Throughout America’s experience with secret intelligence, sound was the chief medium in which information was culled. Eavesdropping, wiretaps, SONAR, the deciphering of radio signals (open air and encrypted), and the planting of “bugs” comprised the bulk of the nation’s intelligence gathering effort. Yet in this information / cyber era, as intelligence organs have vied to keep pace with breathtaking developments in technology, the nature of collection has changed; no longer purely aural, the “sounds” of intelligence are increasingly electronic.
Henceforth the metaphor “listening for clues” has taken new meaning. Recent events including National Security Agency revelations from disaffected contractor Edward Snowden and concomitant widespread concern about corporate surveillance of consumer Internet activity have triggered national debate about the efficacy of modern intelligence gathering. From such controversy, a question arises: how has the apparent transformation in intelligence collection affected the public’s understanding of the nation’s intelligence activity? Join us as we welcome Michael Wertheimer, Ph.D., Director of Research of the National Security Agency, for an analysis of the evolution of sound in the domain of intelligence collection–dissecting consequences and assessing their implications from early 20th century to present.