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

THE SECRET SENTRY

THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY

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...

NIGHT

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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