ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



December 2022



Chatter by Patrick Radden Keefe

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People interested in an historical perspective on data interception and ‘national security.’

In a nutshell:
Keefe explores the US systems of eavesdropping on allies and enemies alike.

Worth quoting:
“In times of panic, we overreact, we over-legislate. We get it wrong.”

Why I chose it:
I thought I’d read all of Keefe’s books then this popped up. I have thoroughly enjoyed his last two full-length investigations, so figured why not read this?

Reading a book about national security and intelligence that was released in 2005 is interesting, in that things like smart phones weren’t around, and so much has changed in terms of the data so many of us are willing to share. So this book is almost alike a time capsule, and while reading I mostly caught myself thinking ‘whoa, this is interesting – but what’s happening now?’

Keefe looks at ECHELON, the surveillance program that the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia all participate in, looking at the information their friends (and foes) share. It’s both super secret but also not really secret at all?

At times it was a bit hard to follow exactly what was being discussed, and how it related to everything else, but overall it was interesting, as it was written in light of the fact that 9-11 happened but all the fancy spying didn’t prevent it. A couple of main themes are that you can capture all the data you want, but you really do need humans to review it and make sense of it, and there aren’t nearly enough humans working in the field to do that; and is it worth giving up so much privacy if it doesn’t even lead to better security?

I would love an update to this book, looking at what’s been happening for the past 15+ years since the book was published, but overall for someone like me with very limited subject knowledge, it was a pretty good read.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Not likely to recommend, and it’s an audio book so can’t do the rest!

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