James Bamford

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This article is about the author and journalist. For the stunt coordinator, see James Bamford (stunt coordinator).
V. James Bamford
Photo of James Bamford (author).jpg
James Bamford
Born (1946-09-15) September 15, 1946 (age 68)
Natick, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation Author
Nationality American
Genre writes about United States intelligence agencies

V. James Bamford (born September 15, 1946) is an American bestselling author and journalist noted for his writing about United States intelligence agencies, especially the National Security Agency (NSA).[1] Bamford has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, as a distinguished visiting professor and has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Harper's, and many other publications. In 2006, he won the National Magazine Award for Reporting for his article, "The Man Who Sold The War," published in Rolling Stone.


Bamford was born on September 15, 1946 and raised in Natick, Massachusetts. During the Vietnam War, he spent three years in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst. He was assigned to a National Security Agency unit in Hawaii — as part of his three years of active duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War. With the G.I. Bill he would earn his law degree as Juris Doctor, International Law from Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts.[2] Then, as a reservist in law school, he blew the whistle on the NSA when he stumbled across a program that involved illegally eavesdropping on US citizens. He testified about the program in a closed hearing before the Church Committee, the congressional investigation that led to sweeping reforms of US intelligence abuses in the 1970s.[3]

After graduation, he decided to write his first book about the NSA: The Puzzle Palace in 1982. At several points he was threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act, a 1917 law. Those threats had no basis and were never carried out. Rather than practice law, he entered the field of journalism, becoming an expert on the then highly secretive NSA. His book was researched through the extensive use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).[4] As a then super-secret agency, NSA was concerned about its unveiling to the world; accordingly, the government reclassified certain documents in an effort to stop publication.[5][6] The publication of his book resulted in threats of prosecution, when the Department of Justice claimed that he was holding classified documents. His counter argument was that the documents had been given to him under review by the Carter Administration and were declassified when he got them; under an Executive Order in place at the time, documents that had been declassified could not be "reclassified". President Ronald Reagan later issued a new Executive Order to make it possible to reclassify documents, but that could not be applied against Bamford due to Constitutional prohibition against ex post facto law.[7]

He next published Body of Secrets, also about the NSA, in 2001, and A Pretext for War (2004). His 2008 book, The Shadow Factory, became a New York Times best-seller and was named by The Washington Post as one of "The Best Books of 2008." It was the third book in his NSA trilogy and focused on the NSA involvement in the 9/11 investigations and intelligence failures. The NOVA's The Spy Factory[8] was based on this book.

Bamford now lectures nationally in the United States and was a distinguished visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He also spent nearly a decade as the Washington investigative producer for ABC's World News Tonight. In 2006, he received the National Magazine Award for Reporting, the top prize in magazine writing.

Bamford was also a consultant for the defense of NSA whistle blower Thomas Andrews Drake.[9]

In 2014, Bamford conducted the lengthiest in person interview to date with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Moscow. The interview was published in Wired magazine in August of that year with the title "The Most Wanted Man In the World".[10]




Date Publication Title
10/2/14 First Look Media The NSA and Me
6/12/13 Wired "The Secret War"
3/15/12 Wired "The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)"
1/31/07 The New York Times "Bush Is Not Above the Law"
12/12/06 The Washington Post "'Curveball' And A Slam Dunk"
8/20/06 The New York Times Book Review "Intelligence Test"
8/10/06 Rolling Stone "The Next War: Iran"
4/1/06 The Atlantic Monthly "Big Brother is Listening"
1/9/06 The New York Times "Where Spying Starts and Stops"
12/25/05 The New York Times (Week in Review Section) "The Agency That Could Be Big Brother"
12/1/05 Rolling Stone "The Man Who Sold The War"
3/28/05 The American Conservative "Breeding Terror: The Intelligence Community Analyzes a Counterproductive War"
2/20/05 The Washington Post Book World "We’re Watching Them"
6/13/04 The New York Times (Op-Ed Section) "This Spy For Rent"
5/9/04 Los Angeles Times Book Review "Secret Warriors: The Great Game"
2/29/04 The Washington Post Book World "Sowing the Whirlwind"
7/4/03 The New York Times "The Labyrinthine Morass of Spying in the Cold War"
4/27/03 The Washington Post Book World "A Look Over My Shoulder: Richard Helms at the CIA"
3/23/03 Los Angeles Times Book Review "Ike as Spymaster: Secrets on High"
12/15/02 The Washington Post Book World "Shadow Warriors"
11/24/02 The New York Times (Week in Review Section) "How To (De-)Centralize Intelligence"
10/24/02 USA Today (Op-Ed Section) "Maintain CIA’s Independence"
9/17/02 USA Today (Op-Ed Section) "Untested Administration Hawks Clamor for War"
9/14/02 The Guardian (London) "What Big Ears You Have"
9/8/02 The Washington Post Book World "Strategic Thinking"
9/8/02 The New York Times (Week in Review Section) "War of Secrets"
8/29/02 USA Today (Op-Ed Section) "Bush Wrong to Use Pretext as Excuse to Invade Iraq"
8/27/02 The New York Times (Week in Review Section) "Washington Bends The Rules"
7/19/02 USA Today (Op-Ed Section) "Linguist Reserve Corp Answers Terror Need"
6/2/02 The Washington Post (Sunday Outlook Section) "Intelligence Failures"
2/7/02 The New York Times "A Former CIA Cowboy and His Disillusioning Ride"
1/20/02 The Washington Post Book World "The Wrong Man"
12/01 Nieman Reports (Harvard) "Is The Press Up to The Task of Reporting The Stories of September 11?"
9/18/01 The New York Times "Of Atomic Secrets, Loyalty and Bitter Deceit"
8/28/01 The New York Times (Op-Ed Section) "Guard the Secrets, Then Catch the Spies"
8/9/01 The Guardian (London) "The Cover-Up"
8/8/01 The Guardian (London) "Attack on the USS Liberty"
3/18/01 The New York Times Magazine "My Friend The Spy: Robert Hanssen is Accused of Deceiving the FBI. If so, He Deceived Me Too."
4/12/01 USA Today (Op-Ed Section) "Rethink Spy Missions"
4/5/01 The New York Times (Op-Ed Section) "The Danger of Spy Planes"
11/14/99 The Washington Post (Sunday Outlook Section) "Loud and Clear: The Most Secret of Secret Agencies Operates Under Outdated Laws"
8/26/99 The New York Times (Op-Ed Section) "Spy Stories"
8/20/98 The New York Times (Op-Ed Section) "Our Best Spies are in Space"
3/3/96 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "Has a 30-Year Mystery Unraveled?"
1/29/95 The New York Times Book Review "The View From the KGB"
2/9/92 The New York Times Book Review "Of Cabals and Coups"
9/9/88 The New York Times (Op-Ed Section) "Reagan’s Done Nothing to Stop the Spies"
8/7/88 The New York Times Book Review "A Mole Without Portfolio"
7/3/88 The Washington Post Book World "Where Secret Armies Clash By Night"
6/26/88 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "A Pentagon of Impurity"
6/88 Proceedings (U.S. Naval Institute) "Book Review, Merchants of Treason"
5/29/88 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "Fighting the Drug War, Congress Opens Door to Intelligence Misdeeds"
3/6/88 Los Angeles Times Magazine "Taking on The Mob"
2/21/88 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "FBI: If It’s Under Cover, It May Be Out of Control"
11/29/87 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "Carlucci: Big Man About Intelligence"
10/18/87 The Washington Post Book World "The Nugan Hand Affair: Banking on Espionage"
10/11/87 Los Angeles Times Magazine "They Also Serve Who Watch and Listen"
6/14/87 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "Ghosts of CIA Haunt Hearings"
2/8/87 The Washington Post Book World "Bankrolling International Murder and Extortion"
2/8/87 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "An Aspirin for the CIA, But Major Surgery Needed"
1/18/87 The New York Times Magazine "Carlucci And The N.S.C."
1/4/87 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "Reagan CIA: Arrogance Instead of Oversight"
11/9/86 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "Satellites Show a World of Secrets, to Rival Powers and Now the Press"
10/5/86 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "CIA Gets Billing Again in Nicaragua, as Covert Action Becomes the Norm"
9/28/86 Los Angeles Times Book Review "Shootdown, The Target is Destroyed"
8/3/86 The New York Times Book Review "When Ideology Was Thicker Than Money"
7/13/86 The New York Times Book Review "Keeping Intelligence Smart"
7/6/86 Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed Section) "Searching for Security, Casey Fires at the Press"
5/24/86 The Boston Globe (Op-Ed Section) "U.S. Satellite Photos of Plant Should Have Been Released"
5/86 Proceedings (U.S. Naval Institute) "Naval Review Issue, The Walker Spy Case: Navy Medicine, Maritime Terrorism"
4/6/86 The Washington Post Book World "The Spy Plane That Flew Into History"
6/9/85 The Washington Post Book World "Stansfield Turner and the Secrets of the CIA"
4/21/85 Los Angeles Times Book Review "Black Box: KAL 007 and the Superpowers; KAL Flight 007: The Hidden Story"
1/13/85 The New York Times Magazine "America’s Supersecret Eyes in Space"
1/8/84 The Washington Post Magazine "The Last Flight of KAL 007: How the U.S. Watches The Soviets in the Far East"
12/4/83 The Washington Post Magazine "Big Brother is Listening"
10/83 Boston Observer "How We Know What We Know About KAL 007"
9/9/83 The Boston Globe (Op-Ed Section) "Victim of the Long Electronic War"
12/82 The New York Times Book Review "On the Trail of a Mole"
11/6/82 The Nation "How I Got the NSA Files . . . How Reagan Tried to Get Them Back"
8/9/82 Newsday (Viewpoints Section) "The UN: A Gold Mine for U.S. Intelligence"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scott Shane (October 10, 2008). "Decades on the Trail of a Shadowy Agency". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-08. "For 30 years, on a sometimes lonely hunt, James Bamford has pursued that great white whale of American intelligence, the National Security Agency. It has been a jarring ride at times." 
  2. ^ "James Bamford". Random House. Retrieved 2011-03-08. "James Bamford was raised in Natick, Massachusetts, and spent three years in the Navy before attending law school in Boston on the G.I Bill. After graduation, intrigued by the machinations of the Watergate scandal, he gravitated toward journalism. However, rather than pursue a newspaper career he decided instead to write a book. ..." 
  3. ^ The Most Wanted Man In the World
  4. ^ National Security Agency: "American-Cryptology-during-the-Cold-War-1945-1989-Book-IV-Cryptologic-Rebirth-1981-1989"
  5. ^ "Bamford, J. The Puzzle Palace. 1982". NameBase. Archived from the original on 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  6. ^ "Report on a James Bamford Talk at Berkeley". Lewrockwell.com. 2002-02-11. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  7. ^ James Bamford: Inside the NSA's Largest and Most Expansive Secret Domestic Spy Center 2 of 2 on YouTube, Democracy Now, Bamford interview with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh. 2012 Mar 12 (via youtube)
  8. ^ PBS Spy Factory web page
  9. ^ Drake pleads guilty to misdemeanor in NSA espionage case, Tricia Bishop, 6 10 2011
  10. ^ The Most Wanted Man In the World

External links[edit]