Monday, January 12, 2009

NYT Book Review: Dickey on the NSA and Mumbai

BOOK REVIEW

'The Shadow Factory' How eavesdropping became big business

The Shadow Factory The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America By James Bamford 395 pages. Doubleday. $27.95.

'Probably the best place within the entire region to install a listening post is the Indian city of Mumbai," James Bamford writes in "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America," his latest book about the all-seeing, all-hearing National Security Agency. Without question, he says, Mumbai "represents the kind of location where the N.S.A. would seek to establish a secret presence." And such a place, he notes elsewhere in his book, "presents an extremely tempting target for terrorists."

As it happened, I read those lines at precisely the same time that Mumbai became the scene of a bloody three-day siege that killed more than 170 people and wounded many hundreds. Telecoms were not attacked, and whether there was some symbolic connection between the NSA's ambitions and the terrorists' targeting is not a question that can be answered definitively here and now or, perhaps, ever. But it's a fair bet that Bamford will find a way to work the bloodbath at the Taj Mahal hotel into the long NSA narrative that he began with "The Puzzle Palace" in 1982, followed up with "Body of Secrets" in 2001, and may well continue after the present book. These are the kinds of details, or coincidences, that Bamford loves. .... (more)


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