A conversation with Allan Folsom, author of The Machiavelli Covenant
Is a coup d’etat possible in a country like the United States? Could it happen today or tomorrow?
It would depend on the coup, who was behind it and how it was handled. As it plays out in The Machiavelli Covenant, if the president hadn’t put his life on the line to stop the coup, there is every chance it would have succeeded because the people guiding it were at the pinnacle of US government power, both politically and militarily, and controlled everything. If it had worked no one would ever have known it had happened.
Ironically, if the president had gone along with their demands and the plot was carried out as planned—the entire Middle East devastated by a suddenly erupting, seemingly natural but previously unknown deadly disease and then quickly brought under The Covenant’s thumb in the guise of a massive United Nations Security Council–approved, US-led, military-protected, medical, and humanitarian response—there is every chance that in the end John Henry Harris would have been viewed not only as president but very nearly as King, such would have been the power of his very public display of concern, leadership, and influence over the Security Council and giving him unprecedented popularity in the minds of a great majority of the American people and most probably the rest of the world. Not to mention the fawning adulation inside The Covenant itself.
If such a coup took place and the President of the United States suddenly and secretly went missing to save himself, the country, even a good part of the free world, what would the response be inside his inner circle?
Assuming his inner circle were those plotting against him, their response would be ALL-OUT-WAR to stop him! But, it would be a very secretive, carefully executed, and extremely covert war taking the vast highly secretive government agencies designed to protect a sitting president and using them against him, making them believe they were attempting to save him either from unknown hostile forces who had kidnapped him or from himself and then, suggesting that he might have suffered a sudden mental collapse and gone mad.
Is it possible—or a pipe dream—for us to have a president who is as honest and forthcoming as President John Henry Harris is in the book?
It is possible if he or she clearly knows right from wrong, is courageous and daring enough to trust his or her instincts, abandon politics, ignore the harshest critics and public opinion. The President would also have to completely disregard how his or her actions would effect his or her standing in history when the fate of the nation (and perhaps the world) is directly at hand.
A pipe dream? It would depend on the person at the helm at the time and the severity of the test itself. What comes immediately to mind is the Kennedy administration’s response to the Cuban Missile Crises, a two-week-long, nail-biting showdown with the Soviet Union that might well have ended in all-out nuclear war.
You worked closely with people at The Brookings Institute, a major think tank in DC as well as secret service personnel to get the details right for this book. Can you tell us about that?
It wasn’t with the Brookings Institute per se but with Ron Nessen who holds a highly regarded position there. As you may recall, Ron was White House Press Secretary during the Ford administration and was, and in many ways still is, privy to how the White House operates, most particularly in the flow of information to the media.
The Secret Service personnel I worked closely with chose not to be publicly identified. They are, after all, the Secret Service. Still, their on-going advice and technical counsel during the writing of the manuscript was extremely beneficial. While not free to tell me exactly what their tactics might have been under each given circumstance, they were most helpful in overall strategy, what other agencies might be involved, and in pointing out places and situations where I was going wrong. One of the daily exercises of the Secret Service, especially within the details assigned to protect the president and vice-president, is to play the WHAT IF game. WHAT IF the president is walking down this corridor and a side door suddenly opens? WHAT IF he is leaving a building and there is a sudden natural disaster such as an earthquake?
In the situation created by President John Henry Harris’s initiatives in The Machiavelli Covenant I was able to give them a major WHAT IF? One I think they hadn’t seriously considered before. WHAT IF the president suddenly decides to go off on his own, telling no one and is, at the same time, fully aware of his caretakers’ modus operandi because he is privy to the top secret details of how they work? WHAT IF he carefully chose a time and place and made his escape in a way that would seem highly improbable if not impossible? WHAT IF they didn’t realize he was gone until several hours later? Then what?
That was precisely the WHAT IF game I presented to them and they were hugely responsive and supportive in playing it out. The end result is that I’ve probably put the whammy on any future president who might decide to entertain such an idea.
The story takes place mostly in Spain. How did you research their security tactics?
A special agent of the US Secret Service arranged for me to meet in Barcelona where most of the action takes place with members of the mossos d’esquadra, theCatalonian state police. I had an intensive meeting with them there and later kept in touch by phone and email. My on-going questions to them were pretty much the same as those presented to the Secret Service. The difference was that as official members of the host country, Spain, they would be working under the direction of the Secret Service SAIC, the special agent in charge, of the US presidential detail. It was through them I was advised of the different Spanish law enforcement and security agencies that would be involved and to the degree they could tell me, how they would operate. One of the officers commented over lunch that my questions “should be on the police exam.”
You go into great detail on some of the satellite tracking systems, phone records, etc. used to find President Harris. What are your thoughts on unrestricted surveillance of US citizens?
To digress from your question for a moment, what we have in The Machiavelli Covenant is a president of the United States who has gone missing. This is something that, as far as anyone seems to know or wants to admit, has never happened before. As a result, nothing was or would be spared to find him. The trick, of course, was and would be, to keep the situation secret from the public and hence the media for as long as possible while the massive search for him went on.
As to unrestricted surveillance of US citizens. I think we can have NO LAWS that are UNRESTRICTED otherwise we become a totalitarian state. Someone has to watch the watchers.
Do you think there’s some truth to conspiracy theories that a secret society or societies —The Trilateral Commission or Illuminati come to mind—exist solely to take over world governments?
You can add organizations like The Skull & Bones, The Bilderberg Society or even the Masons to the list of secret or semi-secret societies. Globally there are hundreds more. Most are historically membered by people of privilege and are focused to one degree or other on the concept of patriotism. Generally, they are societies carried forward from generation to generation designed chiefly to be protective of the status quo. In other words, closely held, members-only associations deliberately planned to protect their lifestyle and realizing they have a lot to lose if they don’t.
The idea of them taking over world governments seems to be counter to their general make-up. Who would want to operate a government when the governments already operating provide them with what they need? Chiefly, as suggested before, maintaining the status quo and greatly profiting from it. Not to say they can’t and don’t influence certain directions a government might be taking, but that usually happens through the political system itself simply by backing or “influencing” favorites, whether they be sitting politicians, challengers, or government, military or social programs.
As for a society even more powerful and secret than those discussed and as created in The Machiavelli Covenant, why not? Every child has a parent and if you want to get into ways these things could be kept clandestine one need look no further than super-secret government agencies like the CIA, NSA, MI6, the old KGB and Stasi, and agencies like them that have existed for centuries and from which Covenant “soldiers” and “technicians” would no doubt be recruited.