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BLITZER’S BLOG: Do terrorists read Tom Clancy’s fiction?
October 13th, 2011
03:32 PM ET

BLITZER’S BLOG: Do terrorists read Tom Clancy’s fiction?

By CNN’s Wolf Blitzer

(CNN) - Sometimes nonfiction seems to follow fiction, especially, it seems, in the case of Tom Clancy and his spy novels.

In 1994, he wrote a thriller called “Debt of Honor.” Long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Clancy had a character fly a Boeing 747 into the U.S. Capitol.

Clancy’s “The Teeth of the Tiger,” published in 2003, features a man named Mohammed who has a network of Colombian drug cartel thugs who plot evil deeds against the U.S.

His newest book is entitled “Against All Enemies.” A major plot line has Taliban terrorists joining hands with Mexican drug cartel killers to launch attacks in the United States.

A friend who’s read all the Clancy books alerted me to this when he heard of the Obama administration’s accusations that Iran plotted to have members of a Mexican drug cartel kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir.

“Seems like terrorists are big Clancy fans,” my friend suggested – probably just joking.

But there’s more.

Shortly after the SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, Nick Summers wrote a fascinating piece on “The Daily Beast” with this headline: “Did Tom Clancy Predict Raid?

Referring to Clancy’s 2010 novel “Dead or Alive,” Summers writes, “In it, Clancy’s version of bin Laden is finally caught – and when he is, he turned out not to be hiding in the lawless mountain regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, as most of the fictional intelligence community believes. Instead, he’s been biding his time in an upscale house (‘must have set him back a million’) that is a shortish drive from a major city, and just a few miles from a major military institution. He works only with couriers and bodyguards. A super-elite Navy SEAL is on the team that takes him down. Oh, and one of the book’s rejected titles? ‘In Plain Sight.’ ”

Next time I read a Clancy thriller, I will take notes.

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Filed under: Terror • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Mike S

    Did it ever occur to you dolts that its the US Government that is using Clancy's scripts against our own country?

    August 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  2. Rich

    Clancy writes great fiction and I have read most of his books. He has a style based on common sense. I think everyone guessed Bin Laden was in Pakistan and well provided for so that was no great revelation.

    I also think that Mexico cartels has established routes into America and has adapted year after year to discovery and arrest. They know how to smuggle anyone or anything into or out of America with little effort and at the most affordable cost. Linking Mexico with foreign terrorists is no great revelation either. I suspect the same could be said for Canada and some of the border crossings that are only a telephone where you are suppose to get out of your car and call into a station many miles away to say your coming across the border. Who's to say who never stopped? I will have to forward this idea on to Clancy for his next novel.

    October 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  3. Robert

    I doubt that terrorists would read Clancy; he is such a dull and childish "read" that an Arab that spent years studying to learn English would find much too dull to stay with for more than a minute or two. We're safe.

    RCR

    October 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  4. ZG

    And don't forget the Ebola Virus attack at "Excecutive Order"

    October 13, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  5. conoclast

    Clancy writes for 6-year-old Rambo worshippers; that he gets lucky with "predictions" is only because he's prolific.

    October 13, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  6. Kevin Spratley

    And if you read Rainbow Six, you KNOW all about the Seal Team Six procedures. When I heard about the May 2nd takedown, I told my wife, 'Hey, Tom Clancy showed them how to do that raid"

    Seal Team Sis/Rainbow Six !! Coincidence or not?

    October 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  7. oldbear60

    Love Clancy. I don't believe the terrorist read him. Too stupid and blinded by their own fictional rants to accept anything else.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  8. kayjulia

    It does make you wonder ...... hmmmmm?

    October 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  9. Warren

    Don in Chicago: the thing to remember with Rainbox Six is that Clancy had just gotten into video game development so the book was written to promote the game I think. It suffered as a result.
    In general I really like Clancy's books, they are well written, provide enough technical details to make you believe in what is transpiring, and they are well paced. I dislike just how right-wing he is at times but it likely reflects the attitude and beliefs of most of the people who would be taking the actions his characters are (The US is so right wing in general that likely its just the fact that I am from Canada where we are a bit more balanced IMHO). I have always wanted to see Without Remorse turned into a movie, its got a nice balance of patriotic military action and criminal vigilante action and it explores John Clark who is – in the books – one of the more rounded characters.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Bill

      (hides his face in shame for thinking rainbow six was an amazing book, especially the amusement park chapter)

      October 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  10. SheHasAniceBox

    Tom Clancy writes the stories for our government that we've all come to love. He wrote the 911 attack plans and recently, he wrote a story about the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the United States. When asked why he writes these stories, he said "I was told to by Obama."

    October 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  11. SheHasAniceBox

    Tom Clancy writes the BS stories for our government that we've all come to love. He wrote the 911 attack plans and recently, he wrote a story about the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the United States. When asked why he writes these stories, he said "I was told to by Obama."

    October 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  12. HG

    Mr Clancy is a Genius!!!
    Need I say more?
    He should be DDO of the CIA!

    October 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  13. One guy

    Patton read Rommel's book to defeat him in North Africa and and European theater.

    This fact could be known to the terrorists , who may have read clancy's book and decided that , if they were to follow pattons method and pull such a stunt off, it might be successful as nobody will take it seriously because such a contingency scenario is already in a fictional novel. Greatest moves in warfare are not necessarily the moves no one ever thought of, but the ones which were considered too simple by the enemy and neglected.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • One guy

      D – Day at Normandy. Rommel said normandy is where they(allies) will attack, no one in the third reich believed him and dismissed it as too obvious.

      October 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  14. scir91onYouTube

    i thought tom clancy was a VIDEO GAME?? i always see his name on video game war titles

    October 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  15. EJS

    Most terrorist plots are fake and made by the FBI using gullible people. It is the FBI that read his books and thinks they are good ideas.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  16. Gail Templeman

    I have read that Tom Clancy teaches at the West Point War College on the subject of Espionage and spying. The search for Red October (I think) the title. That he has no experience on the subject and was an insurance salesman

    October 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  17. John

    Seriously?....How many years and your just now figuring that out?

    October 13, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  18. Gigiastro

    All this means is that Clancy's plots are pretty unoriginal and predictable.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  19. RobGR

    The Columbine murderers, Harris and Klebold, even considered this plan of flying a plane into a building, did the read Clancy? Maybe, but their plan was pure sadistic fantasy.

    The idea of hijacking a plane is nothing new, seriously. The fact is the FBI and CIA were useless entities prior to 9/11 and are still a bureaucratic heap of rubbish. Watch "The Man Who Knew", a story on John O'Neill, amazing and truly pathetic.... pathetic, b/c that is what the organizations were and still are, stifling the people that work for them.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  20. MC in TX

    In a general sense if terrorists are using Clancy's books as blueprints that is probably a good thing. And if the intelligence community has not clued into that they are idiots (though the success of this latest sting against the Iranian plot suggests the intelligence community is paying attention).

    The best thing you can do is get criminals to follow a predictable path. If Clancy has caused that to happen more power to him.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  21. CGoodrich

    This is not a chicken-or-the-egg dilemna - if Tom Clancy can imagine it, why couldn't someone else imagine something similar, especially when it is their life's work to find a way to attack the US? These are not rocket-science concepts, anyone with a marginal working knowledge of technology can dream up similar things. Tom Clancy just gets to sell books with it. After all, I dreamed up electronic ID cards decades ago, but that doesn't mean the people that actually made them knew what I was thinking ....

    October 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  22. USN, SS RET

    Yeah, I have been a Tom Clancy fan for years, and we should put "Clear and Present Danger" plan in operation against the drug trade.

    October 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  23. huxley

    About 10 years late Blitzer...

    Immediately after9/11 this same story was widely reported.

    In fact, there was a rumor the DoD actually brought in Tom Clancy and some other fiction authors as "consultants" to make up some other terrorist plots, in order to help the DoD brainstorm how to defend against them. I personnally don't believe the second part, because the DoD is just not smart enough to do that.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  24. julie young

    Please consider going back to the old time slot!! i miss you. John is fine, but I miss you!

    October 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  25. Mike Savino

    I believe there are examples of bringing together fiction writers along with security specialists to posit scenarios and offer solutions. Many times they come up with strangely accurate ones. The Lone Gunman series spinoff from XFiles actually had an episode with planes potentially crashing into the Twin Towers before 9/11.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  26. Chris from NC

    In Debt of Honor he also predicted the small stock market crash in May that was based on the computer systems that automatically sold off stocks when certain criteria were met. In the book this was done intentionally by Japan to cause the market to completely crash but in reality it was handled before it spiraled too far out of control. It is eerie how close his novels can come to reality.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  27. Rob

    Where do you think the CIA and FBI get all their ideas. They're certainly not smart enough to come up with an original plan to terrorize the American people.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  28. Brian

    Well... you would think they read the books and don't watch the movies... if they watched the movies they'd be confused at the fact that the Muslim Terrorists from the book were suddenly white neo-nazis because of a liberal hollywood directors

    October 13, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  29. guest

    I don't know, are his books published in Arabic?

    October 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  30. Bachman Books

    A jetliner was crashed into a skyscraper in one of Stephen King's early books, The Running Man.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  31. Mike

    More bookstore stakeouts for ntelligence agencies? :)

    October 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Mark

      They should try skipping to that end part where all the terrorists die.

      October 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Wayne

      Feed Tom some bum info to pass on to terrorist, that will throw them off track. Hell, they can't read so someone would have to translate for them. That would give us time to jump in and save the day. I can't believe I am responding to such crap. Yes, I am a Tom Clancy fan.

      October 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  32. John Nemesh

    Yeah, I have been a Tom Clancy fan for years, and I remember the awful chill of deja vu I felt when the planes hit the Twin Towers. I also remember "Teeth of the Tiger" and the terrorist attacks described there. First, because the terrorists came into the US through Las Cruces, New Mexcio, my hometown, and later because they attacked the Provo Utah mall, where I lived for four years. Clancy's writing all of the sudden had an immediacy for me, because I could see how terrorists could attack ANYWHERE in the US, with very little to stop them! Scary stuff!

    October 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • James W. Meritt

      Consider his Netforce series...

      October 13, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • ss26mar

      yes but clancey stole the idea of flying the plane into the capital from "storming heaven" the book the hijackers got the idea from

      October 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  33. Ron from IL

    I used to read Tom Clancy novels when I was little. He also co-authored covert ops series (I can't remember if that's the exact title of the series) which was also very anti terrorist plot oriented. Great author :)

    October 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  34. Tom

    As a long time Clancy reader, I've always been tempted to take notes.

    His books do make one wonder whether his exhaustive research into a subject isn't of direct benefit to those real world protagonists. He provides a virtual blueprint (see Executive Orders) for real world terrorism. Fun reading. But when you're done, you wonder whether you should destroy the book for fear it could fall into the wrong hands.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • SnafuBob

      Don't forget Sum of All Fears...and not the movie which was nothing like the book. Personally one of my favorite Clancy novels that I'm currently re-reading is Red Storm Rising.

      October 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • donselgen

      Talking about his novel Executive Orders, I vividly remember the part about Iranian sleeper agents working in the US, especially the one on the White House secret service detail.

      October 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  35. Pete , NJ

    They may read Clancy, but this has been in the pipeline well before "Against All Enemies" was released. Remember, Clancy was called before Congress when he described the caterpillar drive in Hunt For Red October, while the concept was still a secret. I think it is more likely that Clancy has better intelligence or better analysis than the Pentagon. A wise government would ask him aboard rather than grill him because he is smarter than the bunch of them.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • littlechica

      Well said!

      October 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Jim in Georgia

      Yes but almost everyone is smarter than they are...

      October 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  36. Chris, Austin

    If they do read Clancy, they should expect to lose every time, hahaha.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Wayne

      One learns from anothers mistakes. I am am a Clance fan of the first order. But, Red Storm Rising was all it took for me to see there was something different. He has eye's and ears in all the wrong places, or right places, depending on ones point of view. For an insurance salesseman he aint too shabby.

      October 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Wayne

      A-6 Intruder, EA-6-Prowler. In any case, he knows. How dsoes he know?

      October 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  37. James Murphy

    No....Clancy reads terrorists!

    October 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  38. Charlie

    Please note that in "Against All Enemies", the cartel(s) were dead-set AGAINST helping tangos into the US for fear of "waking up" the US (triggering invasion of Northern Mexico, Iron Curtain type wall/border, etc.) and not least, pissing off their Best Customer.
    I suspect that is the truth. I think the drug cartels are actively protecting our border against terrorists.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • alex bald

      wow, terrorists.... clancy ...international plots and drug cartels, fictional cocktail. I love Clancy's work but i recognise it as fiction and so is this plot including Iran and the Drug cartels. the mexican cartels want to keep america safe and prosper while us is busy supplying them weapons so they can kill each other and iran has nothing to gain in murdering Saudi ambassador. the only people reading clancy is the CIA and they are good at following the script.

      October 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  39. mseikeh

    I thought this story will end by W. Blitzer tell us that Tom Clansy is IN FACT A DOUBLE AGENT COLLABORATING WITH BOTH sides.
    But hey, I got too far in the thriller mode...

    October 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  40. Cruella

    An acquaintance of mine had once demoed a secret military weapon to the Marines. He then read a Tom Clancy novel that described the weapon he had invented in some detail. Our conclusion, Tom Clancy either has some good US military contacts, or else he has a time machine that he is only putting to light use to help him with plot devices.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • gotacomment

      Clancy said at the time Hunt for Red October hit bookstores that all his technical info came from legitimate sources available to the public. The guy possesses a storyteller's imagination and the ability to put the elements together in an entertaining, readable form.

      October 13, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  41. Vito

    Jack, I don't think they even read street signs, let alone a book.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  42. Rlm

    I agree. Clancy, at least in his Jack Ryan series of books, does a hell of a good job putting a lot of plausible "what ifs"
    Into a good story. Too bad for us that Bush couldn't read. What's worse, our political/government system doesn't have
    a Jack Ryan.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  43. Michael

    Maybe they just need to pay attention to what Clancy writes and make their movements and operations in conjunction with what Clancy writes. lol.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  44. MikeyZ

    Clancy is arguably the nation's best fiction writer on matters of national security and defense. He has enough ties within the community to keep his finger on the pulse of the Pentagon's mindset, and when his lack of security credentials precludes him from knowing key events and possibilities with certainty, his knowledge of geography, tribal history, modern political affairs, science and technology combined enable him to guess well enough to rankle generals, intelligence officials, and high-ranking Cabinet members, who often wonder "how did he know that?"

    Having said that, there is no way Clancy is inspiring terrorists in his writing. People who are willing to answer the question, "how can the bad guys hurt us?" will inevitably conclude that the bad guys are probably way ahead of him.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  45. Calvin Hobbes

    Just so that the terrorists don't pass his books out during finals week. It gets hard to put these books down.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  46. Nick

    .... Even for an Opinion Piece, this is nothing short of shallow "journalism." I have now lost about two minutes of my life reading and responding to something that should really not be posted on a trusted news website.

    Just for clarity: Despite how good Tom Clancy is at being a novelist, he did not come up with the ideas of suicide bombing and hiding in plain sight...

    Sorry to burst your bubble.

    October 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  47. Corey

    I have alwas been a huge Tom Clancy fan and read all of the books in the Jack Ryan series. When the September 11th attacks happened one of the first things I thought of was how eerily similar it was to Debt of Honor. Aside from the terror attacks he has predicted many events, especially the rise of drone warfare. He was writing about how drones would be the future of warfare back in the 90s. The guy knows his business.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  48. Kareem Cheez

    I doubt they read Tom Clancy. By all accounts, they read the new regs from the TSA every time a Muslim terrorist tries to take down a plane. They must be crying from the laughter at our foolishness of penalizing normal passengers with strip searches and pat-downs, because we lack the guts to apply profiling to keep our airlines safe, as Israel does.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  49. Michael

    I've read most of his books— that is until he started preaching an anti-abortion theme in his sub-plot lines. Funny how a very rich, and obviously ultra conservative Republican can so easily predict how evil minds might operate... go figure.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  50. TomB

    I am a big Clancy fan. The assasination of drug lords in Columbia in "Clear and Present Danger" is rather similar also to the BinLaden raid...except this was done with a laser sighting on the target from a mountain top nearby and an EA-6 Intruder dropping a smart bomb right on the druggies Big Foot truck destroying it and his mansion. The fictional flap after that was that innocent civilians were taken out in what is always termed "collateral damage". I just finished reading "Dead or Alive" and again I believe Mr Clancy either has a very active imagination or has an insider who feeds him information. He has addressed the National War College also.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  51. Fred54

    "Do the Iranians read Tom Clancy"? Gee I don't know, but the White House aids who put all these ridiculous
    "B" movie false flag stories together sure do. Give me a break, Iran wants to murder a Saudi errand boy on
    US soil using Mexican drug smugglers???? Are you kidding me?? Drug testing for the west wing immediately
    I'd say...

    October 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  52. Don Campbell

    Perhaps the DoD reads Clancy as well. In "Dead or Alive" the bin Laden character is not only captured and killed, but his remains – you gessed it- were disposed at sea to avoid the establishment of a shrine to the terrorist.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  53. azezel

    I actually had a debt of honor and read it in highschool. Other things he predicted were the internet kill switch. cyber wars against infrastructure.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  54. Chris

    I've been saying this exact same thing for years. People who dismiss Clancy as a trashy pop writer clearly underestimate how sharp the guy really is.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  55. Andrew

    It's not just his books... note that some of his videogames have the same effect. Take, for example, the Ghost Recon series, which dealt with trouble in Mexico.. Juarez, in fact. He's good.

    October 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Ceej

      The original ghost recon game also predicted the russians invading Georgia years before it happened.

      October 13, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
      • Andy

        Yep I remember Ossetia and all that. Good game.

        October 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  56. Steve Newman

    Maybe Clancy's real name is Nostradamus?

    October 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  57. pete

    *assuming terrorists planned 9/11*

    October 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  58. Auntie M

    Required reading for Homeland Security Training?

    October 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  59. Don in Chicago

    I hope not, after Rainbow Six, I gave up on Clancy, he'd clearly gone over the edge and fallen into a hole. In that novel, there was a heartbeat microphone that could pick up and identify the bad guys where they were hiding. Clearly fantasy, where before his trademark had been technical accuracy. Sigh, it was a shame, but there were hints earlier, in The Sum of All Fears, he spends an entire chapter outlining in painful detail the process of setting off an Atom bomb. I closed the book and summarized the chapter with "BOOM!"

    October 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Andy

      The sensors were in Aliens so they gotta be real...lol J/K

      October 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Dillon C.

      Don, I agree that some of his later work jumped the shark somewhat, Rainbow Six in particular. The Bear and the Dragon, however, was excellent, and a good continuation of the world seen in Executive Orders. The Teeth of the Tiger wasn't overly implausible, but it utterly lacked suspense and was a little to 'micro' in it's scope for my taste.

      October 13, 2011 at 10:59 pm |

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