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The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the…

The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency

by Matthew M. Aid

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Starting with the early years of the AFSA and other organizations, the book is structured chronologically through the last half century, revealing NSA's contributions to national security, military efforts, and intelligence-sharing. Detailing both NSA's successes and failures, politics and technology, and ever-changing challenges, Aid provides an fascinating account of an otherwise mysterious agency. Recently having read Bamford's "Body of Secrets", I appreciated Secret Sentry's logical progression and organization, as well as nearly a decade's worth of updated information. An excellent read. ( )
  JDR82 | Nov 6, 2011 |
Interesting, but detail was exhaustive at times. Still can't beat the access he's clearly had to many people who were there at the time. ( )
  jandm | Nov 9, 2009 |
From the Back:

In February 2006, while researching this book, Matthew Aid uncovered a massive and secret document reclassification program--a revelation that made the front page of the New York Times. This is only one of the discoveries Aid has made during two decades of research in formerly top-secret documents. In The Secret Sentry, Aid provides the first-ever full history of America's largest security apparatus, the National Security Agency.

This comprehensive account traces the growth of the agency from 1945 to the present through critical moments in its history, from the cold war up to its ongoing involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Aid explores the agency's involvement in the Iraqi weapons intelligence disaster, where evidence that NSA officials called "ambiguous" was used as proof of Iraqi WMD capacity, and details the intense debate within the NSA over its unprecedented role, pressed by the Bush-Cheney administration, in spying on U.S. citizens.

Today, the NSA has become the most important source of intelligence for the U.S. government, providing 60 percent of the president's daily intelligence briefing. While James Bamford's New York Times bestseller The Shadow Factory covered the NSA since 9/11, The Secret Sentry contains new information about every period since World War II. It provides a shadow history of global affairs over the last half-century.

My Take:

This book and the National Security agency, I fear, share a common struggle, information overload. Matthew Aid has put in the time and provides an overwhelming amount of information for one volume. Unfortunately, the information is presented with the excitement and enthusiasm that is generally reserved for RTA furniture instructions.

I did learn quite a bit from reading this book, however. Like I said before, there is a lot of information in the book. That information is slanted heavily to conform to the author's political views. Most of the book seems to focus more on the agency's failures than its actual successes. It is also very clear in the later sections of the book that Matthew Aid was strongly against the war in Iraq and the Bush administration in general. This is hardly surprising considering the liberal news agencies he provides commentary to.

Overall, I rate this book as average. It does contain tons of factual information. I just wish that it could have been presented in a more interesting way and also a politically neutral way.

About the Author:

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. ( )
  mniday | Nov 1, 2009 |
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Presents a history of the agency, from its inception in 1945, to its role in the Cold War, to its controversial advisory position at the time of the Bush administration's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, shortly before the invasion of 2003.… (more)

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