Jaheed Home: 14:00 PDT
Three suits came to the door. One of them was a woman. They were in a plain black Taurus. They all wore large badges with the Great Seal of the United States and their pictures on them. Ali wondered if they were wearing the badges when they stopped for lunch. Maybe they didn’t stop for lunch; they were right on time.
“Hi, we’re expecting you. Please come in.” Ali led them into the living room. He kept it clean, but it had seen little use since his mother’s death. His father had been reading the Quran on the couch there since they had eaten lunch, discussing what they thought the visit was about. Rashid jumped up to greet them when they came in the room.
Rashid offered his hand to the first man. “Hello. Rashid Jaheed. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to my home—a great honor.” He was preparing for the worst. The fright in his eyes showed.
“Hello. I’m Adjunct Phillip Weiser. These are my colleagues Susan Cartwright and Peter Snyder. We are from the Department of State, … but then, you read the letter? You must be Ali? His smile was broad and bright as he reached for Ali’s hand.
Everyone shook hands all around and then settled into the couch and chairs to talk. Susan Cartwright spoke first. “We know you are wondering what this is all about. Secretary Carpenter couldn’t say everything in the letter for fear that our enemies would learn our plan. At this point we are not sure who our enemy is, but he is out there—hiding. Hiding and waiting until we are vulnerable again and can be hurt.”
“We are all aware of the terrible deed inflicted on us by a as yet unknown foe. I’m sure you were like me when you sat helpless, watching the TV, saying to yourself, ‘What can I do?’ Well, President Knox felt it, too and decided to do something about it. She commissioned a plan whereby we can begin to make sure that this will never happen again. You, Mr. Jaheed, and Ali are an integral part of that plan.” Rashid’s eyes lit up. He was encouraged by what she was saying.
Phillip Weiser took over. “We have done extensive research on your family. Mr. Rashid, in addition to your education at Caltech, you have served your country well as an innovator in the emerging information industry. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed. The reformed government will need analytical minds like yours, so were are prepared to offer you a position in the new Office of Homeland Security’s San Francisco Office. Don’t worry. You won’t have to commute. Most of your work will be done here, telecommuting from your home office.”
Peter Snyder picked up the carefully rehearsed presentation. “But your life, Mr. Rashid, is not why we are here. Your son Ali possesses the characteristics we are looking for: intelligence, fluency in a foreign language, excellent physical condition, youth, a demonstrated love of country, and leadership qualities. Did you know that with Ali’s score of 1568 on the SAT, he is on the recruitment list of Caltech, Stanford, Princeton, and MIT?” The look on Rashid’s face as he shook his head, ‘No,’ clearly showed that he didn’t.
“Ali has shown leadership and physical ability on the soccer and track teams. We were especially pleased with his English class essays on ‘Why I Love America’ and ‘The Danger in the Extremist View of Islam.’ Both of these show a maturity and depth of thought not often found in a seventeen-year-old.”
Ali, a bit embarrassed, diverted his eyes from their knowing looks. ‘’How do they know so much about me?” He thought.
Ms. Cartwright, sensing his concern, stepped in. “Ali, it is not by accident that we are here. Your father has spoken out frequently and vocally against fundamentalism in your mosque. It is a trait necessary for what we are about to ask you. Ali, we have come to ask you to serve your country. We are not here to ask you to join the armed forces—all branches are inundated with eager enlistments—but to join an elite corps so secret that we do not know much of it yet. We are asking that what we say here, regardless of the outcome, stays in this room. Agreed?”
Both Ali and his father nodded agreement. Ali could see that agitated look forming on Rashid’s face that appeared every time he got excited. “Just what is this sacrifice we are supposed to make, renounce my religion?” He blurted.
Susan Cartwright, once again sensing discord, stepped in. “No, god no. We are trying to save our religious freedom—the right of all religions to practice their faith without government interference. By having Ali in the Corps, Islam is represented. Moderate Islam. What all Americans fear is extreme religious and other views that lead to terrorism. Young people like Ali are our hope to defeat extremism.”
“Young men and women of your son’s caliber generally go to elite schools and then on to start businesses, lead corporations, or enter professions. They do not join the armed forces or the agencies designed to protect us. We’re here to change that. At a time like this, we must enlist the best and the brightest to come to our aid.”
“You will have the best education the United States can provide. If you make a sincere effort Ali, and fail for any reason, you will still be guaranteed entry to the university of your choice. Upon completion of your training and studies, expected to be very exacting and difficult, you will be paid a salary commensurate with professionals in your field. Your salary and benefits will be placed in a trust. If, in the course of your service you die, or are unable to continue for any reason, you or your beneficiaries will be entitled to the entire trust. Upon leaving the service, normally twenty years, you will have full retirement benefits.”
Ali thought, “I can retire at 37?” The offer was appealing.
Snyder continued. “Don’t get this wrong. Your training and education will be very difficult. Even with our careful selection, we expect that over 50% will wash out and not complete the program. Washouts will benefit from an educational edge, but will be subject to criminal prosecution of the highest order if they ever divulge information or compromise the Service in any way. For example, you are prohibited, by the Act of Treason, to publish your story if you wash out, even in your memoirs. There will be limitations, but everything you’ve done will be considered Top Secret until such time as the federal government sees fit to release it.”
Weiser continued. “The Service itself, will be the most difficult, Ali. When you leave here we will create an official story that your father will tell your school, your friends, and anyone else who asks. That story will not change unless you wash out. During your training, your only contact with your father will be through us. There will be no clandestine email addresses or other tricks to communicate. The need for National Security is much greater than your need to communicate.”
“If you think leaving your friends and family behind will be difficult, entering the Service will be worse. As an operative of the elite corps, you will be left, on your own, without comrades or support, to infiltrate and dismantle some of the most bizarre, corrupt, violent, and secretive organizations on the face of the Earth. Your assignments may take years to complete. You may not succeed. You may have to kill to succeed. You may be brainwashed, tortured, or worse, turn to their ideology and make it your own. The risks are great. The rewards are great. What’ll it be, young man? Are you in or do we have your silence?
“I, ….” Ali started to speak, but his father interrupted.
“Just one minute, Sir. You are asking my only son to go with you and leave me here, alone? Why don’t you go and get some Americans to do your dirty work? Why are you picking on a poor Pakistani immigrant, like me?”
“Dad! ….” Ali started to speak again, but was interrupted by Weiser.
“Your son is a Moslem. He speaks Urdu. There are many threats to America, both from within and without, but the gravest of those is still Al Qaeda, and who knows how many spin offs from fanatic Mullahs and other religious zealots bent on bringing America down. We are asking you and your son both to sacrifice to help keep America safe. Is that too much to ask?
“It is, Sir, when what you say is true. That my son will leave here and have no contact for many years. I am already crying and don’t know why.”
“We will keep you informed. We understand that you lost your wife and feel cut off from your family in Peshawar. Based on his profile, Ali will most likely be based in Pakistan. We know you will suffer. But, we promise you good work with Homeland Security. You will be proud of your son, …. I give you my word.”
“Okay, I believe you. Where do we sign?” Ali hadn’t said a word.
They spent another two hours pouring over papers and signing agreements, insurance, and beneficiary documents. Ali was in a bit of a spin wondering what he was getting into. His father was more focused, ready to bargain every opening in the agreements. Finally, it was over. He placed his left hand, on a copy of the Great Seal held by Susan Cartwright, raised his right hand and pledged his allegiance to the United States of America, so help me, Allah.
The three suits left. Ali’s father took a long look at his famous son, and then embraced him.
Ali joined his father in the kitchen. They made a special curry dish reserved for great occasions. Rashid was bursting with pride for his son. He wanted to tell all his friends. Sadly, he couldn’t. The story would have to be good. Fortunately, it was. They talked until it was time to go to bed. About 1am, Ali got up and sneaked out of the house. Mrs. Johnson was waiting.