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Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  282 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
How does our government eavesdrop? Whom do they eavesdrop on? And is the interception of communication an effective means of predicting and preventing future attacks? These are some of the questions at the heart of Patrick Radden Keefe’s brilliant new book, Chatter.

In the late 1990s, when Keefe was a graduate student in England, he heard stories about an eavesdropping net
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published February 15th 2005 by Random House (first published 2005)
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Jan 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in the intelligence industry
I have read a bunch of books on spying and intelligence agencies over the years.

Most of their authors allowed themselves the luxury of blurring the line between plainly observable / provable facts and wild flights of fanciful conjecture.

This book is a refreshing change in that and other regards.

Patrick Radden Keefe does an excellent job sketching in both broad and detailed strokes exactly what we do know about agencies like the NSA and their counterparts in the UK, AU and NZ and plainly states
Jun 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a remarkable book about "sigint" (signals intelligence). The first half is a chilling detailing of how telecommunications of all sorts are swept up by numerous listening stations around the world, a central part of a UK-USA agreement (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).

The second half begins to wonder if the enormous amount of money spent by the NSA (and others) is worth it, given the tremendous failures of sigint to help prevent terrorist acts (notably September 11th, for exa
James Piper
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Exceptionally well written. Insightful. A look into signal intelligence capturing by the Anglo alliance.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: intelligence
I have mixed feelings about SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) and COMINT (Communication Intelligence). On one hand, I see the need and on the other, I have a real concern about privacy and the legality of some of the operations that take place within the intelligence community. It has taken me several years to finish this book, mainly because I would lose interest or get distracted by something in the book and go off on a tangent. I fully expected this to be another "intelligence is evil" type book, ...more
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
This book was my first introduction to real spy and listening posts and their history. I read it when it was first published and I recommend it highly. The author has done his homework and his writing style is clear and moves along without bogging down in inessentials. This is a history that more Americans (and others) need to know. It's been going on since 1945, at least.
Ailith Twinning
Aug 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017
I'll give this book every possible benefit of the doubt -- because I can't prove what I think might be going on.

Even in that scenario -- it's just a moderately shitty news article writ looong. And that's the best possible case. Just a shitty news article writ long.

This author is an ass.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
written in '05, it's old news. Couldn't get into this
Zoie Coburn
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Keefe showed more than one point of view. He showed the NSA's side, which was keeping everything very secretive. He also showed the views of the people of America, which was either uninformed or extremely informed, and people from other countries' point of views, whom seemed to know more than the average American. The book is very comprehensive and appropriate for the title. I would say it is slightly biased, he says things like "I was troubled...", "It all sounded elusive to me..", and "...I fo ...more
Kristen Fowler
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that I put off reading this book, because I was afraid that it's 300 pages would be some conspiratorial tirade against Signit and Echelon. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the author handles the topic. Keefe approaches the tender areas of signal intelligence in a very even way, containing many sides of this intensely debated issue, from conspiratorial web-enthusiasts to NSA officials.. Anyone interested in the NSA, CIA, or Signal Intelligence will enjoy this book, a ...more
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, non-fiction, 2013
Frightening and fascinating at the same time, I can't help but wonder a little if checking this book out from the library put me on some sort of watch list ....

Probably not.

It's a book detailing some of the Sigint in the US, the agreements that the US has with UK and other allies, and the drawbacks and shortfalls that have happened in recent years. It was a good read and left me wanting to know more, but also slightly unsettled at the reach of our government and it's seeming incompetence. I susp
Dr. Barrett  Dylan Brown, Phd
Mar 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage, reference
Excellent survey of the Echelon system, very readable, filled with tons of great nerdy true hacker stories. The author maintains neutrality in a very difficult topic, which I don't like much, but I appreciate why he does it- to get through to the most people possible and let them decide for himself. His conclusion is that SIGINT does not really work, which I am sceptical of, and he focues' some on 9-11.
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at United States signals intelligence. It focuses on piecing together what little is known about Echelon, the intelligence-sharing alliance between the U.S., U.K., and a handful of other English-speaking countries. Very interesting stuff if you are at all curious about the intelligence gathering capabilities of our country.
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Amazing storytelling within a dense trove of US and global history that illustrates the underground connectedness of govt information pipelines. The power of global govts information systems depicted in this book feels far mightier than any headline or news story I've ever read (yet is rooted in documentation and doesn't bend into any kooky conspiracy theory).
Word Artisan
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Absolutely fascinating. Highly recommended for Americans and Anglos interested in how their government operates. Keefe is very fair-handed. It's not a polemic attacking or defending the NSA and other agencies. He really is investigating what works, what doesn't, and the history and future of government surveillance.
Bookmarks Magazine

Because Keefe wrote Chatter as a private citizen rather than as an insider expert, he had trouble finding cooperative agencies (let's start with the NSA). The lack of insider information makes the book na_

Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm listening to this book when I run, and it's really keeping me distracted from the agony of running on a treadmill. It's filled with the world of spies -- eavesdropping, interceptions, codes, and secrets. I really like learning about that sort of stuff, so it's a pleasure to read for me.
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Do you believe your government listens in on you? Well a lot more than you may think. Illegal? yes but the NSA and it's partners do it as a matter of course. All your e-mails all of your phone calls, your faxes, and your text messages. A wake up call written clearly and objectively.
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
A little boring but the author did a good bit of research on the different eavesdropping installations around the world to put this book together. Since the material is based on research, and related news stories, it barely starts to scratch the surface of SIGINT but still has some good info.
Will Byrnes
The search for Echelon, a fabled system that supposedly sees all, hears all, by a young law student in the UK. This is a look at the NSA and its facilities across the globe, the interactions between NSA and the agencies of other nations. An excellent first book by a promising new investigator.
Nov 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: technology
too liberal in outlook.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
No puedes esconder nada. Si eres alguien de interes sabrán todo sobre tu persona. Buen libro.
Tim Martin
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good technical update in the line of Kahn and Bamford. Read Agee, Stockwell, Edwin Black for the real wold consequences.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book.
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spy, documentary
Interesting quasi-history of the "listening" game. If you are into the intelligence world / stories you'll probably like this one.
Marcel Brussee
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ci
Disturbing, but a bit too long for my liking. The second half did not really add to the information.
Another, "Hey, I've read that!" I knew next to nothing about Menwith Hill, etc., before reading this. It was a fascinating read.

Jul 05, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Relevant reading in light of the ongoing FISA debate. The author is engaging on the complex evolution of global government surveillance.
Sep 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Holy crap reading that was prescient right before the NSA domestic spying scandal. Really interesting stuff, not especially detailed
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting overview of the world of signals intelligence. Could do with updating though following recent leaks from Edward Snowden.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Underground Knowl...: global eavesdropping 4 45 Mar 08, 2017 10:48AM  
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Patrick Radden Keefe is the author of The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream (Doubleday, July 2009), which Kirkus calls "a panoramic, international true-crime adventure," and Publishers Weekly calls "brilliant...a must-read." He writes frequently for The New Yorker, Slate, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines, and works as a fellow at the Centur ...more
More about Patrick Radden Keefe