Book World Live: The Shadow Factory
The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America

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James Bamford
Investigative Journalist and National Security Expert
Tuesday, October 14, 2008; 3:00 PM

“By exploring the current, post-9/11 operations of the NSA, Bamford also goes where congressional oversight committees and investigative journalists still struggle to go. Rather than finding out what went wrong in the run-up to 9/11 and disciplining those who made serious mistakes, the Bush administration declared its need for new authorities to wage a global war on terror. Congress agreed to most of the White House’s demands, though we know from other sources that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle resisted some of the most extreme requests. According to Bamford, the NSA’s expanded powers and resources enabled it to collect communications both inside and outside the United States. He quotes a former NSA employee as a witness to the agency’s spying on the conversations of Americans who have no connection to terrorism. After suing the NSA for documents, the author obtained considerable evidence that telecommunication companies (with the notable exception of Qwest) knowingly violated U.S. law by cooperating with the NSA to tap fiber optic lines.

In impressive detail, The Shadow Factory tells how private contractors, including some little-known entities with foreign owners, have done the sensitive work of storing and processing the voices and written data of Americans and non-Americans alike. And Bamford warns of worse to come: ‘There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss — the abyss from which there is no return.'”

Bestselling author James Bamford was online Tuesday, October 14 to discuss his new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, which was reviewed in Book World. In the book, he offers new revelations about the National Security Agency’s counterterrorism tactics, including its controversial domestic surveillance programs.

Bamford is the author of two other books on the NSA: Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace. A former investigative producer for ABC’s World News Tonight, he currently writes and produces documentaries for the PBS series NOVA.





Root for the Little Guy (Again)

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Friday, October 3, 2008; WE32

The true story of inventor Robert Kearns‘s years-long struggle to force the Detroit auto industry to admit it stole his 1963 design for the intermittent windshield wiper will appeal less to courtroom-drama fans than to stick-it-to-the-Man fans in “Flash of Genius.”

For one thing, the courtroom drama — a climactic lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. in which Kearns (Greg Kinnear) acts as his own attorney — doesn’t kick in until almost 90 minutes, and much human drama, have elapsed. By then, there has been another whole movie, in which Kearns loses his job, his wife (Lauren Graham), his lawyer (Alan Alda), the affection of his kids and, nearly, his sanity.

That movie is not half bad, either. The trial, by comparison, will feel familiar to anyone who has ever watched any David take on any corporate Goliath before a court of law (“Erin Brockovich,” “A Civil Action,” etc., etc.).

What’s more, it’s not as if the outcome of the lawsuit will have too many on the edge of their seats. The movie, directed by Marc Abraham, is based on a 1993 New Yorker magazine story. Kearns was even profiled in a long article in this newspaper. Oh, and guess what? They don’t make a whole lot of movies about the triumph of soulless corporations over plucky whistleblowers.

Not that I wouldn’t go to see one if they did.

Kinnear, who burns through a number of different hairpieces as his character ages, will have you rooting for the chipper if dweeby engineering professor. The genial actor does a yeoman’s job of charting Kearns’s self-destructive obsession.

Still, we’d relate to him even if he didn’t. This is the story of Everyman vs. the System, and we’ve all heard it before. It’s Kearns who had his work cut out for him. Kinnear’s job is a relative cakewalk.

Michael O’Sullivan