Today's National Security Agency is the largest, most costly, and most technologically advanced spy organization the world has ever known. It is also the most intrusive, secretly filtering millions of phone calls and e-mails an hour in the United States and around the world. Half a million people live on its watch list, and the number grows by the thousands every month. Has America become a surveillance state?
In The Shadow Factory, James Bamford, the foremost expert on National Security Agency, charts its transformation since 9/11, as the legendary code breakers turned their ears away from outside enemies, such as the Soviet Union, and inward to enemies whose communications increasingly crisscross America.
Fast-paced and riveting, The Shadow Factory is about a world unseen by Americans without the highest security clearances. But it is a world in which even their most intimate whispers may no longer be private.
©2008 James Bamford; (P)2008 Books on Tape
Authors I like: Patrick O'Brian, Frederick Forsyth, Jane Austen, John Le Carre, Alan Furst, Jon Krakauer, Ernest Hemingway.
I arrived at "The Shadow Factory" by way of listening to Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon," a fictional work whose themes include cryptanalysis and the origins of the NSA. I was hoping to learn more about the NSA overall with "The Shadow Factory." The focus of Bamford's book is the post-9/11 era and it's primarily penned as an expose' of the NSA warrantless wiretapping rather than simply an informative work of nonfiction. The tone throughout is darkly conspiratorial and I suppose as readers/listeners we are expected to be totally outraged by what is revealed in the book, namely that the NSA is sweeping up vast oceans of bits and bytes for either immediate, real-time snooping with the aid of astoundingly fast computers, or for storage for future analysis. While this does raise some sticky points of a constitutional nature, I couldn't help but think that such massive intel gathering was vulnerable to equally massive intel spamming by our enemies. i.e. What is to prevent China, Iran, Russia et al from generating relentless streams of encrypted chaff to clog the NSA's vast but ultimately finite storage capacity? But I digress.
In short, if you're the sort of guy who likes espionage fiction, mathematics, computer science, cryptology and/or history you will probably find "The Shadow Factory" an interesting glimpse into the real deal, albeit filtered through the lens of a single author whose stance toward his subject is adversarial.
I bit of a rambling history of the NSA with an obvious bias. Too often the author deviates from a "just the facts ma'am" approach to provide his own editorial. It was informative, but could have been an hour shorter easy.
A very good read/listen! The only problem I have with it is; the author completely buys into the 911 story. The author does such a great job investigating other subjects; he seemed to repeat what everyone heard on Fox/CNN.
This book doesn't waste any time, nor pull any punches when it comes to getting its digs in on Bush. Enough already. We hear that in the news and from the current administration enough (it's Bush's fault).
If the author could have stuck more to factual information, instead of his political leanings, it would have been worth the credit.
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