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.
I was in the Army Security Agency from 1965 - 1969 and this book helped to put some of the missing pieces together for me. A super great read.Published 27 days ago by Michael Zinn
If ,like me, you are not a professional in this area then this seems like a great introduction.Published 1 month ago by John Brewer
This is a very good book that uncovers the inner workings of the CIA and the OSS that preceded it. If you want to understand why so much of the world hates us, this is a good place... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Bob C
Whether you're an aspiring investigative journo or just someone interested in this subject, this is the seminal work in this genre.Published 4 months ago by burritolikethesun