INTERVIEW: Author Brad Thor Talks Act of War ... and Culture War
Thor: Yes. I was invited to participate in something at the DHS that was called the Analytic Red Cell Program. They brought creative thinkers from outside the beltway like me, Michael Bay, to brainstorm terrorist scenarios in areas where terrorists might be looking to exploit and attack.
Steinberg: So they reached out to you, I was curious. It’s a fascinating job, and I wondered how someone goes about landing that. So they reached out to you?
Thor: Yes, its funny, I was jogging -- it’s almost like a scene out of a movie. I was living in Park City, Utah, at the time, and I was jogging in the mountains with my dog in an area where I never got cell reception. Yet suddenly -- my phone rang.
I was invited to come to D.C. and to be part of this program. It was an opportunity to serve my country. I wasn’t asked to pick up a rifle, but to use my creative skills to help keep my country safe. It was an incredible honor, and something that I will spend the rest of my life being proud to have been invited to participate in.
Steinberg: You do expose some very specific national security flaws, both with visas and with airport security, in Act of War. Is there ever any concern that you are giving away a roadmap to those who would do us harm, or further, have you ever been contacted by the government, saying “hey, you aired a few too many of our secrets and flaws, you publicized a little more than we’re comfortable with”?
Thor: I don’t put anything out there that I am not legally entitled as a citizen to put out there. I’m not using any top-secret, national security clearance to glean insight into soft spots to sell books. I’d never do that. First and foremost, I am a steward of the republic -- that’s my job as a citizen. That’s even more important than my job as an author. I am hoping to hand a freer, more prosperous, more secure nation to the next generation. I don’t own this country, nor do any of us. We are merely stewards for the next generation. That’s our job.
Yes, that “do no harm” thought is always foremost in my mind when writing thrillers, but part of being cutting-edge, being able to beat the headlines, is talking about things nobody else is talking about. So it’s a fine line.
The government has never told me I can’t publish this, that, or the other thing, I don’t work for them, I don’t have access to a government database that I go to work to and log in every day. I’m not using any advantage in that sense. Am I talking to men and women that are active in military, particularly the Special Ops community and law enforcement? All the time. And those people, they get to see the manuscript before it gets published.
Has it happened in the past that those people, who are subject matter experts, tell me: “Well, we told you Point A, we told you Point C, but you figured out Point B on your own, and Point B can’t be in the book. We can’t let our enemies know about that”? That’s happened. And I’ve taken Point B out.
I’ve done 15, 20 revisions before to get it to the point where my insiders say: “Ok, now we are comfortable with you publishing this.” If they ask me, absolutely -- I’m happy to do it.
But considering this administration, I would not believe them for a second if they told me one of my books is going to be a bad thing for the country. I’d just assume one of my books is going to embarrass them and they don’t want it out there. I have so little respect for the current administration. They would hold no weight with me.
If one of my own experts, or someone I respect in the intelligence world, comes to me, that carries weight. But this Obama administration, I’d laugh them out of my office.
Steinberg: You mentioned in a promo that the Marcus Luttrell story was an inspiration for this novel. That was such a terribly difficult ethical situation, the kind that confronts our personnel often. There weren’t easy answers to the Luttrell story in terms of policy. But is there anything specific -- you just mentioned your lack of respect for the current administration -- is there any policy currently in place that you think is a grave danger to national security?
Thor: Absolutely. Number one: the biggest chink in our national security armor is political correctness.
Political correctness will be the absolute death of this country. There is no greater corrosive force in America right now than political correctness. Political correctness does not strengthen the country, it weakens the country. As we sit here (Ed. note: Monday, July 14, in the morning) the headline today is that Eric Holder sees racial animus in any criticism of him or the president. The left loves to use racism as a sword, but they also want to use it as a shield to guard against any criticism of their performance.
I don’t care if you’re black, white, green, polka dot, if you are a citizen of this country, a servant of this country, then criticism of your performance in your job in service to the rest of us is warranted.