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Book Review October 2, 2002
A Spy Groupie You Can Respect
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
"There seemed no limit to [the generals'] fanaticism: 'We could develop a communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington,' they wrote. 'We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated)...' Bombings were proposed, false arrests, hijackings..."

And all this, as Bamford notes, only a little while before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which North Vietnamese patrol boats supposedly attacked a US destroyer, firming up support for a new and even bigger war. Very convenient. Too convenient? Bamford is cautious: "The Gulf of Tonkin incident may or may not have been stagemanaged, but the senior Pentagon leadership at the time was clearly capable of such deceit."

One of the historical anomalies detailed by Bamford's chronicle is the fact that, once launched, the Vietnam war seemed to absorb the whole imagination of the intelligence community and the military, so that the US became weirdly passive in other theatres, even when provoked by real hostile acts.

When all-too-genuine North Korean patrol boats grabbed the USS Pueblo, another NSA-run listening ship, neither the crew nor the huge American military presence in Korea was able to react at all. Bamford describes the capture of this ultra-secret spy ship in excruciating, slow detail. As the Air Force continues to promise it will "have some birds winging your way" any minute (they never arrive), the Pueblo's second-rate captain continually starts and stops the ship in a slapstick attempt to delay capture, while the crew try and fail to burn the hundreds of pounds of top-secret document the ship is carrying.

In the end, North Korea got the ship virtually intact, with an incredible hoard of advanced American technical-intelligence gear, and was not subjected to any retaliation. At all. The crew rotted in North Korean prisons. Meanwhile, the US continued to splatter North Vietnam (which had never wanted any trouble with America) with every explosive and toxin known to science.

The Pueblo incident seems to encapsulate the sad story of the NSA, as Bamford tells it: wonderful machinery, tended by brilliant technicians, is developed at enormous cost. It is then put in the hands of cowardly idiots like our current C-in-C and driven at full speed into a wall.

Explains rather a lot, actually.

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The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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