By James Bamford
Penguin Books, 655 pp, 1983
This book probably created quite a stir
when it was released in the early 1983s. It chronicled blatantly illegal
government activities dating back to the World War I, like intercepting
private correspondence and domestic phone calls. All done in the name of
national security, of course.
Such revelations seem rather tame today. In
fact, anyone who reads Tom Clancy's books already know much of what's in
this book, and wouldn't be too surprised by anything they didn't know.
The National Security Agency (NSA) is
indeed America's largest intelligence organization. It has the technology
to eavesdrop on virtually all domestic and foreign communications, using
various high-tech methods I won't and can't explain right now. Author
James Bamford describes all this in sometimes mind-numbing detail, which
is the main fault of the book. Often, the detail is boring and, twenty
years later, undoubtedly out of date.
If you want to know how the NSA got its
start, how it was organized as of the late 1970s, how it does the things
it does, who all the directors were, what were some of the major issues
and crises the agency has faced, how it has interacted with Congress, why
Israel attacked one of its ships during the Six Days' War, who some of its
traitors were, how it relates and cooperates with friendly foreign
governments, and the role it played in America's wars, then read this
book. For the most part, it's interesting and informative. Just treat it
as a history book, because I am sure the NSA no longer uses cutting-edge,
1970s technology, and probably changed its structure, as well.