Clear and Present Danger

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Clear and Present Danger is a novel by Tom Clancy, written in 1989, and is a canonical part of the Ryanverse. In the novel, Jack Ryan is thrown into the position of CIA Acting Deputy Director (Intelligence) and discovers that he is being kept in the dark by his colleagues who are conducting a covert war against the Medellín Cartel based in Colombia. The title of the book is based on the legal phrase "clear and present danger".

Plot summary

The United States Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Panache intercepts a yacht in the Caribbean Sea, discovering two Hispanic males cleaning up after executing a man and his family. Through a mock execution, the Coast Guardsmen coerce the executioners to confess to the grisly murders. However, it is later learned that the murdered man was part of a money laundering scheme within the Medellín Cartel; upon further investigation, it is discovered he had laundered and embezzled approximately $650 million.

The details of the expedition percolate up to the office of the President (who is unnamed in the novel), who calls for a change of direction in the War on Drugs. The incumbent president feels compelled to take drastic measures against the drug trade in the United States because election-year mudslinging has revealed his failure to generate returns on campaign promises regarding drug-trafficking in the United States. The President's challenger, J. Robert Fowler, has rallied the public behind the administration's failure to curb the drug trade, and forces the administration to take a more active stance against drug imports.

To combat the source of drugs, the President initiates covert operations within Colombia. The CIA concocts a plan involving a step-up of airborne-interdiction operations against aircraft believed to be entering U.S. airspace with the intent to distribute narcotics. In order to verify targets, the CIA dispatches soldiers to infiltrate Colombian territory and stake-out airstrips dispatching and receiving drug-trafficking aircraft. The airstrips are destroyed after the aircraft is shot down or captured.

Three major players help the plan reach fruition:

New Operations

The plan consists of five operations:

  • Operation: CAPER: Electronic-intelligence gathering
  • Operation: EAGLE EYE: Aircraft interdiction.
  • Operation: SHOWBOAT - I: Airstrip reconnaissance.
  • Operation: SHOWBOAT - II: Destruction of coca processing sites.
  • Operation: RECIPROCITY: Surgical air-strike on Cartel management.

Operation: CAPER is the covert-dispatching of SIGINT-gathering units to Colombia to intercept communications between Cartel management. The primary mode of communication is cellular phones, which at the time of the book's authoring were new devices that many felt were impossible to intercept because of their ability to be moved and reprogrammed. It is also the communications arm for Operation: SHOWBOAT and the light-fighters' only means of contact with the outside world. John Clark is dispatched with CAPER to coordinate the effort.

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