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The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 2. Juni 2009

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“This, very simply, is the most informative book ever written on the inside bureaucratic struggles and the outside operations of the National Security Agency. Matthew Aid is our reigning expert on the NSA.” ―Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib

“NSA analysis now comprises as much as 60 percent of the president's daily intelligence briefing, and Aid provides a critical history of the agency that has the ear of the leader of the free world. A sprawling but revealing look at a powerful, shadowy agency of the American government.” ―Kirkus

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Matthew M. Aid is a leading intelligence historian, expert on the National Security Agency, and regular commentator on intelligence matters for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the National Journal, the Associated Press, CBS News, NPR, and many other media outlets. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 66 Rezensionen
95 von 99 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
The National Security Agency Exposed 7. Juli 2009
Von Spec. Five, ASA, Retired - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The Secret Sentry is an extraordinary book, providing much more information about the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) then was previously available. Some people will know that the NSA history unit has recently released volumes of material on aspects of the history of the agency. In some measure these releases were due to Matthew Aid, the author of the book. Matthew served in the old Air Force Security Service, one of the service arms of NSA. He has experience inside the system but has done extraordinary research in the records held by the National Archives and Records Administration facility at College Park. The quality of his efforts have been so good that other people, once they became aware of his endeavors, who worked in the NSA world have shared experiences with him. Matthew discovered that the people who were supposed to cull records before they were transfered to College Park missed a lot of documents. He also learned to effectively use the Freedom of Information Act to nudge documents out of NSA and other intelligence organizations. The net result is a work that provides more insight into the operations of the Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) community than has been available before. It is an up and down story with both successes and failures. But the important insight that emerges is that SIGINT often has provided the greatest volume of material used by the services, other intelligence agencies, and the White House. During the Vietnam War much of the intelligence that the military and political structure used to fight the conflict came from SIGINT. Also, there were times when NSA broke into Russian communications, although not often enough. Matthew provides an surprising amount of information on the use and misuse of SIGINT from the Gulf War to the present. His history also makes clear, that as was the case with Pearl Harbor, SIGINT information can be so volumonous that important facts can lost or overlooked until it is too late. He also reminds us that when polititians become their own intelligence officers the result is often dismal, if not to say distorted.

For the sake of ethical accountability, I wish to disclose that I know Matthew Aid and have been after him for years to publish his research. I also was a member of the NSA family, having served in the old Army Security Agency, with two tours of Vietnam (his depiction of SIGINT use in Vietnam is the best I have seen). It should also be understood that many of the chapters in the book could individually be expanded into book-length studies. Matthew has much more data than he was able to use in the book. Actually, the publisher, Bloomsbury, is to be acknowledge to allow almost a quarter of the book to be footnotes. It is unusual for a book on intelligence, particularly one from a commercial publisher, to be so heavily documented. A final note: the book is quite accessible and a fast read because of the way it is organized. The book could have used a bigger acronym list,perhaps a brief explaination of the SIGINT cycle as well as how the individual service SIGINT organizations functioned in the NSA system. But, no matter, you come away from this book knowing a lot more than you ever did before.
31 von 32 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Almost The Best Possible Work on the Subject 12. September 2009
Von A Customer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Aid's Secret Sentry is a remarkable effort of research, persistence, writing, and most important: timing. His footnoting is impressive and he was prudent enough to wait until Tom Johnson's authoritative four volume classified history of NSA was (partially) declassified and posted by the National Security Archive to finish his own volume. His debt to Johnson shows in his footnotes. For years, Jim Bamford's "Puzzle Palace" and "Body of Secrets" were the only real public sources on NSA, but Matthew Aid has now surpassed him in all areas but one: the evolution of technology and NSA's role in creating the modern electronic and computer world. For that you still need "Body of Secret's" chapter fourteen. Unlike Bamford's breezier works, this is not a "popular" book, but for anyone genuinely interested in the real story of this essential component of national security, Aid's account of the United States codebreaking and communications intelligence effort is essential and will not soon be bested.
35 von 38 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Well-Done History of Fascinating Organization 14. Oktober 2009
Von zorba - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is the most comprehensive history I've read about the NSA, but if it has a fault, it is what seems to be a slight tendency to overplay the agency's failures and underplay its many successes. However, the agency, faced with a Herculean -- arguably impossible -- task comports itself pretty well throughout the book. Also, the author seems to suffer from the same problem the agency does: far more information than he can process in a book of some 400 pages, almost a hundred pages of which are footnotes. But, I found it mostly interesting -- riveting in a few spots -- but Aid tried to do too much here. For instance, I think he would have had a better book if he had cut way back on the details about NSA's tactical role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I wish he had gone into more detail about how the agency processes the enormous amounts of information it takes in, especially since he cites that as one of the major problem areas facing the NSA and, in fact, may be the one problem that may doom it. I always get a sense of dread when journalists write about our intelligence organizations because the articles or books often turn into political diatribes or they give away too much information that could be useful to our foes. I must say that Aid, unlike some others who write about NSA and seem to have a political agenda, mostly resists this unacceptable trend. "Mostly," I said. But, all in all, it's a pretty good book.
13 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A tough topic, but a poor effort 19. Mai 2013
Von Andy in Washington - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
The NSA isn't an easy topic to write about. It is not an agency that normally seeks attention, and works hard to avoid publicity or disclosure of its activities. So in some sense I admire Matthew Aid for even taking a shot at a history of the NSA.

=== The Good Stuff ===

* The book is well-researched and has plenty of supporting material included. It may actually go too far, roughly a quarter of the book is notes and references.

* There are some indications of the NSA's successes. There is brief mention of Operation Ivy Bells, where an undersea cable carrying Soviet intelligence was tapped and monitored. There were also some information on the NSA's successes in cracking the encoded transmissions of other countries.

=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===

* The author seems to have a bias against the NSA. As an example, in one case the author describes how a certain operation only "served to 'tick' off the North Vietnamese off". Well maybe so, but wasn't that the idea?

* The book doesn't discuss the lower level details of the NSA operations. There is no mention of how any of the code-breaking was done, how satellites captured radio transmissions, or any other technical details. Neither was there any high-level details of the political, strategic or tactical consequences of any NSA operations.

In fact there was nothing in the book other than a series of brief overview of NSA activities. Msjor events in the world, such as the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon receive nothing more than a few paragraphs describing that the NSA received some inkling of the attack, but were unable to convince anyone of the seriousness of the threat.

* The was little or no organization of material, other than a roughly chronological order. Successive paragraphs might discuss Bosnia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The end result was a choppy series of short narratives, with no analysis, overall discussion of successes, failures, techniques, technologies or capabilities.

=== Summary ===

There was not a whole lot of reward for reading this book. It became a tedious collection of short snippets of information about things the NSA was involved in, but no real analysis or overall look at how the NSA functions, how successful it was, or the consequences of any of its actions.

Unless you are somehow determined to read every book ever written about the NSA, I'd say this book is well worth skipping.
6 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Looking Under the Covers 11. November 2009
Von Retired Reader - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
The National Security Agency (NSA) wears one of the thicker cloaks of secrecy among the agencies of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). For this reason any book that purports to be "The Untold History of" the NSA ought to be viewed with suspicion. In this case however Matthew Aid has actually produced an accurate and compelling history of NSA. Perhaps equally important his book does not compromise any of NSA's sensitive sources and methods. This book can serve to provide the context for better understanding James Bamford's series of books on NSA and indeed to understand NSA itself.
That being said this book by necessity is very much a surface treatment of a very complex institution. For example it is focused entirely on the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID) to the exclusion of NSA's equally important Information Assurance Directorate (IAD).
Also Aid is much too kind in his discussion of NSA management over the years. For example although he mentions the NSA unplanned three day outage, but fails to mention that NSA management had been repeatedly warned that this was exactly going to happen by folks both within the agency and by outside consultants for at least two years before the event (which was a lot more the "main processing computer"). As for General Hayden's fabled "100 Days of Change", it did not hit NSA "like a tidal wave", but more like another round of meaningless rhetoric. The only tangible result was the implementation of the disastrous `Trailblazer' initiative which succeeded in squandering millions of dollars and whatever goodwill NSA had left with the congress.
So a good book within limitations that provides probably the most solid unclassified history of NSA that has yet been written.
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