Here’s a plot for new novel “ripped” from today’s headlines. Literally.


So the news stories tell us that America has a super Secret drone that it uses to collect intelligence information called the RQ-170.   It is so secret that no picture of it has ever been released.  Then one day, Iran claims it has shot down one of these drones flying in its airspace.  The United States admits it has a drone missing, but denies it has been shot down.  Iran shows the drone on international television, with President Ahmadinejad claiming they have been able to “control” it.  The United States demands to have it back, but Iran claims it now belongs to Iran, and they are entitled to an apology from the United States.  The capture of this drone is a setback to the United States; the drone gives Iran (and others?  China?  North Korea?) access to our latest stealth and radar technology.

Now let’s make it into a spy novel: The United States is very concerned about the Iranian nuclear weapons program that is rapidly approaching a deployable bomb.  Unwilling to conduct conventional war to stop it (which would also probably not succeed), the Americans come up with something much more clever.  Knowing that Iran is vulnerable to computer viruses (like the Stuxnet virus that originated as a joint Israeli/US program that infected the Iranian uranium enrichment plants  and caused their centrifuges to overspeed, ruining a fifth of them), they devise a new scheme to infect Iran’s most capable computers.

The United States takes one of it secret drones and replaces the super secret radar and sensors with equivalent but far less sensitive systems from a few generations ago.   The US then puts a central processing unit–a computer that usually analyzes and transmits information from the sensors–into the drone that is extremely sophisticated and encrypted.  But it’s not quite so encrypted that no one could ever get into it, but encrypted enough that some smart people might try, and would need to use their most sophisticated computers to do so.

The US then flies the drone from Kandahar, Afghanistan (where they’ve been flying from for months) over Iran, where it appears to “lose control.”  Amazingly, the drone drops/falls/spins from very high altitude to the ground with virtually no damage.  The Iranians claim a great success and a shoot down of the Great Satan’s most sophisticated technology.  The Americans express surprise and demand to have the drone returned.  Iran refuses, and over time is able to break into the CPU with their most sophisticated computers, which happen to be the same ones being used in the final stages of the nuclear program.  But by doing so, they have unwittingly introduced the most destructive computer virus ever created into the most sophisticated computers in their country.  The computers are destroyed, and the nuclear weapons program is set back years.

If my story isn’t the correct one, then we’ll need to ask our intelligence community a few questions.  How did you allow yourselves to lose control of the most top-secret drone in the US inventory?  If you did lose control over hostile territory, how is it you didn’t have a destruct mechanism on board to ensure it didn’t fall into the wrong hands which might allow reverse engineering of the sensors and radars?

Is the CIA clever enough to do what I have postulated?  Stuxnet was pretty clever, I must admit.  But this time, although I hope so, I doubt it.  What do you think?

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