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EYES IN THE SKY

THE SECRET RISE OF GORGON STARE AND HOW IT WILL WATCH US ALL

A skilled, mildly alarmist overview of another dazzling if intrusive technology.

A look at airborne spycraft and how, “someday, most major developed cities…will live under the unblinking gaze of some form of wide-area surveillance.”

Drone surveillance unsettles civil liberties advocates, but they will have much more to discuss regarding an eye in the sky that observes everyone all the time. That all-seeing entity is the subject of this disturbing account from Michel, co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. The military mostly employs drones for observation, but their cameras are helpless against improvised explosive devices planted along roads. Dealing with IEDs requires 24-hour surveillance of huge areas. Suspicious actors can be followed. Once an IED explodes, one simply rewinds the tape, watches insurgents plant the bomb, and then retraces their steps to the base of operation. Cameras with this ability require immense computer power and expensive technical backup, but diligent research has produced several systems now deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The cameras remain a work in progress. The author excels in explaining their bumpy development but reveals little about their effectiveness on the battlefield; this is classified information, so spokesmen provide only vague, optimistic details. What Michel makes vividly clear is that civilian authorities yearn for this technology, and entrepreneurs supplying the military are anxious to branch out. The FBI and many police departments are flying prototypes, which have sometimes proved successful in tracing criminal activities. Is this a preliminary to the all-seeing eye of Nineteen Eighty-Four? “To be sure,” writes the author, “aerial surveillance can certainly be used for purposes we can all agree upon….But there is a very real line beyond which the all-seeing eye becomes a dragnet that is incompatible with the tenets of civil liberty.” So far, public opposition has quashed local efforts at permanent surveillance, but this will change as accuracy improves and law-and-order advocates extol the benefits. Michel concludes with a review of legal safeguards that, in a perfect world, will accompany these programs.

A skilled, mildly alarmist overview of another dazzling if intrusive technology.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-97200-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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