A thoroughly fascinating history of SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) as invented and practiced by the security agencies of the five major English-speaking nations after WWII.
With the ability to capture every phone call and email message in the world, the Echelon surveillance system is run by the super-secret NSA which must then rely on sophisticated computer software to cull and filter the terabytes of data retrieved daily. After that, it is up to human intelligence analysts to give meaning or alert to the thousands of messages received.
And this is where Echelon has failed since its inception.
'Chatter' documents the politics and policies of institutions so infatuated with technology that they have all but ignored the fact that it still takes human beings to interpret the intelligence being gathered.
The inept and ineffectual operations of our intelligence agencies led in good measure to the tragedy on 9/11 and this book outlines reasons for those failures.
Intelligence is a nether world that lies just under the surface of our high-tech society, and when directed by politicians to advance their own ideologies and agenda, can be highly detrimental to the security of a nation. We only have to look at how Vice President Cheney allegedly coerced the CIA to "cook the books" on how many WMD's existed in Iraq to make a case for a war that has claimed far too many lives and has greatly increased the dangers of terrorism in the world.
'Chatter' is a thoroughly researched cautionary tale that sheds important light on an area of government that has always existed in the dark.
Click on the light and find out for yourself what all the chatter is about.
This book is an compelling narrative by a 38-year old female graduate student in anthropology whose thesis research covered Patpong--one of Bangkok's most well-known sex districts--in the 1980's. While studying the touts, mama sans, pimps and prostitutes she meets there, she finds herself becoming involved with and falling for two very different Thai men and discovers that experiencing love in any culture can be a convoluted and sometimes tortuous endeavor. Her conclusions about the Thai women who ply their trade in Patpong are surprising yet valid as she compares the poverty a great many of these women and girls come from to the power and relative affluence they derive from their sexual and emotional interactions with foreign men, called farang. At few times, author Cleo Odzer hints about her own life growing up in wild 1960's America, but does not elaborate. However, visiting a few web pages about her, it became apparent that her own life would have made a fascinating book in and of itself. Sadly, Odzer died in 2001 at the age of 50; some say of AIDS. The growing worldwide AIDS epidemic of the 1980's was a forbidden subject in tourist-conscious Thailand and was something Odzer wanted to find out about in her research. Ironically, if she did die of AIDS, her unprotected sexual experiences with the Thai men she writes about in this book may have been the cause of her eventual demise.
The discovery that the lives of many Thai prostitutes were greatly superior to the abject poverty of the peasant village life they came from. In some respects, these women were the most independent women in Thailand--at least in 1988. I would hope that female empowerment has improved in Thailand as business and industrial growth has increased and more people have climbed into the middle class.
Carlin's accents, Thai, Australian, Dutch and others were spot on. Her performance was certainly a highlight of the Audible version of the book.
Prostitution in Thailand is long-standing and only became illegal (although almost entirely ignored) in the 20th century. Yet a significant percentage of the Thai Gross Domestic Income comes from the sex industry. And Western men supply a large portion of that income. Many of these men, however, become thoroughly enchanted by this gentle society and its beautiful, enticing women and decide to stay with the women they've fallen in love with from the go-go bars and massage parlors of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
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