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Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency Hardcover – April 24, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0385499071 ISBN-10: 0385499078 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (April 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385499078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385499071
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

This book will bring you closer to the underbelly of Cold War espionage and the inner workings of NSA.
Caroline M. Grills
It explores the U.S. government's intelligence activities as it relates to the acquisition of foreign government and foreign military communications and signals.
William J. Romanos
Bamford seems to have included this material more because it was sensational than because it had much to do with NSA.
Victor A. Vyssotsky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

261 of 304 people found the following review helpful By Victor A. Vyssotsky on June 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Body of Secrets" has been reviewed by so many that another review may seem superfluous, but perhaps I have something to add.
The book is well worth reading; it contains a lot of previously unpublished information, and on a few of those items that I can cross-check either from personal knowledge or from other sources, Bamford's statements of specific facts are correct. However, I have three criticisms of the book.
First, although the book is asserted to be about NSA, much of what's in it has little to do with NSA. For example, the discussion of US efforts to unseat the Castro government of Cuba, including the Bay of Pigs episode, has very little to do with NSA, and a great deal to do with the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations and the CIA. And Bamford's account of it is so incomplete that it could easily mislead readers who haven't studied the topic. E.g. if one knows how skeptical Richard Helms of CIA was about Bay of Pigs, and that Allan Dulles chose to ignore Helms, and if one knows how many people knew and said that the change of landing site negated whatever chance Bissell's original plan might have had, it seems clear that nothing NSA might have known, said or done could have affected that operation or its result. Bamford seems to have included this material more because it was sensational than because it had much to do with NSA.
Indeed, the entire book seems to have been written with James Bond-type adventure stories in mind. The vast majority of NSA's work is about as exciting as growing alfalfa; rewarding, and requiring experience and skill, but only exciting on rare occasions. So this book does not give a balanced picture of what NSA does or how it does it.
Worst of all, Bamford fails to understand how much of what he writes about he doesn't know.
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223 of 262 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like this book because it is a deeply researched investigation of the National Security Agency, a part of the U.S. government that is always "in harms way", and because it offers up over 15 genuine journalistic investigative "scoops", shows how much can be learned about secret matters through persistent and professional exploitation of open sources, and paints a compelling dramatic picture of the honorable and courageous NSA employees, the less capable senior officers in the Joint Chiefs of Staff who risk their lives and do not provide them with emergency plans and air cover, and the man in the middle, LtGen Mike Hayden, whom the book portrays as a truly competent person who "gets it." This is the stuff of history and a very well-told tale.
Among the "scoops" that I as a professional intelligence officer will list for the sake of showing how wide and deep the book goes, are:
#1. Extremely big scoop. Israel attacked U.S. military personnel aboard the USS Liberty with the intent of simulating an Egyptian attack on US forces that would permit a joint US and Israeli retaliation. Even after the ship was destroyed, with very clear evidence from NSA tapes that the Israeli's deliberately attacked a US ship while the ship was flying US colors, President Johnson is reported to have betrayed his military and his Nation by covering this up, intimidating all survivors, and saying he would "not embarrass our allies." In consultation with my naval colleagues, I am satisfied that the author has it right.
#2. US SIGINT failed as North Korea invaded South Korea. Our lack of preparedness, in both systems and linguists, was dereliction of duty at the highest levels. Fast forward to Sudan, East Timor, Burundi, Yugoslavia, Somalia, and Haiti.
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82 of 96 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is an astonishing volume, and I'm very glad I read it. Particularly amazing is the account of the attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli forces during the Six-Day War, an appalling slaughter of innocent American servicement of which I was previously unaware.
Perhaps even more appalling is the account of Lyndon Johnson's subsequent handling of the situation and his willingness to bend over backwards to accommodate Israel.
I'm astonished at the reviewers who refer to this book as "revisionist history" and attempt to cast the author as somehow being anti-Semitic. This is WAY out of line -- the comparisons to Mein Kampf in particular are ridiculous.
The author is clearly unbiased and backs up his with fact after fact after fact. Bamford's account of the USS Liberty attack in particular seems extremely balanced and well-documented.
At the very least, in light of the revelations in this book, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty very clearly demonstrates the need for a fair, non-partisan Congressional inquiry that Bamford advocates. Every American should read this book, and I join Bamford in calling for a thorough, fair, unbiased Congressional investigation of this horrific tragedy.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bradley K. Stilwell on November 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a person who has never served in the military or government, the book greatly informed me on the organization and technical surveillance capabilities our federal government maintains. It was far more informational and intriguing than Kessler's work on the CIA. However, it begins to drag in the last few chapters, and I found the 9-11 afterword to be an obligatory addition probably written at the publisher's behest. Nothing you haven't read or heard elsewhere so I'd skip it.
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