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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Shadow Factory’ author talks ‘ultra-secret’ NSA


James Bamford, author of “The Shadow Factory,” began writing about National Security Agency in the 1980s.
Bamford, who spoke Monday night at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, was this year’s Common Ground Reading Initiative author and speaker for the College of Liberal Arts.
Bamford said he and the NSA have a somewhat mutual coexistence.
“I don’t write to make the NSA happy,” Bamford said. “I write what I see. It’s a love-hate relationship. I sort of love them and they sort of hate me.”
During the lecture, Bamford mentioned his past writings, all covering the topic of U.S. intelligence, along with his most recent cover stories, including his in-depth interview with National Security Agency information leaker, Edward Snowden. Bamford spent three days in Moscow, Russia, speaking to the former CIA system administrator.
Tranae Felicien, political science freshman, said Bamford speaking about his recent interaction with Snowden sparked her curiosity.
“That’s really impressive that he spent three days with him — you get to really see the insight,” Felicien said. “We’ve heard what everyone else says but we haven’t really heard from Snowden himself.”
Condensing the basics of the NSA into an hour and fifteen minutes, Bamford covered topics ranging from the details of satellite, microwave and undersea cable communication that the NSA uses, to commenting on the general goals of the NSA.
“Is there too much hay to actually find the needles? The whole idea is to get all the information that we can and sometimes I think it’s too much,” Bamford said.
When choosing “The Shadow Factory” as this year’s Common Ground book, Steven Oberhelman, interim associate dean for Undergraduate Programs in the College of Liberal Arts, said he wanted students to think outside the box.
“We chose a book that we believe is intellectually challenging, but is also interesting and of timely importance,” Oberhelman said.
The Common Ground began in 2006 and is a freshmen reading and seminar program, which gives Liberal Arts freshmen a shared reading experience.
Sherry Higginbotham, administrative coordinator for the Office of the Dean of Liberal Arts, said the program was created to welcome freshmen into the liberal arts college with a sense of unity.
“The program is to create a sense of community among freshmen,” Higginbotham said. “The book is chosen keeping the appeal to the audience in mind and to introduce them to subjects they might not know that much about — to not tell them what to think about it, but to inform them.”
This year, the discussion covered a topic that Oberhelman hopes encouraged students to pose thought provoking, and even controversial questions about individual privacy and the need for a country to keep itself safe from attack.
“This is a campus where a number of people are conservative and we quite rightly recognize that there are dangers to the country,” Oberhelman said. “It’s a great discussion to be had and not only liberal arts students, but students in general can benefit from it.”
Freshman international studies major, Rebecca Matlock said she found Bamford’s opinion intriguing
“I thought it was really interesting when he spoke about the Iraq war, and just how his view on what should have happened was so straight forward,” Matlock said.
Higginbotham said the Common Ground program is planning a change for next year, when a committee of people will select the book, providing more input from other departments in the college.
Author James Bamford discusses his book Monday to a Bush School audience.
Photo by Jonathan Sheen.

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