- For the film see Clear and Present Danger (Film).
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 of 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".
The United States Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Panache intercepted 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 coerced the executioners to confess to the grisly murders. However, it was later learned that the murdered man was part of a money laundering scheme within the Medellín Cartel; upon further investigation, it was discovered he had laundered and embezzled approximately $650 million.
The details of the expedition percolated up to the office of the President, who calls for a change of direction in the War on Drugs. The incumbent president felt compelled to take drastic measures against the drug trade in the United States because election-year mudslinging had revealed his failure to generate returns on campaign promises regarding drug-trafficking in the United States. The President's challenger, allied 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 initiated covert operations within Colombia. The CIA concocted 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 dispatched soldiers to infiltrate Colombian territory and stake-out airstrips dispatching and receiving drug-trafficking aircraft. The airstrips were destroyed after the aircraft was shot down or captured.
Three major players help the plan reach fruition:
- National Security Advisor Vice Admiral James Cutter.
- CIA Deputy Director of Operations Robert Ritter.
- Director of Central Intelligence Judge Arthur Moore.
The plan consisted 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 was the covert-dispatching of SIGINT-gathering units to Colombia to intercept communications between Cartel management. The primary mode of communication was 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 was also the communications arm for Operation: SHOWBOAT and the light-fighters' only means of contact with the outside world. John Clark was dispatched with CAPER to coordinate the effort.
EAGLE EYE involved dispatching F-15s to intercept drug flights verified as originating from Colombia and identified as carrying narcotics. These drug flights were scouted by a completely Hispanic light infantry force which had been drawn from the various units that the U.S. Army has at the time of the novel. These include the 7th Infantry Division and 25th Infantry Division and the 10th Mountain Division. The interdiction flights are primarily executed by United States Air Force Captain Jeff "Bronco" Winters. His primary craft was an F-15C Eagle. He destroyed at least four aircraft and forced others to land, where the pilots were met by members of the Marine Corps Force Recon and interrogated for more information regarding the cartel.
These soldiers were the bulk of Operation: SHOWBOAT. The soldiers were seconded from American-based infantry battalions, and were all Hispanic in order to blend in with the local population. The infantrymen were tasked with scouting landing sites and reporting departure times and tail numbers of aircraft using the airfields to refuel, allowing the EAGLE EYE team to intercept them.
Operation: RECIPROCITY was the fourth operation formed as a part of the new War on Drugs. As the name suggests, it was a reciprocal attack on cartel operations as a result of the assassination of sitting FBI Director Emil Jacobs, the Director of the DEA and the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia when rocket propelled grenades destroy the armour of their limoduring a visit to the Attorney-General of Colombia.
The assassination was made possible by a Cuban national named Félix V. Cortez. Cortez was a former member of the Cuban DGI in the employ of the cartel, and specifically Ernesto Escobedo, as their Chief of Security and intelligence operative/analyst. Cortez turned the widowed aide of Director Jacobs, Moira Wolfe, into an unknowing agent by feigning romantic interest. She unknowingly revealed information regarding the date and time of Jacobs' official visit. Cortez delivered this information to the Cartel, who have become wary of missing drug flights. The cartel management orders Jacobs's assassination as retaliation for Operation Tarpon, which seized hundreds of millions of dollars of cartel money. Cortez was infuriated with the plan, as it meant his source was no longer of any use. Executive Assistant Director (Operations), Bill Shaw, becomes acting Director after Jacobs' death.
After Jacobs, the U.S. Ambassador and several other Americans who were part of their delegation had been killed, Operation: RECIPROCITY began. This phase involved using a carrier-borne A-6 Intruder ground-attack aircraft and a single laser-guided bomb to covertly attack the meeting location discovered by CAPER intercepts. The planners intended to keep the bombing secret and give the impression of a car-bomb due to the political unrest in the region caused by disillusioned Marxist militiamen who were part of M-19. In order to further this belief, the bomb was a precision-guided munition with a delayed fuse. To further hide the fact that it was an air-dropped bomb, it had a case made from cellulose, which had been designed for use on stealth aircraft. This casing would be consumed in the blast and there would be no fragmentation. Unfortunately, one piece of oversight tipped Felix Cortez off to military involvement in the assassination attempt: the use of Octol as the explosive and catalyst.
Jack Ryan became aware of the events surrounding the activities in Colombia, and grew suspicious of the agency. As acting Deputy Director of the Intelligence Directorate, Ryan should have been privy to most operations, but he realized he was being left out of something, and suspected it was related to Colombia. After his long-time friend Commander Jackson inquired about activity in the region, Ryan went to Judge Moore to demand an explanation. Moore avoided explaining the situation, but ordered Ryan to withhold the information from the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committee, and thus break the law.
Cortez discovers the true nature of the villa bombing after another airstrike hit a house in Colombia. Planning to create a war within the cartel that will leave him in a position to seize power, he suppresses this information. He also learns of the American troops in Colombia, and orders large groups of cartel mercenaries to hunt them down. He finally comes into contact with Vice Admiral Cutter and blackmails him into ending the operation, promising an intra-cartel war that will slow drug imports into the United States.
Cutter's meeting with Cortez was shadowed by Jack Ryan along with CIA operatives John Clark and Carlos Larson, who had staged into Panama from the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field. Dan Murray had been dropped off on the Panache to obtain their assistance as a "last resort" landing platform in case their helicopter couldn't make it back to Panama. John Clark was outraged at this abandonment of the troops in Colombia, and with Ryan and the Air Force personnel planed a rescue operation. Clark hit it off with the helicopter's pilot, Colonel Paul Johns, a fellow Vietnam veteran.
Clark flies into Colombia with Larson to make radio contact with the teams to warn them of the cartel operations and advise them of alternate pickup points. Making contact with two of the four SOC teams inserted (FEATURE and OMEN), he orders them to pre-determined hold positions to await extraction. While trying to contact Team BANNER, which had been rendered combat ineffective due to an encounter with a large number of cartel mercenaries, Clark spots Team KNIFE which had joined forces with the remnants of BANNER. KNIFE had encountered the same group of mercenaries as BANNER, and was overrun at their expected extraction zone while Clark was flying overhead. Clark makes sporadic radio contact with the survivors from Team KNIFE. The survivors, including Domingo Chavez, escape. Clark advises Chavez that he would meet them the next day at a rendezvous point.
The following day, Clark flies into Colombia the next day to retrieve Chavez' band of survivors. Jack Ryan flies in later that night and picks up the surviving members of Team OMEN. This group, together with Clark and Chavez's group, launch a raid on the cartel's command post using the MH53 Pave low's superior firepower to kill the cartel guards while Clark and Chavez capture Escobedo and Cortez. The group then attempt to extract the remaining ground team, Team FEATURE. During this extraction the team and the helicopter come under heavy fire from the remaining cartel ground forces. The helicopter's crew chief, Sgt. Buck Zimmer, is mortally wounded. Ryan makes a promise to take care of his family.
Due to a hurricane and damage to the helicopter, they land on the deck of the Panache. Cutter, who had flown back to Panama upon finding out that a rescue operation was under way, believes the helicopter crashed in the mountains. Cutter then flies to Washington believing that the matter is closed.
Before leaving Colombia, Larson and Clark return Escobedo to his fellow cartel members who were led to believe that it was he who was conducting the assassination attempts. Clark forces Cutter to commit suicide . Cortez is returned to Cuban hands, where he is marked a traitor. Ryan confronts the President, who insists what he did was right. Ryan responds that, despite his classifying the drug cartel as a "clear and present danger," what the president did was illegal, and Ryan must brief Congress.
The two presiding members of the committee briefed by Ryan meet with the President, who agrees to unspecified conditions. Ryan, who had observed both presidential campaigns, realizes that the incumbent had deliberately sacrificed himself (by running a poor reelection campaign) to protect the knowledge of the covert operations and the honor of those involved. Robert Fowler wins the election by a slim margin, and Ryan realizes that the incumbent had more honor and dignity than he originally thought.
- The promise Jack Ryan made to Buck Zimmer to look after his family played into the plots of the novels The Sum of All Fears and Executive Orders.
List of characters in Clear and Present Danger, with a short description relevant to this novel. Many characters play minor roles and may not warrant a dedicated page, others will link to a specific profile if one exists.
- Mark Bright - FBI Special Agent in New Orleans.
- Domingo Chavez - Staff Sergeant, point man and scout for Team KNIFE during Operation SHOWBOAT (I & II).
- John Clark - a.k.a. Mr Carlson, John T. Williams. CIA Instructor.
- Félix Cortez - Chief of Security for the Medellín Cartel.
- James Cutter - Navy Admiral (Ret.), National Security Adviser to the President.
- Delgado - Member of Team BANNER.
- Ernesto Escobedo - One of the 14 leaders of the Medellín Cartel. He employs Félix Cortez as Chief of Security, and orders the assassinations of FBI Director Emil Jacobs and the U.S. Ambassador to Columbia.
- Esteves - Staff Sergeant on Team BANNER during Operation SHOWBOAT (I & II). Killed during Operation SHOWBOAT II.
- Robert Fowler - Governor of Ohio. He is running for President against the unnamed incumbent (WRANGLER) and wins the election at the end of the book.
- James Greer - Navy Admiral (Ret.), CIA Deputy Director (Intelligence). He is hospitalized and Jack Ryan is fulfilling his duties within the CIA.
- Paco Guerra - Operations Sergeant on Team KNIFE in Operation SHOWBOAT (I & II).
- Robby Jackson - Navy Commander and close friend to Jack Ryan, Sr.
- Timothy Jackson - Second Lieutenant, Robby Jackson's brother and Chavez's commander at Fort Ord.
- Emil Jacobs - Director of the FBI, assassinated on a trip to Columbia.
- Roy Jensen - Navy Commander. A-6E Pilot and squadron commander that flies two bombing missions in Operation RECIPROCITY.
- Paul "PJ" Johns - Air Force Colonel, Vietnam Veteran, and pilot of the MH-53J "Pave Low III" helicopter used for insertion/extraction in Operation SHOWBOAT (I & II)..
- Carlos Larson - CIA agent in Columbia under cover as a flight instructor. He passes information about cartel airfields and flights back to the Agency.
- 'Berto León - Army Staff Sergeant Team BANNER.
- Tony Luna - CIA Chief of Station, Panama.
- Frances Montaigne - Air Force Captain, call sign "CLAW." Pilot of the MC-130E Combat Talon that provide refueling and communications services to Johns and his MH-53J helicopter.
- Arthur Moore - Judge Moore, as he is usually known, is Director of Central Intelligence.
- Dan Murray - FBI Deputy Assistant Director under Emil Jacobs and Bill Shaw. He is also a close friend of Jack Ryan from their days in London together.
- Joshua Painter - Navy Admiral, Assistant Chief of Navval Operations (ACNO). He advises Robby Jackson to bring his concerns about CIA operations in Columbia to his friend Jack Ryan at CIA.
- President of the United States - Unnamed, referred to by the codename WRANGLER. References are made to Reagan in the past tense. The following novel references both Reagan and George H. W. Bush. This president served only one term, as did Bush.
- Patrick O'Day - Newly promoted inspector working out of the FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C.
- Olivero - Army Sergeant, squad medic on Team KNIFE.
- Filiberto Ojeda - Former Cuban DGI colonel with Félix Cortez. Cortez fleas Cuba after Ojeda's capture by the FBI. He is not an active character but is referenced several times.
- Rocha - A rifleman on Team KNIFE. Killed during and attack on a cocaine processing operation.
- Ramirez - Captain, leader of Team KNIFE infiltrated into Columbia.
- Bob Riley - Coast Guard Chief Boatswain's Mate onboard USCGC Panache.
- Robert Ritter - CIA Deputy Directer (Operations).
- Emilio Rojas - Captain, leader of Team BANNER.
- Jack Ryan - Special Assistant to the Director of Intelligence. He is appointed acting Deputy Director (Intelligence) because of Admiral Greer's medical condition, then promoted to the full position.
- Julio "Oso" Vega - Staff Sergeant, member of Team KNIFE.
- Carlos Wagner - One of 14 Medellín Cartel chieftains. Killed during first bombing of RECIPROCITY.
- Red Wegener - Coast Guard Lieutenant-Commander, Captain of the USCGC Panache and former enlisted man, known as the King of Search-and-Rescue (SAR) missions.
- Captain Willis - Air Force Captain, copilot to Colonel Johns on MH-53J helicopter.
- Jeff "Bronco" Winters - Air Force Captain and F-15C pilot in Operation EAGLE EYE.
- Buck Zimmer - Senior Master Sergeant, flight engineer and gunner onboard MH-53J "Pave Low III" helicopter.