Barry Eisler

The God’s Eye View



Timeline of NSA revelations

“13 Ways the NSA Has Spied on Us”

One of the NSA’s least known and most potent surveillance tools: EO 12333

The false and propagandistic notion of an American “oath” of secrecy

Not so many burning Humvees in Desert Storm, true, but see Day 15 and Day 41

How an undersea oil eruption became a “leak”

“Enhanced Interrogation” sounds better in the original German

It’s almost as though all these “narcissist” hacks were working off the same set of talking points

Speaking of the “narcissism” talking points/projection, don’t miss Jay Rosen on the “Toobin Principle”

“They are using the exact same deny, degrade, distract, disrupt, destroy playbook against [Snowden] that his own revelations show are being used against every other activist.”

Our august lawmakers solicit the Defense Intelligence Agency for dirt they can use to undermine Snowden’s credibility

1.2 million people on US government watch list


Chapter 1

US/Turkish intelligence cooperation

More on NSA Special Liaison Advisors

Webcam hacking

Mesh network CCTV surveillance systems are trivial to hack

Harvard secretly installs cameras in its classrooms

Gunshot-detecting microphones

Identifying people via biometric data like height, stride length, and walking speed

“New Surveillance Technology Can Track Everyone in an Area for Several Hours at a Time”

Facial recognition technology is everywhere, even in churches

Who is this Marcy Wheeler?!


Chapter 2

Intelligence agencies achieve greater openness by prohibiting officials from talking to media

Those damn subversives the director is so upset about:

Barrett Brown

Sarah Harrison

Murtaza Hussain

Angela Keaton

Jason Leopold

Janet Reitman

Trevor Timm

Marcy Wheeler

How the NSA tracks cell phone locations

A lost dog identified three thousand miles from home via a microchip implant. Coming soon to babies everywhere, no doubt

Amazingly, about a day after I wrote the scene where the director ruminates about using a kidnapping to persuade Americans to have microchips implanted in their children, this was published (and quickly debunked)

Another place the government used the all-seeing eye of providence was as part of the design for the Total Information Awareness program. The Latin means “knowledge is power”

The brilliant cartoonist Tom Tomorrow summed up Total Information Awareness perfectly . . . all the way back in 2002

Inventing ever scarier-sounding terrorist groups to justify more bombings. Heard of the Khorasan group lately?


Chapter 6

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture finds Chelsea Manning’s treatment cruel and inhuman

Yemenis seek justice in wedding drone strike

The best coverage of America’s drone wars ever is courtesy of comedian John Oliver

Detaining someone assisting in journalism under the pretext of antiterrorism

Hacking a car and turning it into a drone:

Airplanes are vulnerable to cyberhacking, too

Everything in a high-end car is microprocessor-controlled—even the steering

Hertz puts cameras inside some of its rental cars


Chapter 7

It’s possible Manus has seen this video on concealing a handgun inside a vehicle


Chapter 8

How Western media is manipulated by ISIS into spreading jihadist propaganda

The real starship Enterprise-like “Information Dominance Center,” used by former NSA chief Keith Alexander, is at Fort Belvoir, not Fort Meade. But I couldn’t resist moving it

See how excited Brian Williams gets when the government permits him a peek inside the (gasp) Situation Room!


Chapter 9

If you think Brian’s interview of the director was deferential to the point of parody, you probably haven’t seen Wolf Blitzer’s version, with FBI director James Comey:

Pakistani government forces cell phone users to turn over fingerprints or lose their service


Chapter 10

ACLU rendition of just how powerful a tool location data can be

Leaving your cell phone at home when you go out? Using encryption? The NSA might think you’re a terrorist

NSA spied on US senators

“We Kill People Based on Metadata”


Chapter 11

ISIS waterboarded journalist James Foley


Chapter 12

Obama prosecutes whistleblowers under the 1917 Espionage Act more than twice as many times as all administrations in history combined

Here’s what the Constitutional law professor and Nobel Peace laureate did to whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

Secret FISA “court” is nothing but an administrative rubber stamp

FISA “court” approves 99.97 percent of government surveillance requests


Chapter 13

Journalists relying on face-to-face meetings and human couriers

NSA spends billions to weaken international standards, install backdoors, and otherwise subvert encryption

NSA intercepts shipments of Internet-ordered computers; infects them with malware

“Secret Documents Reveal NSA Campaign Against Encryption”

“A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering”

The menace of “insider threats”

Over 700,000,000 people changing their online behavior to evade NSA surveillance

US Postal Service logs all mail for law enforcement


Chapter 14

Over 1.5 million people with top secret clearances (more than the population of Norway)


Chapter 16

“New Hi-Tech Police Surveillance: The ‘StingRay’ Cell Phone Spying Device”


Chapter 17

In case you’re wondering how the director can come up with spare grenade launchers to trade like playing cards

NSA’s AURORAGOLD cell phone eavesdropping and encryption subversion program


Chapter 18

NASA’s SHARAD technology

And other existing and coming means of peering through brick and concrete


Chapter 20

Mobile IMSI-catcher cell phone trackers


Chapter 22

Pakistani government forces cell phone users to turn over fingerprints or lose their service

“We don’t know if it was terrorism” means “We don’t know if it was Muslims,” and other aspects of the “terrorism expert” industry

If you think Barbara Stirr’s exchange with the director was deferential to the point of parody, you probably haven’t seen Wolf Blitzer’s version, with FBI director James Comey


Chapter 23

No one uses words like “homeland” accidentally

“US Military Drone Network in the Middle East and Africa”

US automatically counts all military-age males killed as terrorists

ISIS claims US hostage killed in coalition air strike in Syria

On the CIA choosing its own pet reporters, by two great journalists for whom I’ve named characters in other books—Dan Froomkin and Scott Horton

Wolf Blitzer is a particularly compliant tool

The New York Times helpfully publishes the government’s side of the story: Sure, American hostages were killed, but counterterrorism officials and analysts say the drone program overall is effective . . .

Establishment “journalists” detest whistleblowers

The surveillance state never stops looking for excuses to increase its powers

“Former FBI Assistant Director: To Keep Budgets High, We Must ‘Keep Fear Alive'”


Chapter 24

The FBI’s tendency to create, then take credit for dismantling, terror plots that could never have existed without the FBI’s assistance

TED talk by Trevor Aaronson on how the FBI’s tactics create domestic terrorists

To get what you want it’s good to “scare hell” out of the American people

New eavesdropping equipment sucks all the data off your cell phone


Chapter 25

“A Decade After 9/11, Police Departments Are Increasingly Militarized”

Domestic drones

FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over US cities

More on domestic surveillance aircraft

This ACLU domestic drone “nightmare scenario” from 2012 doesn’t sound so far-fetched now, does it?

Spy organizations routinely monitor email accounts of journalists, assessing investigative journalists as a threat comparable to terrorists and hackers

More on the NSA spying on journalists

FBI’s instructions to police: “Do not advise this individual that they [sic] may be on a terrorist watchlist”

White House: “It is with tremendous sorrow that we recently concluded that a US Government counterterrorism operation in January killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qaeda”

One day after the news that US drones killed American hostages, the PR counteroffensive kicks into gear: “Counterterrorism officials and analysts say . . .”


Chapter 26

“5 NSA Whistleblowers Who Came Before Snowden”

— More on what happened to every NSA whistleblower who tried to work through the system can be found in chapter 9 of James Risen’s excellent book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

More on Jesselyn Radack, whistleblower and lawyer to whistleblowers

And Diane Roark and Thomas Tamm, who also tried to go through the system


Chapter 27

Peyton Quinn’s Five Rules for Managing Impending Violence


Chapter 28



Chapter 31

The National License Plate Reader (LPR) Initiative—the DEA’s massive license plate tracking system, open to other federal agencies

Using license plate trackers to monitor gun shows . . . and what else?

License plate readers are being paired with facial recognition technology, just like Evie’s camera network

The NSA targets the privacy conscious

XKeyscore: NSA’s Google for the World’s Private Communications

How XKeyscore works

How the FBI caught Petraeus: cross-referencing metadata, all without a warrant

MIT researchers report they don’t need an individual’s name, address, or credit card number to identify people

Don’t worry; it’s just metadata!

The CIA intercepts whistleblower communications

How a surveillance system ostensibly targeted at terrorists in fact sucks in massive amounts of unrelated people and data: Canada’s download dragnet


Chapter 32

How to leak securely using SecureDrop


Chapter 41

CIA director’s attempt to conceal emails by saving them as drafts, not sending

If you’re using encryption, the NSA is watching extra closely

Lawyer-client privileged communications are of particular interest

Governments monitor WikiLeaks website, collect IP addresses of visitors

Thinking about searching for privacy-enhancing tools? The NSA is watching for that

UK Parliamentary Committee: “GCHQ’s bulk interception capability is used primarily to find patterns in, or characteristics of, online communications which indicate involvement in threats to national security”—aka God’s Eye

NSA spies on journalists

“Surveillance Forces Journalists to Think and Act Like Spies”

This is by design: “When journalists must compete with spies and surveillance, even if they win, society loses.”

Another example of God’s Eye-type pattern recognition: the NSA’s SKYNET program

Israel’s Unit 8200 uses compromising information gathered from captured emails to coerce key Palestinians. Unthinkable NSA does anything similar?


Chapter 45

Turning a phone into a listening device via WARRIOR PRIDE and NOSEY SMURF (yes, they really have names like that—your tax dollars at work)

New exploit turns Samsung Galaxy phones into remote bugging devices

Using a cell phone’s gyroscopes like a microphone

The $2.8 billion JLENS blimps floating over Maryland

The CIA/US Marshals joint cell phone tracking initiative

Accessing baby monitors and other listening devices

Entertainment systems listening in on your living room conversations

The NSA converts spoken words into searchable text so surveillance of conversations can be conducted at huge scale

I wish I were inventing the phrase “civil liberties extremist,” as clear a sign of our authoritarian times as any. Alas, I’m not. Pity Barry Goldwater


Chapter 46

Uber tracks user movements with a program called God View (aka Creepy Stalker View)


Chapter 47

“When you collect it all, when you monitor everyone, you understand nothing.”

“We are drowning in information. And yet we know nothing.”


Chapter 49

Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden’s “off-the-record” interview gets live-tweeted

Former NSA director Keith Alexander doesn’t cover his laptop webcam



Not quite the “privacy advocate” position imagined in the book, but close enough: the president’s blue ribbon intelligence reform panel recommends “public interest advocate”

Names change; programs continue


General Reading

— For more on the real-world events depicted in the prologue and in the novel generally, I recommend Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014)

— And Laura Poitras’s Oscar-and other award-winning documentary, Citizenfour

A brief history of the US surveillance state

— Julian Assange’s
When Google Met WikiLeaks
(New York: OR Books, 2014)

— Scott Horton’s Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare (New York: Nation Books, 2015)

For an overview of the ever-metastasizing international surveillance state, I recommend two great books:

— Julia Angwin’s Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom In a World of Relentless Surveillance (Times Books, 2014)

— Bruce Schneier’s Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)

— If you’d like some historical context for Edward Snowden’s actions and what the government has been trying to do to him, Judith Ehrlich’s and Rick Goldsmith’s Academy Award-nominated The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers is as illuminating as it is riveting

Sign up for Barry's Newsletter: