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POSTPONED Sounds of Silence: Intelligence and Digital Listening in the Information Age


NSA Director of Research: Michael Wertheimer, Ph.D.


Throughout America’s experience with secret intelligence, sound has been the chief medium through which information is 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 NSA 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 an apparent transformation in intelligence collection affected the public’s understanding of the nation’s intelligence activity? This event is aimed at tracing the evolution of sound in the domain of intelligence collection, dissecting consequences, and projecting implications – from early 20th century to present.

Event Date: 


Event Time: 

5:30 pm


Annenberg 110