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Reid Cherlin • GQ
An interview with John Brennan, the man behind America's drone strategy.
"I'm going up to Jersey tomorrow, to try to escape." John O. Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism advisor and his soon-to-be new CIA director, leans back in his chair. Brennan is a proud son of Hudson County, a baseball player at his Catholic high school, a commuter student at Fordham. It's a common-touch backstory that, a tad predictably, Brennan's fans bring up all the time, and that he himself seems to cling to. He points to a photograph on the wall behind my head, a black and white shot of George H.W. Bush, surrounded by aides.
"The guy walking through the door actually is me, with hair," he says. "That was the first time I went into the Oval Office. I remember almost pinching myself, saying, 'What's a guy from Jersey doing in here? And why does the president really care about what I say?' Now, since then, I've been in the Oval Office I guess hundreds of times, and there are still a lot of times I say to myself, 'What's a guy from Jersey-you know, doing in this?'"
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Jill Lepore • The New Yorker
Privacy in an age of publicity.
An extraordinary fuss about eavesdropping started in the spring of 1844, when Giuseppe Mazzini, an Italian exile in London, became convinced that the British government was opening his mail. Mazzini, a revolutionary who'd been thrown in jail in Genoa, imprisoned in Savona, sentenced to death in absentia, and arrested in Paris, was plotting the unification of the kingdoms of Italy and the founding of an Italian republic. He suspected that, in London, he'd been the victim of what he called "post-office espionage": he believed that the Home Secretary, Sir James Graham, had ordered his mail to be opened, at the request of the Austrian Ambassador, who, like many people, feared what Mazzini hoped-that an insurrection in Italy would spark a series of revolutions across Europe. Mazzini knew how to find out: he put poppy seeds, strands of hair, and grains of sand into envelopes, sealed the envelopes with wax, and sent them, by post, to himself. When the letters arrived-still sealed-they contained no poppy seeds, no hair, and no grains of sand. Mazzini then had his friend Thomas Duncombe, a Member of Parliament, submit a petition to the House of Commons. Duncombe wanted to know if Graham really had ordered the opening of Mazzini's mail. Was the British government in the business of prying into people's private correspondence? Graham said the answer to that question was a secret.
PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images