Everybody knows about the CIA--the cloak-and-dagger branch of the U.S. government. Many fewer are familiar with the National Security Agency, even though it has been more important to American espionage in recent years than its better-known counterpart. The NSA is responsible for much of the intelligence gathering done via technology such as satellites and the Internet. Its home office in Maryland "contains what is probably the largest body of secrets ever created."
Little was known about the agency's confidential culture until veteran journalist James Bamford blew the lid off in 1982 with his bestseller The Puzzle Palace. Still, much remained in the shadows. In Body of Secrets, Bamford throws much more light on his subject--and he reveals loads of shocking information. The story of the U-2 crisis in 1960 is well known, including President Eisenhower's decision to tell a fib to the public in order to protect a national-security secret. Bamford takes the story a disturbing step forward, showing how Eisenhower "went so far as to order his Cabinet officers to hide his involvement in the scandal even while under oath. At least one Cabinet member directly lied to the committee, a fact known to Eisenhower." Even more worrisome is another revelation, from the Kennedy years: "The Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government. In the name of anticommunism, they proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba."
Body of Secrets is an incredible piece of journalism, and it paints a deeply troubling portrait of an agency about which the public knows next to nothing. Fans of The Sword and the Shield will want to read it, as will anybody who is intrigued by conspiracies and real-life spy stories. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
The National Security Agency (NSA), writes Bamford, has made the United States an "eavesdropping superpower," capable of capturing, deciphering and analyzing "signal intelligence"communicationsin whatever form it may exist and from whatever nation it may be transmitted. Yet with a budget ($4 billion a year) and staff (numbering in the tens of thousands) that dwarf its more famous cousin, the CIA, and with a headquarters, known as "Crypto City," that is its own self-contained community, little is known of NSA among the public and, more troublingly, even within other parts of government. Uncovering the secrets of NSA, its history and operations, has become Bamford's life's work, first begun in his now classic The Puzzle Palace (1982) and continued in this significantly revised and expanded present volume. With remarkable access to highly sensitive documents and information, Bamford takes the reader from the beginnings of NSA during the early cold war, through its roles in such watershed events as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, to the amazingly sophisticated developments in information technology taking place within NSA today. What Bamford discovers is at times surprising, often quite troubling but always fascinating. In his conclusion, he is at once awed and deeply disturbed by what NSA can now do: ever more sophisticated surveillance techniques can mean ever greater assaults on the basic right of individual privacy. In a computer system that can store five trillion pages of text, anyone and everyone can be monitored. Writing with a flair and clarity that rivals those of the best spy novelists, Bamford has created a masterpiece of investigative reporting. (On-sale date: Apr. 24)Forecast: Bamford will be doing national media, including NBC's Today show and NPR's Fresh Air. This is the stuff spy thrillers are made from: The Puzzle Palace was a bestseller, and this will be, too.
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