The two sat quietly in the senior cafeteria in the basement of a big dusty building in Washington DC. It was mid-afternoon, and they nearly were by themselves, drinking coffee. The junior man had invited the senior man. He was eager to impress him.
The junior man had had a thought.
"What if we got a guy," he said in a low tone, "And made him into a star."
"What kind of star?" asked the senior man, encouraged that the junior man was doing some deep thinking. Anyone who "thought" at the Agency in this manner had a leg-up.
"An Internet star," the junior man said. "A dramatic guy with a weird background."
"Actually we've got a guy like that," the senior man said. "We don't but the Aussies do."
"Oh, really?" asked the junior man. "Where'd they get him?"
"He was in trouble in his youth," explained the senior man. "A lot of trouble and eventually they turned him."
"What kind of trouble?"
"He was a big hacker. An ethical hacker, they said. But he was a weird young guy generally. Claimed he went to 30 schools when he was young and lived on the run from his father."
"Sounds interesting," the junior man said. "Is he available to us?"
"They don't know what to do with him. He's meant for big things, but no one knows what."
"But he's still a young guy?"
"Very dramatic. Blond hair. Almost albino. And a low-key personality. Never smiles.
"Damaged, personality, huh. But dramatic."
"The real thing," the senior man said. "Smart as a whip. Probably borderline autistic."
"Sounds perfect," the junior man said enthusiastically. "But it's got be done carefully. And the build-up has to work, too."
"Well," the senior man said, "the build up would have to take place over a period of years."
"Of course," the junior man agreed and sipped some of his coffee before it got cold. "I knew that."
"Of course you did," the senior man said bitingly.
"He's got to have an air of mystery about him," the junior man said.
"Sure," the senior man said. "Just like with Supriem Rockefeller."
"Who?" The junior man was baffled.
"Supriem Rockefeller," the senior man said a little sharply. "The guy doesn't exist but we made him up and now he's all over the Internet."
"Oh," the junior man said vaguely. "Yeah, Supriem. Good job."
"Good job," the senior man said derisively to show he knew the junior man didn't know.
"I mean it's the same sort of idea," the junior man said lamely.
"It worked pretty good," the senior man continued, letting him off the hook. "El Supriem showed up on a lot of alternative news sites. Pretty funny actually."
"That's what you gotta do," the junior man said a little more enthusiastically. "Baffle them, hit 'em on all sides until they have no idea what's true and what it isn't. Discredit them completely, these crazy bloggers. They all work out of their basements anyway."
"Well, Supremo's not real, but this idea of yours – it's interesting."
"You've got the guy," the junior man said. "Sounds like you do. He should have a dramatic name by the way."
"That can be arranged."
"Something that rhymes with, say … strange," the junior man said. "Just speaking off the cuff, of course. And his background should be as dramatic as possible. You said he was on the run from his father, but maybe he could be on the run from a cult as well."
"Not a bad idea," the senior man agreed.
"He should be a mythic character," the junior man said expansively. He settled back in his chair, too excited to drink more coffee. "He should live on the run, out of suitcases and have homes and apartments in a number of different countries. He should be a self-made millionaire but anti-social. But he should also work well with people even though he shuns them."
"Interesting concept," the senior man commented.
"He should set up a vast global network of anonymous servers," the junior man said. "And work out of safe rooms. He should be a hunted man and NATO should be after him. He should be wanted by powerful countries – America of course, and countries in Europe too."
"I like it," the senior man said. "It sounds dramatic."
"He should seek shelter in a small out-of-the-way country like, say, Iceland. Someplace you'd never think of. And maybe he should have his visa revoked, just to make the 'wanted' thing more of a cliff-hanger."
"How about this," the senior man said. "Make a big deal of it and then hand it back quietly."
"He needs to be leaking government documents," the junior man elaborated. "That's the real hook. Thousands of documents given to him by … anonymous whistleblowers."
"You're on a roll," the senior man suggested. "But not real documents – or not top secret ones."
"Announce that they are top secret," the junior man decided. "But then it turns out they're only secret. And they'll need to show the US doing some bad things, of course."
"But not too bad."
"Just bad enough to make it believable. Leathernecks abusing civilians, but nothing that people don't already suspect. Let's not break any new ground here. But set up the first data dump with something sexy. Say a video of a shooting, a massacre, a war crime or something. Something dramatic, but nothing new. Something people already know about."
"You mean to build credibility. That can be arranged."
"And then let 'em have the big one! But arrange the data dump so it works in our favor. Maybe gives Pakistan the business – reveal the funny stuff going on around the border and how Pakistan is protecting the Taliban. Really drill 'em."
"Give us a pretext to invade. Iran, too," the senior man said thoughtfully. "Should have something about Iranian cooperation with the Taliban just to cover all the bases."
"Sure," the junior man said. "Enough to justify arresting the guy if it comes to that."
"He'd have to be well compensated though," the senior man pointed out.
"Goes without saying," the junior man agreed. "Anyway, it gives policy-makers a lot of options. They can use the info as a pretext to heat the war up or cool it down. Might want to throw in the names of some Afghan informers just to make it seem real," he added casually.
"That could cost lives – "
"Afghan lives," the junior man said contemptuously. "Too many of 'em anyway. Hey, maybe throw in a sighting or two of Bin Laden. How about that?"
"That's stretching it a bit," the senior man said coolly. "He's been dead nearly five years now."
"What's the difference," the junior man said. "Throw enough on the wall and something is bound to stick. Justify all the crazy tapes we've been releasing, supposedly from Al Qaeda."
"Exactly how is all this information supposed to be released?" queried the senior man.
"Maybe through newspapers," the junior man said. "How about the New York Times. Give 'em some credibility if anything can. They can make a big fuss, treat it as something daring."
"What about that Pentagon Papers guy?
"Does he work for us?" the junior man inquired.
The senior man shrugged. "Let him say something nice. Maybe says the new guy is just like him – a real daredevil."
"I like it," the junior man said. "I think it's a winner."
The senior man nodded and finished his coffee. He sat back with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Let's summarize," he said. "We got an albino misfit with a strange name running around from country to country and leaking confidential information onto hundreds of anonymous servers. We'll fund the operation, but he'll pretend to be aided by generous anonymous donors who believe in the cause. He'll stay on the run because he's a wanted man, moving from safe-house to safe-house and taking advantage of Internet technology. He'll be the final decider of what's leaked so he can maintain control, and we can provide some employment muscle if necessary so the operation looks big-time. He'll seem like a real new-wave cool cat."
"A cool cat, definitely. Once he's got credibility, he should also make some additional points," the junior man added suddenly.
"Oh, you mean something about how 9/11 isn't really scientific," the senior man said thoughtfully, "and that there are plenty of other conspiracies to examine without making 'truther' stuff up."
"Right," the junior man agreed. "Talk down the 9/11 truthers. And the Bilderberger crackpots, too. Say, this guy doesn't trust anything that's not numeric."
"OK … Maybe he represents a new kind of journalism."
"Data dump journalism!" the junior man said, enthused. "Right from the original source. No need to interpret. Reporting is so yesterday."
"The guy is an icon," the senior man elaborated.
"A legend," the senior man agreed. "Do you really think it will work?"
"Sure," the junior man said. "The bigger the lie the more credible it is."
The above is a work of fiction. It is NOT about Julian Assange; though certainly it is an exploration of how elite promotions could animate an Assange-like figure. As for Mr. Assange himself: We will only state at this juncture that we admire his tremendous courage and what appears to be his almost Christ-like willingness to sacrifice his very life on the altar of his cause – for all of us, for a better society; we are very sorry he is in jail and hope he gets out shortly. Why on earth did he head back to Britain?