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“The Secret Sentry” by Matthew Aid: National Security Agency History and Missions Report

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Updated: Jan 2nd, 2022

Introduction

An American government that is being guided by state security missions strives for getting unlimited information control; on the contrary, society attempts to restrict access to information for the government based on liberty and democracy principles. Each side has equal arguments in terms of objectivity. It is known that cryptographic techniques provide trade-off decisions. Free information access of intelligence services for monitoring is one of the main missions of the national security service. On another side, information confidentiality is an individual’s inalienable right. The problem becomes more topical in connection with the intensive progress of telecommunication facilities.

Main body

The National Security Agency, also known as NSA, is an intelligence organization of the United States. It is responsible for collecting information on foreign communications and performs specialized missions based on analysis of information that includes cryptanalysis. Also, NSA is responsible for the defense of government information and communicative channels. It composes a part of the United States Department of Defense. Because of its special secrecy, the NSA acronym stood for “No Such Agency” as a joke for a long time.

In most contemporary analyses, intelligence is understood as the process of gathering, analyzing, and making use of information. Yet beyond such basic definitions are divergent conceptions of exactly what intelligence is and what it is for. (Scott and Jackson 2)

Matthew Aid, a well-known specialist of security and outgoing historian, provides the history of America’s security apparatus. He made a close study of NSA, its history, missions, and politics. Aid detected a top-secret document which disclosure made the front page of the New York Times.

Matthew Aid presents an impressive array of chapter notes in his history of the National Security Agency, which is chiefly references to documents he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (“Sir Roger Hollis of” M32).

The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency has some highs and lows that should be noticed. Its merits include a huge amount of facts, a widely reported history of NSA, and logical consequences of events. The Secret Sentry provides much more information about the missions of the NSA than any other book, that’s why it is a nonstandard work. Matthew Aid made a huge research work on National Security Agency’s history.

Aid presents the reader revision of the National Security Agency’s progress through historical events and its role in general. His work reveals some secrets that can be shocking for the reader. There are no unnecessary minutiae, but if the reader is interested in them, he/she can find them in the references section. But it can’t be unnoticed that this book is good for specialists, not for citizen readers. Aid is called a “competitive intelligence researcher by day; whose hobby (passion is a better word) is government secrecy” (O’Leary).

He also decides that the main problem of the intelligence agency is the fact that it’s drowning in unusable data. One more problem the author writes about is its constant need for electricity, but electrical power is similar to political power. “As strange as it may sound,” he writes, “one of the most urgent problems facing NSA is a severe shortage of electrical power.” (314)

The Secret Sentry traces back to the growth of the American intelligence agency from 1945 to nowadays. Aid considers the NSA is involved in the Iraqui weapons intelligence catastrophe. At present, the National Security Agency provides the lion’s share of important information for the US government.

Despite the information’s good structure, presented in The Secret Sentry, I think there should be some remarks. First, it contains some mistakes and indistinct statements. For example, I think it is the incorrect assertion that the 1983 marine barracks bombing in Lebanon was the largest non-nuclear explosion in the world. The Minor Scale, for instance, was larger. It contains an innumerable amount of data for one book. It’s very hard for the readers without specialization to catch the meaning and stay interested in this information. The author is biased against NSA: in some chapters, it seems that he overplays the failures of agency and underplays its successes, and in the end, it’s very clear that Aid is against the war in Iraq. It seems strange enough because the book claims to be objective. Also, the author’s manner of writing resembles a report; there is no excitement in information’s presentation. It could be presented more excitingly, not like the college history book. There is also no doubt that this book provides you with lots of useful information and you have no choice but to get it. Anyway, I wish The Secret Sentry was written more politically neutral and without such a huge amount of information.

Conclusion

Anyway, The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency isn’t a bad book. It displays the influence, either positive or negative, of the NSA on the US and world-historical events. Its theme is strongly topical, so I hope there will be new publications with some corrections in them. I think any person can enjoy this book.

Works Cited

Aid, Matthew M. “The secret sentry: The untold history of the National Security Agency”. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009.

O’Leary, Mick. “National Security Archive Battles Government Secret Keepers.”Information Today Sept. 2006: 45+.

Scott, Len, and Peter Jackson. “1 Journeys in Shadows.” Journeys in Shadows. Ed. L. V. Scott and. D. Jackson. New York: Routledge, 2004.

“Sir Roger Hollis of MI5, the NSA.” The Washington Times (Washington, DC) 2009: M32.

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IvyPanda. "“The Secret Sentry” by Matthew Aid: National Security Agency History and Missions." January 2, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-secret-sentry-by-matthew-aid-national-security-agency-history-and-missions/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "“The Secret Sentry” by Matthew Aid: National Security Agency History and Missions." January 2, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-secret-sentry-by-matthew-aid-national-security-agency-history-and-missions/.

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