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The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
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James Bamford exposed the existence of the top-secret National Security Agency in the bestselling The Puzzle Palace and continued to probe into its workings in his follow-up bestseller, Body of Secrets. Now Bamford discloses inside, often shocking information about the transformation of the NSA in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001.

In THE SHADOW FACTORY, Bamford shows how the NSA¡¯s failure to detect the presence of two of the 9/11 hijackers inside the United States led the NSA to abandon its long-held policy of spying only on enemies outside the country. Instead, after 9/11 it turned its almost limitless ability to listen in on friend and foe alike over to the Bush Administration to use as a weapon in the war on terror. With unrivaled access to sources and documents, Bamford details how the agency has conducted domestic surveillance without court approval, and he frames it in the context of the NSA¡¯s ongoing hunt for information about today¡¯s elusive enemies.

THE SHADOW FACTORY is a riveting read for anyone concerned about civil liberties and America¡¯s security in the post-9/11 world.

Customer Reviews:

  • The Shadow Factory reviewed by Larry Ver Hage
    Mr. Bamford displays an intricate knowledge of the workings of the NSA and the book is a commendable explanation of its function and structure. Anyone wishing to understand what is going on in the field of signals intelegence today will find his research fascinating and informative. He has developed the subject matter very well and has built on his previous work of the subject. Unfortunately his anaylsis of the facts is colored by his own ideology this detracts from his objectivity and credibility. Mr. Bamford seems to have a notion of privacy that is out of proportion with reality both factually and jurisprudentially

    It would be helpful to develop a more balanced anaylsis of the role NSA plays in providing security for the continued existence to this constitutional Republic. Maybe it is time to ask what is privacy and where does personal privacy impinge on public deception. The Republic cannot last if the people dedicated to its demise are shielded by an exagerated and lochnerized notion of constitutional privacy....more info
  • Curtailment of Rights?
    This is a book that is important to read to understand the slippery slope `logic' used that has led to a curtailment of some civil liberties within America--this opinion I expect will generate some opposing opinions. The author tells the story of how various government agencies were aware of the activities of some 9-11 terrorists, but the agencies were unable or unwilling to communicate internally and externally with each other--turf wars run amuck describes the situation. This inability to communicate ensured a failure to connect the dots thus ensuring the success of the terrorist attack.

    The simplified solution generated by the professionals was to propose and initiate changes to allow for the surveillance of all Americans instead of fixing the communication problems and targeting the bad guys. The solution appears to be more of a power grab at the expense of overall individual Constitutional and legal rights. This book provides a discussion about the telecommunication laws in America and how they were used and abused in the past, primarily by the NSA. Some historically unsavory figures in U.S. history (for example, Admiral Poindexter of Contra-gate fame) reappear with connections to some of the most potentially intrusive surveillance projects imagined. But the information generated and stored is so vast that the NSA has admitted difficulty storing it much less processing or reviewing it for intelligence information and operational information with all its advanced super computers, technology and expertise. General Hayden (head of the NSA and then the CIA) is the key figure to follow due to his leadership position, and I'm not sure he was up to the task despite his promotions and continued service.

    This book is upsetting at the least, but is important to understand where America may be headed (i.e. less free with "Big Brother" listening and watching). I do not argue with the need for the intelligence agencies to operate in a covert matter but it has to be within the law. This book should be read in conjunction with Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" to see where America has lost its mythical moral high ground.
    ...more info
  • Interesting read
    This book is definitely an interesting read with quite a few shocking facts, at least for me. I wans't aware as to the depth of the eavesdropping program and it was therefore shocking to find to which extend this program invades the privacy of all of us.
    While the subject is captivating enough, the writer failed to captivate me. From my perspective this book could have been better written, thereby delivering a stronger message to a possibly bigger audience....more info
  • Response to The Shadow Factory
    After reading "The Shadow Factory", the author's premise of protecting the privacy rights of American citizen is a just one. Unfortunately, he chooses to mix fact with fiction in his attempt to entice the reader. In particular, the author makes numerous false and defamatory statements about an American software company, Narus, Inc. As the President and CEO of Narus, I have the facts about our company and wish to correct the record.

    The author falsely states that Narus is an Israeli company with strong ties to the Israeli intelligence community, and that Narus conducts mass surveillance on international and domestic communications. This is just poor research. Narus is an American company, founded in the U.S. and incorporated in Delaware in 1997. The fact that Narus was founded, operated, and headquartered in the Silicon Valley, by Israeli expatriates, does not make Narus an Israeli company. In fact, Narus has no ties to any Israeli agencies nor has it operated under the direction or control of the Israeli government or any Israeli company. The reason this matters has nothing to do with Israel per se or our views about Israel; rather, the author makes the implication that Narus is in some way involved in supplying intelligence to Israel. This is false. The company does not engage in surveillance activities.

    The author also suggests that Narus is responsible for oppression in China. To draw this conclusion is preposterous. We sell security, intercept and traffic management solutions to service providers and government organizations, to assist them in protecting and managing their complex IP networks. Narus is not a service company. We do not operate the software for customers, and do not engage in surveillance activities.

    It is unfortunate that an author of Mr. Bamford's history and experience would not take the time to do some basic research to validate his supposed facts. I believe the author has taken a good cause and done it a terrible injustice.

    ...more info
  • Be very scared...
    Of what?

    Of all sorts of stuff, James Bamford makes clear:
    * NSA incompetence;
    * NSA politicization
    * Telecoms' long history, well before 9/11, of willingness to illegally become NSA lackeys;
    * NSA data overload;
    * NSA privatization of ever-more functions;
    * A largely bipartisan sign-off on all this;
    * And, though not directly addressed by Bamford, the flip side of unifying all intelligence services under a DNI.

    Following uyp on his previous investigations of the National Security Agency, Bamford has two themes here -- the post-9/11 and Islamic-world threat NSA's growth and strategy, or lack thereof; and, the post-Internet rise attempts to not only gather communications, but process, crunch and analyze them.

    Beyond looking at the NSA's snooping, especialy when taking a look ahead to the future, Bamford asks what this means in possible further attacks on civil liberties; new NSA programs; NSA future demands for computing and electric power; and more.

    A must read....more info
  • Bamford's Shadow Factory
    Bamford does a credible job of presenting his view of the facts. He does make some mistakes in context and technical language that call into question his interpretations. It's well presented and overall, believable. ...more info
  • Interesting but not academic enough
    This book provides interesting information and addresses the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the most comprehensive manner I have seen to date although I have not read the report by the 9/11 Commission. My issue with this book is the style that it's written in. Bamford works hard to introduce the "characters" in the book and helps the reader get to know each one. That's fine for fiction, but this isn't fiction. I suspect that the selection of this writing style was a conscious decision by the author since it would likely appeal to a larger portion of readers. Unfortunately, this writing style changes the book's tone to one of simple pleasure and entertainment instead of serious investigative writing. To me this book reads too much like a Tom Clancy novel for me to get serious about even though it appears to be well-researched and accurate....more info
  • This will make the paranoid happy.
    Yesterday I concluded a week of disturbing sleep by wrapping up reading this book.

    I also sent money to the ACLU and the EFF, since both orgs are still pursuing the warrantless wiretapping business. Having read this, I felt pretty compelled to contribute to both orgs.

    If the knowledge that your every email, phone call, and IM is being captured and data-mined, you won't want to read this. The only comfort I found in the book is learning that, according to the writer, Google execs were brainstorming years ago about the possibility that they would be bullied by some agency into sharing user data and were thinking up ways to manipulate their own data to keep it useful for their purposes and useless to anybody else.

    At times, the level of detail in the book gets excessive. There's nothing wrong with skimreading a few pages till the author steps back a level and moves on with making a point.

    This wasn't a fun read but I'm glad I spent the time getting through it. I learned a lot.
    ...more info
  • Interesting
    The book is interesting, although not too surprising if you know anything about current events. While the content is good, the read is a little slow at times. Also, there are a few instances where the facts are just plain wrong......more info
  • criminals in charge
    Bamford's latest book is certainly well researched, and comes to some alarming conclusions: Israel has virtually bugged the entire world, and our government colludes with them in handing over all of our most private information, contrary to all of our laws and safeguards against such things. It is patently illegal, but is done anyway.

    The scope of the illegal activity, and the disregard for our Constitution that permeates these actions induce more terror in me than anything "our enemies" may try to do to us. We are officially in a police state, no matter how they spin it.
    ...more info
  • The Digital Ghost
    The wonderful Mr. Steele pretty much sums up both the content and context of the book, therefore, this reviewer shall observe the between the lines, if not the obvious flaws of the NSA according to the Shadow Factory.

    The cover has on its right hand face; albeit very diluted and diffused - the words: TOP SECRET / MJ 12. Now, knowing Bamford is likely to uncover things that will make you re-read just to make sure you didn't misread, i.e., Operation Northwoods from Body of Secrets and the like, my first impression was that Bamford must have gained early access to the recently released (Oct. 08) UK Defense Dept's UFO archives. I mean, if you're like me and feel like a Cray SV2 or a Narus box; crunching away at any and all data in the perpetual Qwest for a truth in which the question evolves thus obscuring and complicating the initial answer you sought, you know what this `alleged organisation' does, or did. In short; the cover is the only place book you will find this MJ 12 which I am at a loss to explain its purpose on the cover; anyway...

    In typical Bamford style, the detail is excruciating in minutiae, not to the extent of Body of Secrets, or to a lesser degree, Puzzle Palace, but peppered throughout are nuggets well worth the virtue of patience. Mr. Steele covered these `nuggets' in an equally thorough manner in his review. As Body of Secrets opens with the curious and paradoxical interceptor's motto "In God we trust, all others we monitor", p. 313 of the Shadow Factory reiterates this curious connection between God and the NSA: "You're doing the Lord's work" states Georgia Republican Senator Saxby at a quiet NSA ceremony to employees - a truly bizarre mission statement with a moment of thought when compared to the 10th Commandment of the Decalogue.

    Then there is the `bad guy', the world's greatest asset for the post 9-11 techno boom: "UBL" (p. 56 etc). Like Body of Secrets (p. 410) where Bamford casually states (prior to 9-11) that "NSA regularly listens to unencrypted calls from suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden, in hiding in Afghanistan. Bin Laden uses a portable INMARSAT phone that transmits and receives calls over spacecraft owned by the International Marine Satellite Organisation.... According to intelligence officials, Bin Laden is aware that the US can eavesdrop on his international communications, but he does not seem to care. To impress cleared visitors, NSA analysts occasionally play audiotapes of Bin Laden talking to his mother over an INMARSAT connection." Bamford rehashed this in Pretext for War (p. 168) and even provides "UBL's" phone number on (ibid, p. 163) and again in Shadow Factory (p. 8); despite the bin Laden al-Qaeda (the Fight) bogeyman being inferred responsible for 9-11 by Richard Clarke and CTC (ibid pp. 55-56 etc), in spite of the reality, Bamford makes no mention that the FBI's own terrorist page of the elusive "UBL" makes no connection between 9-11 and "UBL". It is Bamford's attention to detail that one expects this `small detail' to be put forth in conclusion. This, however, is the only criticism of Bamford's style I can share.

    After ingesting the Shadow Factory, one cannot help but feel that the ABYSS that is the NSA, both in terms of data and money, is merely a symptom of a sick and paranoid system. For the No Such Agency or Never Say Anything NSA to come into the spotlight is a sign that all else has failed. For a democratic system which has diplomacy as its "restraining of power" as Kissinger says, to hold up the NSA and tell the world; "we can hear everything you say," is a sad last resort brand of politics using NSA as shadowy standover - a digital ghost - everywhere, unseen, but ever-present; the final weapon no longer looking out, but set up as a firewall between the Executive and rightful and lawful dissent from within. However, with "the annual equivalent of a thirty-foot stack of books for every man, woman, and child on the planet (p. 3)" in data flowing into the agency, one cannot help but conclude that the greatest threat to this unfathomable power is not terrorists or exposure, but the Achilles of NSA would be as simple as all non-work related e-mails going back to the good ol' tried and tested handwritten or printed letter using the USPS. GASP!!!

    Shadow Factory in Summation
    Bamford tells a story whereby as a result of the warrantless surveillance program in the U.S (and world), NSA employees have been cast as little more than well educated glorified perverts or voyeurs, listening to the intimate conversations of mostly average folk in anonymity whilst making jokes; degraded into doing little more than indulging the narcissistic paranoia of the Angler and the current resident of P-52 which is clearly the consequence of a guilty conscience - overcompensation I think is the term. The trillions of dollars spent to nab a few terrorists, or potential terrorists (however that's defined) and line the pockets of Defense and Techno contractors is nothing short of palpable. Bamford cites on p. 327 that the NSA is attempting to build the HAL-9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, whereby you can ask the computer a question and it will give you an answer. Let's just hope that no one asks the computer this; "Based on ALL the information at your disposal, HAL, should the Bush administration be impeached?" Or maybe HAL could be asked to come up with a better motto for the NSA interceptor? I think in all probability the answer would be: "It takes one to know one."
    This book is a must for the world that is not only coming, but is already upon us all. Great work Mr. Bamford. 4 Stars.
    ...more info
  • Bamford omits any semblance of context
    Bamford is an entertaining writer.

    But his book lacks context.

    One of the issues that prevented NSA from communicating its concerns about the upcoming 9/11 attacks were the deliberate political and legal "walls" of separation that prevented various bureaucracies from communicating and from taking effective action.

    For another ... for years, people in the NYC area were entertained by local newspaper accounts of Soviet electronic evesdropping being carried out right under our noses. Most likely people outside the local area had no idea. But the local papers described how, for example, a high-rise building for the Soviet consulate was constructed on high ground in the northern end of Manhattan that would "vacuum" up the microwave transmissions from the top of the Empire State Building. Added to that was a "summer residence" out on Long Island that allowed the Soviets to do electronic evesdropping on the Grumman factory that made the Navy AWACS type of aircraft, the E-2C.

    A "fun activity" in New York used to be hunting "spy houses" of foreign countries. As I recall, there was a "suspicious" warehouse on the West Side of Manhattan around 40th Street & 12th Avenue ... suspicious because of the huge antenna farm on the roof. The little brass plaque indicated that the building belonged to the Peoples Republic of China.

    There also were rumors of buildings with strange antennas that belonged to Japanese and British "interests". 30 Rock [Rockefeller Center] was headquarters of the British intelligence services for decades [and may still be].

    There are persistent reports of daily cyber attacks against the Pentagon and other U.S. government facilities and computer centers.

    And these are just what gets into the public eye. At a public presentation he gave some years ago, the FBI's director in New York stated that their primary mission was counter-espionage.

    So before the NSA gets singled out as the bad guy on the planet, take a look at what the U.S. needs to do to defend itself against electronic attacks and electronic and other intelligence penetrations.

    The NSA is limited by various laws, for example. But there are no laws and no ACLU and no teams of lawyers that go after any foreign countries that build communications monitoring facilities within the United States. There is nothing to stop China or Iran or Cuba or Venezuela or Russia from stuffing a warehouse in North Carolina (or anywhere else in the United States) with evesdroppng equipment and doing exactly the same sort of things being allegedly being done by NSA.

    There is some unclassified information available by surfing the net. But you need to dig it out. Most of the unclassified stuff is pretty old, unfortunately.

    If you can get to Laurel, Maryland, the NSA has a museum that is open to the public ... the National Cryptologic Museum. It has some interesting exhibits. Visit for details on hours and a map of how to find the place. There is also the Center for Cryptologic History, at and they have a lot of free stuff they can send you. Some of the material is available for free at the museum.

    For just a hint of what has gone on in the past, do a Google search for "venona". Books on that activity are still being written and are available on Amazon.

    The point is that the world is a dangerous place and while a bureaucracy like NSA may not always be 100% on the mark, if it didn't exist, we would have to invent it. ...more info
  • Not necessarily a riveting read, but important nonetheless...
    There's no question that over the last eight years, we as a society have undergone a major shift towards more comprehensive and invasive monitoring and surveillance. James Bamford outlines the NSA's role in this shift in his book The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. From a readability standpoint, there's quite a bit of slogging that took place for me. It's not like reading a spy thriller. On the other hand, Bamford presents more than enough material to make you rethink the government's role in society (or confirm your worst fears).

    The story starts out by following the lives of the 9/11 terrorists as they come over to the US and start to receive flight training. There were a number of opportunities to stop this early on, but at the time there was still a general attitude with the government that drew strict lines (and followed them) about what could and couldn't be monitored within US borders. But this electronic curtain, while preserving privacy for US citizens, also gave the terrorists room to maneuver, and as such they were able to pull off the World Trade Center attack. That single act flipped the entire mindset of the government and the heads of the NSA, and now there was a full-out attack on the laws preventing internal listening. Bamford documents many of these decisions and secret agreements, as well as the outright abuses that have occurred since then, and it's not a stretch to imagine that he only knows a fraction of what's actually going on.

    This didn't turn out to be one of those books that I couldn't put down because the material was too compelling. A number of the chapters, especially later on in the book, seem to bog down with endless names and places that become hard to follow after awhile. On the other hand, these are facts and details that will never make it into the evening network news, much to the detriment of the general population. There is obviously a line that needs to be drawn somewhere between privacy and security, and I feel we trampled that line in the last few years. While you may not find it an exciting read, it's worth it in order to get a glimpse of what we've allowed ourselves to become....more info
  • Fear mongering and nothing more.
    Need a one word description of this book?

    Trash will do.

    It is a collection of anonymous sources whose credibility cannot be verified, false claims, invective typical of the hate-America crowd, coupled with a very large dose of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    Bamford's intent, of course, is to frighten the gullible who spend money on this worthless book by painting the National Security Agency as a threat to freedom: It [NSA] is also the most intrusive [security agency] filtering millions of phone calls and e-mails an hour in the United States and around the world." "Has America become a surveillance state, asks Bamford.

    Nowhere does Bamford mention the millions of closed circuit television cameras in the UK or even the 10,000 cameras Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley wants to install. Nothing is mentioned of the European Union's continuing efforts to not only monitor but preserve the internet histories of its citizens. No, in Bamford's eyes, only the United States is evil.

    First, the alleged eavesdropping activities Bamford claims were illegal have been found lawful by a number of courts, including a secret FISA appeals court. Thus, one of Bamford's central theses is simply false.

    Next, Bamford constantly tries to frighten people by telling them their "privacy" is in danger because the United States legitimately eavesdrops on certain calls involving foreign nationals. Bamford is peddling fear to the ignorant. Anyone who has ever had someone yakking on their cellphones about their sex lives or business woes knows that people don't care who hears the details of their little lives - and that most people have nothing truly "private" in their lives. Moreover, privacy simply doesn't exist in the modern world. Your grocery, drug and liquor stores know everything about you already, not to mention the other retailers you frequent. Privacy for the typical person is simply a non-starter.

    Bamford depends largely on anonymous sources. What more needs to be said about a writer who relies on anonymous sources?

    Much of Bamford's book is about technology - and Bamford is clearly very ignorant about the technology he claims is so central to his fear mongering about the NSA and the generally evil nature of the United States government, particularly under President Bush.

    Bamford makes a hilariously false claim about an NSA database, the one he claims contains the list of people who are thought to possibly present a terrorist threat to the United States. Bamford, of course, makes every effort to pretend that the entire concept of a terrorist threat against the United States is just another Bush/Cheney fantasy.

    He descibes this as an "Oracle database sitting in a Unix operating system". Then he goes on to cite an anonymous source who says the database is a disaster, that it is incompatible with the NSA and CIA systems.

    Anyone familiar with Oracle knows that information can be extracted from an Oracle database using a modified query in the very popular and common Structured Query Language (SQL). In short, every NSA and CIA employee and contractor over the past several decades (the period Bamford's claim covers)has been a techonological dolt of the highest order, including those from Oracle.

    Schoolchildren can write SQL queries, but Bamford seems unaware of this - but, I suspect, it is more likely that he believes he can fool his audience and frighten them.

    Bamford, in short, is simply unbelievable not only in this, but in every regard.

    Bamford is out to peddle fear. His closing paragraph states "[t]here is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures we never fall into that abyss - the abyss from which there is no return".

    It takes a major belief in the gullibility of ordinary people to write a line like that. Just in the past few days, a secret FISA court has ruled that the practices Bamford finds so frightening are Constitutional.

    This book is just pure nonsense. Don't waste your time reading it - and don't enrich the peddler of such nonsense by purchasing it.

    Jerry...more info
  • Pay Attention Niow
    For the Layman, 4 Stars is the limit owing to the details of the software. The fundamental problem is attributing all of NSA's illegal activities to 9-11. 9-11 was not a terrorist attack, it was an attack by a conspiracy of friends not by bin Laden, not by 19 arabs. 9-11 was the collusion of America, Israel and Saudi Arabia (yes, Israel and Saudi Arabia are friends). 9-11 was a scheme to cover multiple objectives such as a NEW PEARL HARBOR, a NEW WORLD ORDER (read corporate fascism in America), a pipeline war on Afghanistan (to provoke Russia), a war on Iraq to oust Saddam leading to a war on Iran (both to secure Israel's and Saudi Arabia's future). The result of these new intelligence programs is to forever rob the Americn people of their privacy. Pay attention now....more info
  • NC_Bob
    A very revealing book. The first section follows the 911 terrorists and shows how we could have stopped them. The rest of the book tells us what the 'government' is doing to monitor our every move. Big brother is here protecting us, but at what cost?
    It leaves you with the question...How do we put the genie back in the bottle?...more info
  • Bamford does it again
    Bamford does an amazing job of taking very complicated issues and making them understandable. As a historian of intelligenc I can appreciate the work and dedication it took to bring this out. Every citizen of the US and the World should read this book, If you value freedom and the Constitution read it now. ...more info