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The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America Paperback – July 14, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


A Washington Post Notable Book

“Important and disturbing. . . . This revealing and provocative book is necessary reading . . . Bamford goes where the 9/11 Commission did not fully go.”
—Senator Bob Kerrey, The Washington Post Book World

“Fascinating. . . . Bamford has distilled a troubling chapter in American history.”
Bloomberg News

“At its core and at its best, Bamford’s book is a schematic diagram tracing the obsessions and excesses of the Bush administration after 9/11. . . . There have been glimpses inside the NSA before, but until now no one has published a comprehensive and detailed report on the agency. . . . Bamford has emerged with everything except the combination to the director’s safe.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Engaging. . . . Chilling. . . . Bamford is able to link disparate facts and paint a picture of utter, compounded failure—failure to find the NSA’s terrorist targets and failure to protect American citizens’ communications from becoming tangled in a dragnet.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

“The bad news in Bamford’s fascinating new study of the NSA is that Big Brother really is watching. The worse news . . . is that Big Brother often listens in on the wrong people and sometimes fails to recognize critical information. . . . Bamford convincingly argues that the agency . . . broke the law and spied on Americans and nearly got away with it.”
The Baltimore Sun

About the Author

James Bamford is the author of Body of Secrets, The Puzzle Palace, and A Pretext for War, and has written on national security for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. His Rolling Stone article “The Man Who Sold the War” won the 2006 National Magazine Award for reporting. Formerly the Washington investigative producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and a distinguished visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Bamford lives in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 395 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307279391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307279392
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

138 of 155 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on October 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the latest book by James Bamford about what is usually called the "super secret" National Security Agency (NSA). Bamford has established himself as the public chronicler of the NSA and has done some impressive reporting on an agency famous for its almost impenetrable secrecy.

First it should be noted that much of the secrecy that envelopes NSA is absolutely justified. The intelligence cliché' of `protecting sources and methods' has real meaning within the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID) of the agency. The ability to collect and process electronic signals carrying important information is actually quite fragile and can be easily lost through inadvertent or ill-considered disclosure. Such losses have occurred far too often and do adversely affect U.S. National Security.

That being said it is also true that the blanket of secrecy can also be used to conceal incompetence, ill-legal activities, and enormous waste. This is why congressional and executive branch oversight are so important in keeping the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) honest. Unfortunately, NSA is a `technical' collection agency which means that the eyes of its nominal monitors tend to glaze over when its programs are discussed in any detail. This situation was exacerbated by NSA's former director General Hayden who was able to walk that thin line between telling congress what it wanted to hear and avoiding any real involvement in NSA operations.

This is why Bamford's books in general and this latest one in particular are so important. He is not accurate in every thing he reports about NSA nor do his informants understand all of the technical issues.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Mazza on January 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
NSA can vacuum clean just about everything going over telcom, and indeed has been doing it. Bamford confirms this is not a paranoid nightmare, but an operational reality. He diligently details how and where NSA has spliced into telcom and internet centers, and whose technology they are using - prominently among them Israeli companies closely tied to that nation's intelligence agencies. Bamford strongly implies that these companies, including Narus and Verint, have a backdoor into everything NSA is vacuuming up.

Bamford's book could well be used in preparing prosecution cases against NSA officials including former Director Michael Hayden, who pushed into warrantless wiretapping post-911. What Hayden et al did, prodded by Bush and Cheney, was to basically set up the facilities to mass suck virtually everything that went over telcom or internet. While this has been exposed, the current status of these operations is unclear. But it seems a pretty safe bet to assume that from somewhere, Big Ears are listening.

Bamford is the great historian of NSA. His "Puzzle Palace" was the first extensive revelation of the agency. "Shadow Factory" is the best current telling of the NSA story. He underscores that the technology exists for total surveillance. The agency's greatest current difficulty, actually interpreting the information flow, is being addressed with super-fast computers and advanced software coming on line in the next few years. So if the ability of the big ears to actually track all conversations and messages for keywords is not quite here, it will be soon. And by the way, it appears that voiceprint programs will be able to pick out anyone's unique signature out of millions of calls. Yeah, it's "Enemy of the State," and it's real.

My conclusion - Americans must make a choice between maintaining a global empire or restoring their personal privacy. It's that stark.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on January 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Of what?

Of all sorts of stuff, James Bamford makes clear:
* NSA incompetence;
* NSA politicization
* Telecoms' long history, well before 9/11, of willingness to illegally become NSA lackeys;
* NSA data overload;
* NSA privatization of ever-more functions;
* A largely bipartisan sign-off on all this;
* And, though not directly addressed by Bamford, the flip side of unifying all intelligence services under a DNI.

Following uyp on his previous investigations of the National Security Agency, Bamford has two themes here -- the post-9/11 and Islamic-world threat NSA's growth and strategy, or lack thereof; and, the post-Internet rise attempts to not only gather communications, but process, crunch and analyze them.

Beyond looking at the NSA's snooping, especialy when taking a look ahead to the future, Bamford asks what this means in possible further attacks on civil liberties; new NSA programs; NSA future demands for computing and electric power; and more.

A must read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Randy on June 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Writing this review, the timing is about a week after Edward Snowden told our country about PRISM. This book is an in depth look at the National Security Agency. It gives you idea about the breadth of our country's various ways our government has used surveillance on Americans and the world. It tells you about technology and how that has enabled the NSA to do it's job.

PRISM started in 2007 and it seems that Bamford is talking about that program. In a book of this length some information will pop-out and often the narrative will drag on. When an author wants to connect the dots as Bamford does, the story takes time. This is essential reading, I highly recommend this book.

For those who have kindles, the real page numbers are not available.
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