Packet Rat: The cyberrodent gets keel-hauled

Michael J. Bechetti

'That was almost as much fun as a visit from the inspector general,' the Rat grumbled as he arrived home after a night chasing down router problems at his agency. All sweaty and crusty from creeping through wiring closets, he had only time enough to caffeineate and shower before returning to the command bunker. Dawn's early light made him squint as he entered the burrow door.

'Well, look what the cat dragged in,' Mrs. Rat observed. 'If it isn't Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, fresh from his hideout in Pakistan. Who smoked you out of your cave?'

'Very funny,' the whiskered one grunted and grabbed a coffee cup from the hook. He almost felt an iota of sympathy for the alleged al-Qaida mastermind, whose photo in captivity had adorned so many colorful newspaper accounts.

After all, if the Rat had just been awakened in the middle of the night and marched out to pose for a portrait, he wouldn't look too savory, either.

The Rat knows what it's like to be on the wrong end of an attack by the American military.
No one to his knowledge has yet used the National Security Agency's Echelon spy network to pinpoint his location as happened with Khalid's wireless phone, but someone at the Pentagon certainly has the Rat's number.

After some recent remarks about the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, the furry fed received a thorough dressing-down via e-mail from an officer in the NMCI program office.

Opening with a pinpoint-targeted joke about rodents, the officer informed the Rat that his impressions of the $8.8 billion contract's impact on war preparations were buggy at best.

The Rat had posited that Navy and Marine Corps IT managers had more urgent business than migrating additional seats to NMCI.

But his correspondent argued that the improved security bestowed by NMCI makes it essential to Navy IT efforts 'in support of the warfighter. The quicker we scale up NMCI, the more we scale down our vulnerability and those worries about security that gnaw on us.'

The dressing-down also included an invitation for a full briefing on NMCI, 'if you have some time out of the burrow,' the officer added.

'It's not the first time I've been chewed out by someone wearing eagles,' the Rat told his wife as he gulped down a second cup of coffee before adjourning to the shower. 'But it's certainly the first time I wasn't busted down a grade as a result.'

The wirebiter will be happy to take the officer up on his offer ... someday. But for the moment, he has more pressing issues.

Three steps from the shower, his pager went off. 'Router's down again,' he wailed as he marched back out the door.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at

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