Diversi anni dopo, nel 2001, pubblica un sequel intitolato appunto Body of Secrets. E oggi, dopo una parentesi dedicata cinque ani fa, con A Pretext for War, alle "prove" della guerra in Iraq dopo il Nine Eleven, ecco arrivare la terza puntata della serie, oggetto della recensione del NYT. Con The Shadow Factory, La fabbrica delle ombre, Bamford si getta sulle tracce della NSA degli anni successivi alle Torri gemelle, una centrale molto diversa da quella che aveva raccontato in precedenza. Perché diversa, scrive il recensore del quotidiano newyorkese, è la tipologia di comunicazioni e di infrastruttura in cui il controspionaggio USA deve incunearsi. E ancora più serie e dense di conseguenze sono le ricadute delle sue azioni sul tessuto stesso della società, della democrazia americana (e dell'intero mondo occidentale). Fin dove può arrivare la capacità di penetrare nelle sfere private dei cittadini americani e no? E' lecito cavalcare la paura e magari alimentare una forma collettiva di paranoia per inseguire una sicurezza che forse non esiste nemmeno? Ed essere di fatto prigionieri di un agente oscuro a onnipotente è vera sicurezza?
Anche se certe domande non troveranno risposta, la lettura delle inchieste di Bamford mette in chiaro il funzionamento di certi meccanismi ed è più avvincente di un romanzo. La recensione è molto lunga e non posso riportarla qui in esteso, ma sul sito del NYT trovate anche il primo capitolo di Shadow Factory. Invece, sul sito della National Public Radio, sono archiviate diverse interviste con l'autore. Anche Wikipedia pubblica una lunga bibliografia con gli articoli firmati da Bamford in questi anni.
The Surveillance-Industrial Complex
January 11, 2009
By CHRISTOPHER DICKEY
“Probably the best place within the entire region to install a listening post is the Indian city of Mumbai,” James Bamford writes in “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America,” his latest book about the all-seeing, all-hearing National Security Agency. Without question, he says, Mumbai, India, “represents the kind of location where the N.S.A. would seek to establish a secret presence.” And such a place, he notes elsewhere in his book, “presents an extremely tempting target for terrorists.”
As it happened, I read those lines at precisely the same time that Mumbai became the scene of a bloody three-day siege that killed more than 170 people and wounded many hundreds. Telecoms were not attacked, and whether there was some symbolic connection between the N.S.A.’s ambitions and the terrorists’ targeting is not a question that can be answered definitively here and now or, perhaps, ever. But it’s a fair bet that Bamford will find a way to work the bloodbath at the Taj Mahal hotel into the long N.S.A. narrative that he began with “The Puzzle Palace” in 1982, followed up with “Body of Secrets” in 2001, and may well continue with paperback updates and further sequels after the present book. These are the kinds of details, or coincidences, that Bamford loves. In “The Shadow Factory” he piles one on top of another — events, addresses, room numbers — in a slapped-together text that often blends facts with speculation to evoke a pervasive atmosphere of conspiracy.
Which is not to say conspiracies do not exist. At its core and at its best, Bamford’s book is a schematic diagram tracing the obsessions and excesses of the Bush administration after 9/11, a valuable complement to the accumulating narratives of torture abroad and legalistic sophistry at home. Other writers might conclude, as Bamford does, that “there is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America,” without really leading readers to think they’ll be waterboarded someday. It would be hard, however, for those reading this book to believe that their digital identities and electronic communications, of any type over any medium, have not been subject to unreasonable search and seizure, constantly and without warrants or recourse.
But let’s go back to India for a moment. Why would Mumbai be such a valuable listening post for the N.S.A.? To understand the answer, and indeed to follow the central argument of the book about just why and how United States government eavesdropping has become so pervasive and invasive, one has to know that a vast majority of the world’s communications are now transmitted over fiber-optic cables. In 1988 they carried only 2 percent of international traffic, but by 2000 they carried 80 percent. When microwave transmissions and communications satellites were the medium, messages were relatively easy for the N.S.A. to intercept, en masse and through the open air. But to catch the ever-growing flood of digital data in the bundled strands of fiber that crisscross the planet — voice calls, e-mail, faxes, videos and so much more — you have to tap into the cables directly. Or, better still, you can set up a monitoring operation at the switch, where many different cables come together. Once you have a facility to split off the signals without interrupting them, you’re plugged in to a mother lode of megabytes — millions going by every few seconds. Mumbai, as it happens, has the central switch for much of Asia and virtually all the cables of the Middle East.