A sprawling but revealing look at a powerful, shadowy agency of the American government.



The full history of an ultra-secretive government agency.

The National Security Agency was most recently in the news in 2005 when it was revealed that the agency had been eavesdropping on citizens without warrants, an episode that highlighted the NSA’s mysterious role as the linchpin of the American intelligence apparatus. Intelligence historian Aid shows how the NSA’s briefings to the president have played a part in every major American conflict since World War II. In 1949, the agency began as the Armed Forces Security Agency and was primarily involved in codebreaking and communication interception. During the Korean War, its analysts were able to break virtually all of the codes of the North Korean military in just 30 days. Not long after the NSA became its own agency in 1952, it suffered some major failures. Eisenhower first heard of the death of Stalin in 1953 not from U.S. intelligence but from news-wire services. “Like the rest of the U.S. intelligence community,” writes Aid, “NSA had provided no indication whatsoever that Stalin was ill.” Most significantly, the NSA did not receive intelligence about Soviet missiles in Cuba in time to help avert the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The intelligence improved, but Aid emphasizes the important point that intelligence is only as good as the interpretation it receives. He cites as examples Lyndon Johnson’s administration, who leaned on sketchy NSA information to push the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964, and George W. Bush’s administration, which not only instituted wiretapping programs in an attempt to find al-Qaeda operatives, but twisted NSA intelligence to bolster its reasoning to invade Iraq in 2003. NSA analysis now comprises as much as 60 percent of the president’s daily intelligence briefing, and Aid provides a critical history of the agency that has the ear of the leader of the free world.

A sprawling but revealing look at a powerful, shadowy agency of the American government.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59691-515-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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