Review: The Shadow Factory–The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America

Amazon Page

Author’s Two Points: NSA as Enabler of Tyranny, Channel for Israel, October 19, 2008

James Bamford

10 Aug 10 PBI Edit to add Amazon link and Review link.

The book is a devastating complement to A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies. See also (or at least read reviews) his earlier books about NSA, The Puzzle Palace: A Report on NSA, America’s Most Secret Agency and Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency.

The author tells us that NSA red flag went up on 21 June. 30 distinct warnings within NSA in June-July; 6 August was the 36th time Bin Laden briefed to President, and blown off; by 21 August FBI and CIA both knew two terrorists were in the USA–FBI assigned to a rookie who ignored it for a week and then mistakenly marked as a witness wanted, not as a terrorist armed and dangerous.

911 Commission did not visit NSA or ask NSA questions–neither the Commissioners nor the staff understood NSA or how it contributed to 911

New insights into the culture of lethargy and inter-agency competition, with details on multiple failures by CIA, NSA, and FBI–NSA had location in California but did not bother to look up area codes; CIA knew two were in US but would not tell FBI; CIA did not inform State, INS issued asylum without checking false name.

NSA was fooled by Chalabi sending a fax with WMD locations, forced to send out a CRITIC, now realize Chalabi was told to send the fax with that content and then NSA was ordered to look for it and broadcast it as a CRITIC.

NSA budget cut 32% in 1990′s *and* made a huge bad decision, letting the older employee go rather than retrenching with newer employees and more languages. IC $40 billion, DoD non-national $20 billion (page 199), 70% to contractors.

Obama voted for telecommunication immunity, McCain supported but did not vote. NSA actively monitoring roughly 500 in US and between 5000 and 7000 overseas. NSA hiring priorities today are 1) Guards, 2) Polygraphers 3) Linguists, 4) Analysts

NSA 650 million intercepts a day, equal to number of letters USPS delivers (as of 2002). 1% of world traffic via satellite, but bulk of NSA hits from that because they have not completely retooled to do fiber and to process what they collect.

Check Point, NICE, Narus, Verint all doing bad things for US democracy while avidly selling “NSA-certified” capabilities to dictators. Mix of pedestrian and niche tools in-house, generally I am not impressed. NSA over the top on out-sourcing to Israeli companies, to contractors, in words of one source: “sucking wind”

Microsoft and NSA co-located in San Antonio. Author does not mention Google, which is totally out of control and at least as intrusive.

Hayden stripped of acquisition authority by Congress in 2003. Oct 2001 55 contracts, 144 contracting firms; Oct 2005 7197 contracts, 4,388 contracting firms. Page 330 citing Hayden: “The costs were greater than anticipated, to the tune of, I would say, in the hundreds of millions.”

NSA and Air Force going great guns with cyberwarfare, many concerned that they are creating a pre-emption capability and attitude that will give similar free rein to others (e.g. Chinese, Russians, Indians, Brazilians).

NSA has routinely handed off coverage to Canadians and British so as to bypass the law. Hayden threw out the rule book after 911, solid expose of his multiple errors.

National Security Letters, 143,074 issued from 2003-2005, 60% not in compliance with regulations, 22% distinctly criminal in nature

Terrorism watchlist contains over 500,000 names, adding thousands each month, is housed on a humble Dell, and there is no digital connectivity between CIA or NSA with the counterterrorism center. Air gaps demand that names be reentered by hand.

CISCO’s encrypted routing cracked by NSA. Inmarsat and all telecommunications companies except Quest sold their clients out (and Quest may be disinformation)

NSA now in the assassination business, got cell phone GPS for a high value target in Yemen, able to connect to CIA and get armed Predator over it, kill. Now focusing on individual voice recognition to do more such assassinations

Book appears to contain disinformation with respect to how NSA gets close-in equipment into foreign countries, with respect to its undersea fiber tapping capabilities, and with respect to Skype being “unbuggable”

FBI consistently sloppy with errors and misrepresentations to FISA court

2012 duplicate NSA in Georgia

Hayden described as a “three-star sycophant.” Hayden’s *first* strike: over-cautious and shut down NSA while also screwing over FBI after the fact by putting FISA warnings on all traffic, not just the 1% actually covered by FISA. (Second strike was warrantless wiretapping; third strike was rendition and torture).

NSA Green Zone operations versus cell phones producing 75% of actionable intelligence on the ground within Iraq

Kudos to Justice and FBI leadership while Ashcroft in hospital. Andy Card and Alberto Gonzalez cast as unscrupulous, arrogant, and evil

Mumbai, Mexico, NSA Texas, NSA Georgia, NSA Miami, NSA Hawaii

At least one unnamed senior IC leader scorches Dick Cheney for “his dick-measuring contest with Congress” and points out that Cheney’s obsession with throwing his weight around caused things to be done illegally with backlash, when they could have been done legally–ultimately Cheney’s misbehavior led to ham-stringing of NSA

CIA slammed: contractors stole many employees, sending them back to do mindless work at twice the price; hemorrhaging dollars to contractors

Good discussion of technology, access channels, processes of creating a “phone book” for patterns of calls

NSA building “HAL” in form of Advanced Question Answering for Intelligence (AQUAINT). NSA + ARDA: Novel Intelligence from Mass Data and Glass Box. Turbulence follows Trailblazer (which SAIC screwed up big time), the author tells us that as of 2007 it suffered same deficiencies under LtGen Alexander, USA as under then LtGen Mike Hayden, USAF

94% of all world traffic goes through US where NSA can “touch” it directly

NSA Latin America hub at 50 N.E. Street in Miami. Provides street addresses for MaeEast and MaeWest (page 187).

See also:
Friendly Spies: How America’s Allies Are Using Economic Espionage to Steal Our Secrets
War by Other Means: Economic Espionage in America
Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice
Wedge: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11–How the Secret War between the FBI and CIA Has Endangered National Security
Deep Cover: The Inside Story of How DEA Infighting, Incompetence and Subterfuge Lost Us the Biggest Battle of the Drug War

Vote and/or Comment on Review

EDIT of 21 Oct: I have no problem with visceral negative votes, if it makes you feel better, go for it. However, consider the possibility that I am every bit as patriotic and professional as each of you, I simply know more about the outside world while you know more about the inside world. Below is an accurate summary of the book. Go ahead, shoot the messenger–I have plenty of scar tissue and my integrity cannot be compromised by anyone’s unjustified censure (I respond well to intelligent management and reasoned censure). Use the comments section, if you wish–I will respond and try to get the author to respond also.

PS: Most of you will not remember, but I am the guy who introduced NSA to the “good guy” hacker community–those of you who were bused down to the Omni Shoreham in 1993 may be long gone by now. I am also the guy who introduced NSA to OSINT in Las Vegas keynote as well as the A Group lecture in 2001 and 2002. Distressed to see NSA doing so well at capturing open sources while leaving the OSC deaf, dumb, and blind, neither making that rich stuff available outside the wire.

EDIT of 20 Oct to add link to Robert Maxwell, Israel’s Superspy: The Life and Murder of a Media Mogul and to add comment with link and first section of media story, this week, on Israel as the primary “penetrator” of all US systems.