NSA

How the NSA and Its Allies Tried to Stop the First Book-Length Exposé of the Agency

James Bamford's battles with the National Security Agency.

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The Intercept has published an engrossing memoir by James Bamford, author of the first book-length exposé of the National Security Agency, 1982's The Puzzle Palace. It's a long article filled with great stories—this, for example:

Break-out from the crystal puzzle palace.
Houghton Mifflin

Even though the agency was virtually immune from the Freedom of Information Act, I managed to find a loophole that allowed me access to more than 6,000 pages of internal documents. I even worked out an agreement whereby they would provide me with an office in the agency for a week to go through the 6,000 pages. But then the NSA got its revenge—when they handed me the 6,000 pages, they were all out of order, as if they had been shuffled like a new deck of cards. Nothing in the Freedom of Information Act, it turns out, requires collation.

And this, involving the Reagan-era Justice Department's attempts to reclaim a file that the Carter-era Justice Department had already reviewed and released to Bamford:

The second meeting took place on August 14, in the editorial conference room of my publisher, Houghton Mifflin, on Beacon Hill. This time, the government dispensed with any attempt at politeness. Accompanying [Justice Department attorney Gerald] Schroeder were the NSA's general counsel, Daniel Schwartz, and the agency's director of policy, Eugene Yeates. They immediately began by interrogating me. How many copies of the document I had made? Whom I had given them to? Where were the documents now located? I responded that none of those questions were on the agenda; since my attorney could not be present, we had agreed in advance that the meeting was simply to allow them to explain the government's position. Any questions, I said, would have to go through Mark Lynch. I pointed to the phone.

After placing a call to Lynch, Schroeder brought up the possibility of using the espionage statute to force me to return the documents. Lynch immediately asked to speak with me privately.

Once the three officials left the room, Lynch expressed worry over the way the meeting was going. The officials could have a subpoena or a restraining order or a warrant for my arrest in their pocket, he said. He advised me to put down the receiver, call Schroeder to the phone, leave the room—and keep walking. To this day, I still have no idea how long the three officials waited for me to return before finding their way out of the publishing house and back to Washington.

And there's more. Read the rest here.