story (between the start of the attack and the good guy’s escape) it seems highly unlikely that they could have survived, given the odds against them (manpower and fire power).  Does it take away from the story?  No.  And I have definitely read (and seen) much worse.

There is plenty of attention to detail, with outstanding narrative and it is, quite simply, highly entertaining.  From the technology and methods used by covert and black ops personnel, to the involvement and machinations of political, intelligence, financial and criminal factions, and everything in-between, this is a compelling read.  The writing kept leading me forward, page after page, into the plot and sub-plots and backstory.

I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys action, espionage, and political intrigue, with criminal elements and some high-tech thrown in for good measure, and, of course, to those who appreciate a good ole US vs. USSR tale.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

Spying and Laundering Money

As reported by the Associated Press, ten people were charged with “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general.”

The typical word for this is acting as a spy.

Most people probably understand that many, if not all, governments utilize spies in an attempt to gather various pieces of what they consider valuable information that might allow them to have an upper hand.

As a sidenote, corporate America also participates in industrial espionage, again in an attempt to be on top.

The AP article goes on to say that the maximum sentence, if convicted of said conspiracy, is five years in prison.

A message to two of the accused spies, allegedly from the Russion government, states their marching orders are to collect information in a variety of potentially damaging areas, “including nuclear weapons, U.S. arms control positions, Iran, White House rumors, CIA leadership turnover, the last presidential election, Congress and the political parties.”

The accused people have evidently been acting covertly for years, as some of the evidence presented against them at arraignment goes back to at least the year 2000.

It does seem odd that if proven true that these people were spies and had been doing so for a decade that they would spend less time in prison than they did gathering information.

Further, nine of the ten were also “charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.”

That sentence carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Excuse this citizen for asking, but how is it that a spy who, hypothetically, gathered intel such as information on Amercia’s nuclear weapons and arms control positions that could possibly allow a foreign power access to highly classified secrets and potentially cause damage to U.S. national security be less of a threat and carry less of a penalty than laundering money?

Over For Now.

Main Street One