The Washington Post

Former Sen. Dorgan’s new thriller

Courtesy Byron Dorgan.

Instead of penning a dime-a-dozen white paper, former senator Byron Dorgan chose a more entertaining format for sounding the alarm about the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical system with a fast-paced new novel, “Gridlock”.

Written with veteran thriller author David Hagberg, the book tells the story of a terrorist plot to use a computer virus to bring down the interconnected power networks that we rely on for everything from clean water to street lights.

The North Dakota Democrat, who also teamed with Hagberg on 2012 bio-terrorism thriller “Blowout,” tells the Loop that he drew inspiration from his own research and a 2009 Wall Street Journal article about the possibility that foreign spies were targeting the U.S. electrical system.

“I’m not trying to scare anyone, but we face a substantial new threats, and our next war may well be a digital war,” he says.

Dorgan used his expertise in the ways of Washington to give the book a dose of authenticity that’s often missing from outsiders’ renderings of Beltway protocol. He knows, for example, which agency heads would be in meetings with the president. “I’ve been around a lot of top secret briefings and discussions about threats to our country,” he says. And he’s seen plenty of world leaders in action. “So I know, ‘how would they respond?’”

Others elements of the story were a little more challenging to conjure up, he admits, like one setting, an encampment near Amsterdam populated by drug addicts and murderous computer hackers. Not exactly the normal environs for a nice North Dakotan.

Seedy, drug-addled antagonists? Fast-paced action? Hey, we’d read a lot more policy papers if they included more of that.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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