Today’s news has me thinking about redactions.

You know, those heavy black lines that prove there are things we do not know or should not know or cannot know, God save the Queen and long live the Republic.

And these known unknowns are significant enough that an unseen hand took the trouble of writing them down before somebody else saw some other significance in them that required another heavy hand to rub the lines back into oblivion again, using a thick black Sharpie to shroud the lines in secrecy.


These black lines in the news today collide with my reflections on the attack in Jeddah 14 years ago this week. That incident set in motion the plot of my first novel, a black comedy about diplomacy on the ‘front lines’ of the so-called war on terror.

The story derives much of its humor from bumbling bureaucracy, from characters who twist made-up intelligence to justify flawed policy. For example, in his pathological need to satisfy his mysterious handlers from a secretive government entity known only as Fourth Branch, junior diplomat Martin Tinker looks for the bogeyman everywhere.

And usually finds him. And when he does, Tinker writes up his Super Duper Double Top Secret reports for Washington, much like the one above, redacting his own material heavily as he goes.

Read Tinker’s full report, and the ‘intelligence-gathering’ that leads to it, in the excerpt here.

Or, follow the news and long live the Republic!



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