HACKING BEFORE THE COMPUTER AGE/ CODE WARRIORS/ STEPHEN BUDIANSKY

Stephen Budiansky’s scholarly book CODE WARRIORS, NSA’S CODEBREAKERS AND THE SECRET INTELLIGENCE WAR AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION is a detailed history of the NSA and the historical herculean and expensive effort to crack the codes and cyphers of the enemies of America dating back to pre WWII.  From the successful breaking of the German Enigma code to intercepting and deciphering war-time radio signals, Code Warriors details the massive U.S. intelligence  gathering mechanism that blossomed into a billions of dollars bureaucracy complete with the intrigue of politics, fighting factions and competing egos.

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Budiansky’s impeccable research sets the stage for today’s headlines as the world of hacking and high speed computers has replaced machines that mechanically spun alphabetical and numbered wheels to crack codes of friends and enemies alike.  The author’s pages are not always kind to the  NSA or the CIA.

It almost seems simplistic  that America once constructed huge antenna arrays worldwide to capture information  sometimes with questionable legality. Early satellites intercepted radio signals and a tunnel under the Berlin Wall tapped into Soviet communications.  America spent additional billions safeguarding its own classified military and diplomatic messaging but the Soviets kept pace and the information race equalled the arms race. It all came under the umbrella of signals intelligence.

While Alan Turing and a staff of hundreds took months to crack the German codes at Bletchley Park, today lone wolf hackers invade secret government and private  files with the impunity of key strokes.

Budiansky details the NSA’s obsession with capturing every possible syllable of signal intelligence and then attempting to decipher and make sense of all of the information. The book begs the question as to whether NSA codebreakers have also become hackers as the narrative  transcends  current events.

Code Warrior’s is  valiant in its effort to make highly technical material  understandable for the layman and place the subject in the context of its vital importance in the major world events of the past seventy-five years.

Stephen Budiansky also wrote Blackett’s War and Perilous Fight.

 

 

 

 

 

COMMAND AUTHORITY-CLANCY’S LAST STAND

So much written in the Tom Clancy novels is prescient and his final book, Command Authority, written before his death in late 2013 , is no  exception.  The latest Jack Ryan novel written with fellow writer and researcher Mark Greaney is all about the future aims of Russia connected to the emergence of the Russian mob following the collapse of the USSR.  Who fills the vacuum and what are the aims of Clancy’s new villains?

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Clancy casts a wide net in Command Authority including  Swiss bankers and secret organizations formed from the remnants of the old KGB.  There is government corporate takeovers with millions of unaccounted funds to trail to money laundering though numbered  Swiss accounts.  Topping the  greed list is the lust for power by the new elite in the Kremlin eager to reclaim lost Russian territory and international prestige. Of course there is abundant hardware in hand and in the air.

In the middle of all of the intrigue is President Jack Ryan, Jack Ryan Jr. and of course  important roles for John Clark, Ding Chavez, Dominic Caruso and Sam Driscoll. Clancy cleverly creates a flash back sub-plot to Jack Ryan Sr’s  former career at CIA in England which directly connects to the present day un coverings there by his son Jack Ryan Jr.   The stories intersect perfectly in typical Clancy fashion.

For Clancy fans, place me at the top of the list, it is sad contemplate the end off this wonderful series.  It has always been difficult to choose favorites because each resonates with its place in time.  Tom Clancy was brilliant in introducing his characters squarely in the middle of the action , always on the edge of reality.  I will miss wondering if the Clancy story unfolding in his novels will be on the front page of the morning paper.  In many cases Tom Clancy has come very close!

Enjoy Command Authority and reflect on the previous seventeen wonderful Tom Clancy adventures.