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 67)
Natick, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation Author
Nationality American
Genres 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, and used the G.I. Bill to earn his law degree as Juris Doctor, International Law from Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts.[2]

Rather than practice law, he entered the field of journalism, becoming an expert on the highly secretive National Security Agency. His first book, The Puzzle Palace (1982), was the first book published about the National Security Agency. It was researched through the extensive use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).[3] As a super-secret agency, NSA was concerned about its unveiling to the world; accordingly, the government reclassified certain documents in an effort to stop publication.[4][5] 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.[6]

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[7] 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.[8]