The Shadow Factory
By James Bamford Doubleday; 395 pages
In the annals of U.S. espionage, there are few groups more secretive than the National Security Agency (NSA), the covert Defense Department organization that illegally tapped the phones of U.S. citizens in the frenzied, fearful wake of Sept. 11, 2001. In his third book on the agency, Bamford, a former Navy analyst, catalogs the humiliating blunders that allowed the hijackers into the country and the subsequent failure to locate them--despite the fact that at one point, they were listed in the phone book. The 9/11 attacks, he argues, put enormous pressure on the NSA to "turn its massive ears inward." Armed with White House--approved decisions to ignore the Constitution and un-supervised access to AT&T customers' phone calls, the NSA transformed from a passive information gatherer to a "hunter," actively seeking information it wasn't allowed to take. But as The Shadow Factory points out, the more voices the NSA heard, the harder it was to pick out those that mattered. That Big Brother is watching is bad enough; it's worse to think he may not be doing any good.
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