Clear and Present Danger (1994) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Jack Ryan is back and this time the bad guys are in his own government. When Admiral James Greer becomes sick with cancer, Ryan is appointed acting CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence. Almost before he can draw a breath in his new position, one of the president's closest friends and his family are murdered in their sleep by what appears to by drug cartels. Ryan is called in to investigate, but unknown to him the CIA has already sent a secret field operative to lead an illegal paramilitary force in Colombia against cartels. Things get even more complicated when his team is set up and he loses an agent in the field and a friend of his wife's, who was the murdered agent's secretary, is murdered that same day. Ryan must then risk not only his career, but his life to expose the truth behind the mystery.

  • Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst, is thrust right in the middle of a power struggle within the Colombian drug cartel after one of the President's "life long" friends is murdered, apparently in retaliation for stealing money as part of a money laundering scheme for the cartel. Jack is then appointed acting Deputy Director of Intelligence, CIA, upon the terminal illness of Admiral James Greer, former DDI, and quickly gets in over his head due to his political naivete. The situation rapidly deteriorates when some of the presidents men convince the President to conduct covert actions against the cartel, in direct violation of congress. Felix Cortez, the security chief of Ernesto Escobeda, the "victim" of the missing money, is one of the cartel boss's. Cortez tries to play both sides, appearing to inform Escobeda about the CIA's involvement in the covert operations against him, while trying to orchestrate a coup to take over the cartel, with Cortez as it's sole boss. James Cutter, the President's National Security Advisor, makes his own deal with Cortez, with the Presidents knowledge, and halts communications to the covert troops still in Colombia, through the Deputy Director of Operations, CIA, Robert Ritter. Ryan ends up going to Colombia to rescue the covet ops troops with the help of field agent John Clark, but not before some fence mending between the two, being that Ritter blamed Ryan for the comm outage, with Clark's men subsequently being captured by Cortez's mercenaries.

  • When an American businessman who is a good friend of the President's is killed along with his entire family, the killings appear to be the work of a Colombian Drug Cartel. Upon hearing this, the President tells his National Security Adviser -- James Cutter-- that he wants him to start a Black Op against the Colombians. At the same time the President orders every agency to find out why his friend was killed. CIA Deputy Director James Greer, whom the President has asked for help as well, is in poor health, so he asks his protege -- Jack Ryan-- to fill in for him. Jack finds himself working with Robert Ritter (whom Greer has told him him not to trust)and Ritter is the very person Cutter has asked to handle the operation. Jack eventually finds out that the dead businessman may have been involved with the Colombians and may have been embezzling from them. When Ritter puts the plan into operation, the Colombians are wondering who is after them. So, the Cartel's intelligence man "Felix Cortez" tries to find out, while he is--at the same time-- plotting to assassinate Ernesto Escobedo (the head of the cartel) and take over the entire operation. When a CIA secretary, who had been seen with Cortez in D.C.turns up dead, Ryan becomes convinced that there is a three-way conspiracy afoot which might extend all the way to the White House.

  • CIA Analyst Jack Ryan is drawn into an illegal war fought by the US government against a Colombian drug cartel.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • An aggrieved first term President implicitly ("What I would suggest I cannot suggest") authorizes a secret military incursion into Columbia after a personal friend of his is killed by men connected to Ernesto Escobedo, leader of the Cali Cartel. Jack Ryan, temporarily promoted as Deputy Director of Intelligence at the CIA after Jim Greer is diagnosed with cancer is unintentionally mired in the scheme. He was tasked with securing the funding for the operation from Congress, even specifically promising no troops would be used despite that being (unbeknown to Ryan) the whole point of the operation.

    The military operation is initially successful, striking at drug refining facilities and shooting down drug running aircraft. After the President orders a large amount of laundered drug money seized, Felix Cortez, a former Castro official working as an intelligence officer for Escobedo, retaliates by assassinating a Presidential aide (from which Ryan himself narrowly escapes) sent to Columbia to discuss the seized funds with the Columbian government. After that, the operation is escalated and the US troops are ordered to begin assassinating cartel leaders themselves, who have met to assuage their own suspicions that each other are responsible for the strikes by US troops and avert a gang war.

    In response, Cortez figures out that American troops have been operating in Columbia and negotiates their betrayal with the President's National Security Advisor (Cutter) who orchestrated the unconstitutional operation.

    Meanwhile, Ryan has also caught on that something illicit is happening and catches the basic gist of the operation after breaking into a colleague's office computer at CIA. He is too late to prevent the betrayal of the US soldiers in Columbia who are captured after their exact location is given to Cortez and all air support and communications with them are cut off. Ryan personally returns to Columbia to organize a rescue operation, which he cobbles together with the help of a disgruntled CIA operative who had been involved in the military operation itself.

    Ryan returns to Washington DC, to reveal all details of the operation to Congress even after the President personally tries to entice him to remain silence with offers of future favours.

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