Goodbye, Agent Gibbs
By the end of the day sufficient evidence of carelessness has also been uncovered against Sam Waters and Harry Carter; Waters for selling his work and thus trafficking for profit, Carter for also neglecting to disclaim some his creations as fabrications not intended to represent the women depicted. Trovillot's fall was caused by so enjoying his hobby that he created and carelessly posted a picture at 3:19 in the morning.
And while the most common victims of these assaults are celebrities, the majority of whom endure this treatment as more trouble to fight via the courts than they could ever make progress in combating; these images are of Federal Law Enforcement Officers who spend considerable periods of their lives in court.
The most prolific creators of these non-celebrity, therefore less popular and lesser known, images being removed from Internet access for the foreseeable future, the effect of other creators is vastly limited. It's decided, to no one's satisfaction or pleasure, that the Internet proponents will be 'informed' of what is happening to their counterparts, and they be given the chance to withdraw from the field.
But the first three, their works being widely circulated, cannot escape prosecution; and NCIS' Legal Department Agents, and those of their inter-agency counterparts, are now as hard at work as their Investigator colleagues had been.
But the future has no effect upon the hundreds of existing images and the thousands of their variants. They're still out there, and gradually spreading and being added to private collections. Legal may have a solution that might work in some far flung future, but Gibbs has a plan that will work today.
It's 1900, and DiNozzo, David and Palmer are wrapping up their day, anxious to be gone. Gibbs looks to McGee, also reaching for his jacket. "McGee, you ready with that project?"
McGee's sure his face isn't the kind an experienced agent strives for; he doesn't want to hide his ambivalence this time. He watches his partners depart, wondering if Gibbs would listen to DiNozzo - doubtful - or either woman - more doubtful - and even what signal he could give. Then they're gone, he and Gibbs are alone and he's never felt more alone. "Boss?"
Gibbs doesn't look up from his work. "Just want to know when, McGee."
Trapped, not knowing what he can say to avert his friend's doom, he has to admit "Another half hour to fine-tune and check it, then it'll be ready."
The words tear at his throat, burn his mouth, rip at his tongue and lips and he has to let them out. "No, boss, it's not fine." He finally has Gibbs' attention and leaves his desk, the better to push his point. "It's not fine. It's a Felony. Tampering with the Internet, attacking information storage systems, both in this country and possibly abroad; it's the kind of stuff NCIS is supposed to prevent. Boss... Boss, you could go to prison."
"They attacked our people, McGee. It was a devious, underhanded attack. You heard what it did to Levy; she'd be dead if DuBois and David had been one second slower getting into that room. They attacked your partners, your friends... McGee, they attacked your wife."
"I know they did, and we got them."
"And what about those pictures? Remember you told me that, unless deleted, those things last forever? Once downloaded, it's too late to stop them. When our friends are old and gray, people will still be jacking off over those things."
"You won't destroy evidence."
"What evidence? The evidence is on those computers, stages of changes. Once on the Internet where anyone can get hold of it, they're not evidence anymore. Chain's broken when one faker could change another's work."
"McGee, can you stand the fact that your wife could be on somebody's computer, after everything you did to save her from Ed Samson? Can you go home and look her in the face and say you had a way to spare her and you didn't do it?"
Put like that, he can't lie. "No."
"You've got to look out for your wife, that's what a good husband does. I have to watch out for all our people."
"So do I, but–"
"I know you can't do it." He holds out his hand. "My hand, my choice. You tell me what buttons to push and I'll push them."
Defeated, McGee returns to his desk and work, his heart too heavy for his chest.
Forty five minutes later the sun has set, the room lit only by desk lamps and McGee's back at Gibbs' desk, the darkness flooding his soul. "It's ready," he says regretfully. Gibbs looks up at him; they're visible to each other only by the lamplight. "But boss, it's illegal."
"I know." He also knows why the man's so mournful, but this time he doesn't have a choice. He has to look out for his people, that's what a leader does. He also has Holly to consider, as well as all her people - and so many others - CGIS, OSI... If he didn't, he couldn't look a single one of them in the eye ever again. "What are the chances I'll get away with this?"
"Undetected?" Maybe he'll finally listen. "Fifteen, twenty percent..."
Gibbs stands up. "I've faced worse." He starts toward McGee's desk, but McGee stops him.
"I'll need to use MTAC, I need resources my computer doesn't have." They head for the stairs in the darkened chamber. "The 'bot will replicate a thousand times, seek out all copies of the files using the file names we've found on the web and the computers from the three we've arrested, make a thousand copies of itself, a million altogether and self-delete. The next generation will delete all image files relating to NCIS that bear a name of one of our agents or those of the other agencies and the agency name, filtering out official government documents, then they'll replicate and self-delete. The last generation, a billion of them, is the most dangerous, it'll remain on the web for 7 days to clean up any new files, then go extinct."
They cross the dark platform to MTAC. "By then new 'artists' will find their work vanishing almost as soon as they upload, hopefully get discouraged and quit. But that's also the point when safety protocols on the web will probably catch you."
McGee turns to block him from reaching the Iris scanner. "Boss, I'm begging you."
The back of Gibbs' hand to his chest is gentle but it does move McGee aside. The blue light scanning Gibbs' eye seems painfully bright to McGee.
The door clicks open and Gibbs leads the way in.
Every female agent in the Headquarters Division stands in the chamber, the densely packed crowd barely leaving enough space to come off the ramp. By the light of the huge screen, Gibbs sees Jennifer Shepherd front and center, Ziva, Michelle and Abby flanking her.
"McGee," he says without looking back, "you and I are going to talk about the word 'secret'." It's obvious now what the man had been doing during his 'final check'.
"I did a lot of soul searching."
Gibbs picks out the man's wife to the right of the screen, deep within the throng. "I should've known any man who'd marry a Priest can't be trusted."
"You're welcome." The door closes.
"Gibbs," the dark woman beside her says.
"We've taken a vote," Shepherd says. "It was unanimous."
It's Ziva who takes a half step forward and delivers the verdict. "If you commit suicide, we shall kill you."
Against that interpretation there's little he can say, but he sees from the silent nods of affirmation that it's their collective will. "None of you should have to suffer from what those bastards did. They didn't even do it out of malice; it was fun to them, a hobby. They did that to you and they didn't even care."
"You care," Tina Larsen from Document Analysis says.
"And we care," Susan Blake from Polygraph affirms.
"But McGee is right," Shepherd says. "Without publicity no one will know about our pictures or even care. That's why everything was kept quiet. That's why we didn't try to force the webmasters to remove the images, though most of them are deciding it's better to lose a few images rather than suffer what we're going to do to Trovillot and the others."
"In time it'll all be over," Cassie Yates says.
"What're left will be outdated, replaced by others," Carol Jordan predicts, not thrilled with the prospect, but having little better to hope for.
"We'll endure. Humiliation is bad," Nikki Jardine declares, "but we'll endure."
"What we won't endure," Peggy Callender declares, "is knowing you threw away your career for us – lost your shield, went to prison, were dishonored for us!"
"No!" Abby Sciuto exclaims, a fervent testament taken up in broken chorus by all of them.
Next Episode: Retribution.
More than forty witnesses agree Ensign Mark Cabrera murdered Carol Gerber right in front of them. So how can he claim he's innocent? And how can Gibbs and his team prove it?