@War suffers not only in its kitschy title, but in its wee-haw, all hail the Military Industrial/Internet Complex viewpoint. I read this book as tentative research for a project and early on it became clear that my only option to survive it was to slam through it as hard as I could, pick the squishy bits that are based on infrastructure and hints at the internal workings of the still growing giant and pretty much let everything else fall by the wayside.
The book is light. It doesn’t care about the rights and the wrongs of black hole data collection, only that terrorists are changing the game and this is the best option and possibly the only option and you wouldn’t you rather sacrifice some freedom for a little bit of supposed security no one has quite been able to prove is actually being provided. Harris doesn’t care about these questions. He cares about the building and growing of the beast he stalks and while he tries to tie various human characters to the rise in fighting terrorist online, it all comes down to looking at all the neat new ways we’ve managed to improve things by taking the gauge off the radiator.
I cannot abide a book that talks about capability, even when accompanied by history, that refuses to talk about consequences outside of “We got him!”
It’s lazy at best and propaganda at worst.
That is not to say that the book doesn’t have some unique bits stored in its slim tome about how certain things were built, the initial internal hesitancies and paranoias that drove the NSA to where it is today, but without reflection on ramification, right or wrong, or even taking the time to say so much of the fear was unfounded. Instead, it builds a story through half-truths and omissions. A self-congratulatory pat on the back to the greatest and dare I say horrifying overreach of government power in the human history.
I can’t recommend this book. It’s too lost in the story it wants to tell, like some nonfiction war novel mixed with what I suppose we are forced to call journalism. Read Bruce Schneier’s Data and Goliath. Unless you are working on some cutting edge Le Carre/Clancy Military novel you will find nothing of truly unique or worthwhile.
There are a million people who study and trade in the facets of cyber security and cyber terrorism who have nuanced and fact fortified reasons for what they believe. Harris doesn’t. He’s a journalist who got to look at some big toys, feel in love, and wanted to write a love letter and make a profit off of it.
“It is not known precisely what Google intends to do with what it has acquired, but this much is certain: first, having a stockpile of zero day exploits would allow the company to start a private cyber war; and second, that would be illegal.” – Shane Harris, @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex, who consistently seems to believe that a secretive and essentially ungoverned security organization is somehow preferable to corporations by all but begging the question of what evil corporation would do that the government will or hasn’t already done.