Gordon Doe Cover Story Revised
At this point it became clear to Gus Fortan that a revised cover story would be necessary to conceal the death of civilian code-talker Gordon Doe. Barrett Palmer, Doe's supervisor at NCSA, had continued to make inquiries after being faced with a poorly-contrived cover story explaining Doe's disappearance. The private investigator hired by Palmer, although inept, had almost completely satisfied himself that the original cover story was false. Fortan determined that, even more difficult than writing a second cover story, he would also have to concoct a third cover story to explain the first, retracted, cover story.
The private investigator hired by Barrett Palmer traveled to Canada to attempt to confirm the nonexistence of Gordon Doe's ailing aunt, tailed by CIA. Meanwhile Gus Fortan and his staff closely reviewed Doe's file.
Gordon Doe actually had no close relatives, and no known friends. His autism made the experience of speaking with him difficult, and those who worked with him found it nearly impossible to connect with him on a meaningful or personal level. Furthermore, even in his normal civilian life he was employed by the government in roles that were not well-understood, working for Sandia National Laboratory and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. These circumstances, combined with his developmental impairment, put him in a unique category among civilian contractors. He was sometimes referred to by his CIA handlers as "Baby Sam," in reference to his dependence on the government.
A year before Operation Shift Lock, a perhaps overly zealous CIA staffer who had knowledge of Gordon Doe's service filed an official report claiming that the use of Doe in potentially dangerous or traumatic covert operations was "exploitative." A brief internal investigation was conducted. The investigators concluded that, for a developmentally-disabled adult in the care of the state, Gordon Doe was well off. He was not institutionalized, held two somewhat important jobs, one at a national laboratory and another at a government-funded academic computing center, and got to travel frequently. Doe did actually make scientific contributions in his capacity as a civilian scientist, to a much greater degree than was anticipated when CIA originally arranged his employment as a government scientist.
All of Gordon Doe's possessions are now boxed in a government warehouse. The Commission obtained a special court order to investigate and catalog them. His personal effects gave the impression of a man without sentiment. No photographs, letters, or mementos of any sort were among them. It was as if Doe had been a man with no memories - unless his unusual mental capacities included a perfect memory, making such effects unnecessary.
Whatever the case, Gordon Doe was still, in many ways, the perfect civilian CIA recruit. He had no one to divulge sensitive information to, and lacked the social skills to do so. When he did speak, his words tended to be jumbled enough to not be credible. As far as ensuring a covert operation's deniability, and secure compartmentalization of information, Doe was perfect. Whether Doe was an enthusiastic or willing participant in covert operations is difficult to ascertain with any certainty, and is beyond the scope of this report.
CIA tails proceeded to monitor the progress of the private investigator in Ottawa as he attempted to get the Canadian government to release information about whether there was any record of Doe's entering the country - information CIA could have obtained easily, with a single phone call.
The cover story to explain Doe's disappearance was revised. The new story was that Gordon Doe had volunteered to be flown to a secret military hospital to undergo a new experimental brain surgery hoped to alleviate his autism, but that the surgery had failed and Doe had died on the operating table. The new story included the explanation that the previous story had been a case of mistaken identity - the wrong Gordon Doe - caused by an error in retrieving data from the military hospital's database.
CIA Agent Colon, a licensed physician who frequently did undercover work, assumed the identity of a doctor at the military hospital where the purported failed brain surgery was purported to have taken place. Agent Colon went to visit Barrett Palmer at his NCSA office in the Beckman Center at the University of Illinois. Afterward, Agent Colon reported that the meeting had been a difficult one. Palmer seemed to have a detailed knowledge of brain surgery, and Agent Colon, who had not been provided with a sufficiently thorough description of the contrived surgical procedure, had been forced to elaborate upon the nature of Doe's operation to a degree that risked exposing its fictitious nature. Fortunately, their meeting was cut short as the president of the University unexpectedly arrived with visiting Pentagon officials, requesting that Palmer give them a demonstration of the Center's "Cave," a virtual reality environment. Palmer, who displayed some irritation when interrupted, offered Agent Colon the opportunity to visit the Cave, where she could play a multi-player, somewhat Doom-like game and experience being inside a simulated nuclear explosion. Palmer suggested they continue to discuss Doe's surgery in more detail afterward. Agent Colon, claiming that first-person-shooter computer games gave her motion sickness even when viewed on a normal monitor, excused herself, offering her condolences once more before departing.
The private investigator's employment was terminated by Barrett Palmer. Despite some lingering concern, Palmer seemed to accept the new cover story. Gus Fortan was able to declare the file on Gordon Doe once more closed, concluding the matter of one of the four code-talkers.
There was much left to deal with regarding the civilian code-talkers involved in Operation Shift Lock, as Gus Fortan soon realized. On the afternoon of Day 19, CIA received an urgent wire from NSA regarding the surveillance of another civilian code-talker in the operation, Bruce Springsteen. Monitoring of his telephone conversation had resulted in a number of red flags, indicating a potentially severe security compromise.
At once, CIA developed a number of strategies that might be used to neutralize the potential threat to security posed by Bruce Springsteen.