Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the National Security Agency stepped up its efforts to collect intelligence domestically by filtering millions of phone conversations and e-mail messages. In his new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 To The Eavesdropping On America, journalist James Bamford reveals that the ultra-secret agency has half a million people on its watch lists. Bamford has been writing about the inner workings of the NSA since his first book, The Shadow Factory: A Report On America’s Most Secret Agency, was published in 1982. He is also the author of Body Of Secrets: Anatomy Of The Ultra-Secret National Security Agency.
EXCERPT: Michael Vincent Hayden stood at the window of his large corner office looking west through rimless glasses with rectangular lenses. Balding, with dark, graying hair cropped close on the sides, he had a broad globelike forehead, cheeks that were full and friendly, and a slight chin that quickly disappeared into his neck. At fifty-six, he was in good shape—stood as straight as a plumb line but carried a slight paunch that pressed tight against the buttons of his starched, powder-blue shirt. On each shoulder was a cloth epaulet with three silver stars, the rank of an air force lieutenant general.
Unrecognizable to most Americans, the man at the window was the nation’s top electronic spy, overseeing more analysts and operatives than anyone else in the country and possibly the planet. In addition to people, he controlled the largest collection of eavesdropping tools the world had ever known: constellations of billion-dollar satellites that could hear whispers on a cell phone from more than twenty-two thousand miles in space; moonlike listening posts around the globe with dozens of giant white orbs containing satellite dishes capable of pulling in tens of millions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and faxes an hour; and, to sort it all out, the largest collection of supercomputers on earth. In addition, he controlled the agency’s own secret military force, the little-known Central Security Service, with its fleets of ships, submarines, and aircraft that quietly vacuum the world for telltale voices and data.
The vast and mysterious city stretched out below Hayden was the largest, most powerful, and most intrusive eavesdropping machine ever created. Made up of tens of thousands of people, more than fifty buildings, dozens of receiving antennas, and the planet’s most powerful number-crunching supercomputers, it had one overriding goal: access. Access to billions of private hard-line, cell, and wireless telephone conversations; text, e-mail, and instant Internet messages; Web-page histories, faxes, and computer hard drives. Access to any signal or device that might contain information in any form regardless of protection—firewalls, encryption, or passwords. Never before in history had a single person controlled so much secret power to pry into so many private lives.
The NSA was once a backwater agency whose director had to fight to sit at the same table with the CIA chief, but by the time Hayden arrived it had become the largest, most expensive, and most technologically advanced spy organization on the planet. Supplying nearly 80 percent of all intelligence to the rest of government, it needed an entire city to house it—a city that, if incorporated, would be one of the largest municipalities in the state of Maryland. At the same time, it remained nearly as dark and mysterious as when Harry Truman secretly created it, without the approval—or even knowledge—of Congress, nearly half a century earlier. To those who worked there, NSA still stood for No Such Agency and Never Say Anything. To those on the outside it was virtually invisible, hidden from the world behind a labyrinth of barbed wire and electrified fences, massive boulders, motion detectors, hydraulic antitruck devices, cement barriers, attack dogs, and submachine gun-toting commandos in black ninja outfits nicknamed “Men in Black.” MORE
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