A few months before Edward Snowden revealed a trove of documents he acquired during his time as a contractor for the NSA, Fred Kaplan SM ’78, PhD ’83 pitched a new book to his editor at Simon and Schuster, a book that would complete his trilogy on modern warfare.
Published this spring, Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War is the result of two years of research that chronicled Snowden’s revelations and the five decades of internal debates at the NSA and other executive branch offices about what the U.S. could and couldn’t do with data.
Listen to an interview with Kaplan as he discusses his new book.
To tell the history of cybersecurity’s growing pains and to diagnose their current condition, Kaplan, a columnist for Slate, tells the story of many MIT alumni, including Willis Ware SM ’42, Richard Clarke SM ’79, Ali Salehi PhD ’77, Lawrence Summers ’75, and Sloan Senior Executives Arthur Money and William Odom (NSA director under President Ronald Reagan).
Dark Territory recounts some of the U.S. government’s first simulated tests on hacking its own infrastructure with off-the-shelf hardware, its first successful incursions into foreign cyber terrain, and the “new tension in American life between individual liberty and national security.”
In this interview about the book, Kaplan bemoans the lack of knowledge most Americans have about their own government’s methodologies, drawing a comparison to the era of the atom bomb, when there was far more public discussion about the changing definition of war. “We have a whole war machine built around this and we haven't begun to think at all about ways to control its use,” Kaplan argues.
Listen to the complete podcast above then listen to the entire Slice of MIT Podcast archive at the MIT Alumni Association’s Soundcloud page.