Being a super-secret spy agency and all, it's tough to get a handle on what's really going on at the NSA. However, James Bamford has done great work in documenting the agency's origins and Cold War exploits in The Puzzle Palace. Beginning with the earliest days of cryptography (code-making and code-breaking are large parts of the NSA's mission), Bamford explains how the agency's predecessors helped win World War II by breaking the German Enigma machine and defeating the Japanese Purple cipher. He also documents signals intelligence technology, ranging from the usual collection of spy satellites to a great big antenna in the West Virginia woods that listened to radio signals as they bounced back from the surface of the moon.
Bamford backs his serious historical and technical material (this is a carefully researched work of nonfiction) with warnings about how easily the NSA's technology could work against the democracies of the world. Bamford quotes U.S. Senator Frank Church: "If this government ever became a tyranny ... the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government ... is within the reach of the government to know." This is scary stuff. --David Wall
Recommended reading for anybody with an interest in codebreaking and communications security.
Even though PUZZLE PALACE has been around for eighteen years, it still seems to be the best researched book on NSA that's available.
Having said that, I have to agree that this is one of the most interesting books you will find in the non-fiction category.
Whether you're an aspiring investigative journo or just someone interested in this subject, this is the seminal work in this genre.Published 8 days ago by burritolikethesun
an interesting look at the inside of America's secret agency. a must read, highly recommended.Published 2 months ago by johnhinschberger
Great book and I really liked it. Wanted to get extra for my children to have about some of my work.Published 5 months ago by John Stone
Well worth the money. Can help a younger person understand how it got from where it was to how it is now, and it is a current topic now.Published 9 months ago by Donald L Massey
Some reviewers have expressed dissatisfaction with the sometimes ponderous way the book moves, and some have complained that the book is out of date. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Monty Vierra
Want to know what goes on inside the NSA? So do I. But this book can only tell what the NSA wants to be read or told. Read morePublished 10 months ago by hombre243
I read this when it first came out decades ago and was extremely impressed by the Bamford's thoroughness and clarity. Read morePublished 13 months ago by William Clardy