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The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America [Hardcover]

James Bamford
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 14 2008
James Bamford exposed the existence of the top-secret National Security Agency in the bestselling The Puzzle Palace and continued to probe into its workings in his follow-up bestseller, Body of Secrets. Now Bamford discloses inside, often shocking information about the transformation of the NSA in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001.

In THE SHADOW FACTORY, Bamford shows how the NSA’s failure to detect the presence of two of the 9/11 hijackers inside the United States led the NSA to abandon its long-held policy of spying only on enemies outside the country. Instead, after 9/11 it turned its almost limitless ability to listen in on friend and foe alike over to the Bush Administration to use as a weapon in the war on terror. With unrivaled access to sources and documents, Bamford details how the agency has conducted domestic surveillance without court approval, and he frames it in the context of the NSA’s ongoing hunt for information about today’s elusive enemies.

THE SHADOW FACTORY is a riveting read for anyone concerned about civil liberties and America’s security in the post-9/11 world.

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Praise for Body of Secrets:

“Extraordinary....A galvanizing narrative brimming with heretofore undisclosed details.” —The New York Times Book Review

“With a flair and clarity that rivals those of the best spy novelists, Bamford has created a masterpiece of investigative reporting.” —Publishers Weekly

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 2005 Rolling Stone article “The Man Who Sold the War” won a 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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5.0 out of 5 stars A Study on Our Watchers Dec 13 2013
By James 'error' Campbell TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I cannot authoritatively assert what makes this book relevant; except to indicate its substantiation of the agency behind the leaks of Edward Snowden.

I had already known exactly what was contained inside these pages before reading it, because it is only logical. Our technological society is being monitored whole-cloth by a titan surveillance apparatus with a global scope. Many of those whom I discuss these topics with, insist quite earnestly that 'the Shadow Factory' is not concerned with a democratic, law abiding citizen such as myself. They assemble justification that it is for our protection that the NSA exists and functions in a capacity, in which we may extract safety for ourselves and others: a desirable outcome.

This aside, we all should know that within the light, there is a strong possibility of emerging darkness. With every sunrise there is a promise of a sunset. Even in the ambiguous account of 'the Bible' -feel as you may about it- we observe Lucifer, an angel, falling from grace to become Satan. I have no doubt at all that this is the potential for our protectorate, the National Security Agency, regardless of its current image or function. James Bamford is in himself a fairly shadowy figure, kept on the periphery of mainstream discussion: I only bought this book because I watch 'Democracy Now' (an online independent news source). It stands to logic that Bamford is not referenced frequently these days, or turned to popular account as an authority, solely because he speaks in the interest of us, the people.

I did not particularly enjoy the beginning chapters of "The Shadow Factory". The substance of the start of this book, is focused narrowly in its displaying the security failures preventing the attacks on September 11 2001.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  95 reviews
128 of 144 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking Under Rocks Oct. 17 2008
By Retired Reader - Published on
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. Yet overall this book is a service to the cause of good government and raises a host of red flags that ought to be looked into by congress.

In this book he discusses three inter-related issues: first, there is the failure of NSA, CIA and the FBI to share vital information prior to 9/11 and their collective failures to effectively analyze available data; second, there is NSA's reluctant but undoubted subversion of Constitutional rights of privacy accorded to all in the U.S. both citizens and visitors; and finally there is the festering problem of the use of contractors for core missions by all of the agencies of the IC and the general haze of corruption hanging over all government contracting processes. NSA appears to have some particularly serious issues in this regard.

When any government or part of government operates behind a curtain secrecy with ineffective oversight it is an invitation to corruption and abuse of power. Bamford has done his best to shine a light on this aspect of NSA.
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be very scared... Jan. 16 2009
By S. J. Snyder - Published on
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.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confirms worst fears Jan. 13 2009
By Patrick Mazza - Published on
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surveillance the American Way June 11 2013
By Randy - Published on
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THEY KNOW IF YOU ARE NAUGHTY OR NICE June 20 2011
By EASY TRAVELER - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Presented here in is exactly how your tax money is spent so that a few public servants and apparently Israel can know precisely what you do think and say.

Looks like at one time they collected so much info they didn't know what to do with it. BUT I bet by now all you have to do is enter some tid-bit about you and a computer serves it up in seconds. In fact I have reason to KNOW that it's possible. I've tested it a few times and I KNOW you can do it. Disgusting. This is what you do with a high I.Q.and a lot of somebody elses money. What a hoot.

July 10 2013:

Edward Snowden.
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