Notes from Underground

Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency from the Cold War through the Dawn of a New Century

James Bamford
Doubleday, 721 pp., $29.95

Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government—Saving Privacy in the Digital Age

Steven Levy
Viking, 356 pp., $25.95

The one really big and central thing the NSA was conceived and funded to do apparently never got done, but that does not mean the agency was idle or the money wasted. If we couldn’t read Russian secret communications enciphered at the highest level, we could nevertheless read those of just about every other country, friend or foe, and written messages, in the electronic age, were only part of what proved interesting.

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