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First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance

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An urgent investigation into warfare, good, and evil in the age of biometrics, the technology that would allow the government to identify anyone, anywhere, at any time This is a story that starts off close and goes very big. The initial part of the story might sound familiar at first: It is about a platoon of mostly nineteen-year-old boys sent to Afghanistan, and an expe An urgent investigation into warfare, good, and evil in the age of biometrics, the technology that would allow the government to identify anyone, anywhere, at any time This is a story that starts off close and goes very big. The initial part of the story might sound familiar at first: It is about a platoon of mostly nineteen-year-old boys sent to Afghanistan, and an experience that ends abruptly in catastrophe. Their part of the story folds into the next: inexorably linked to those soldiers and never comprehensively reported before is the U.S. Department of Defense's quest to build the world's most powerful biometrics database, with the power to identify, monitor, catalogue, and police people all over the world. First Platoon is an American saga that illuminates a transformation of society made possible by this new technology. Part war story, part legal drama, it is about identity in the age of identification. About humanity--physical bravery, trauma, PTSD, a yearning to do right and good--in the age of biometrics, which reduce people to iris scans, fingerprint scans, voice patterning, detection by odor, gait, and more. And about the power of point-of-view in a burgeoning surveillance state. Based on hundreds of formerly classified documents, FOIA requests, and exclusive interviews, First Platoon is an investigative expos� by a master chronicler of government secrets. First Platoon reveals a post-9/11 Pentagon whose identification machines have grown more capable than the humans who must make sense of them. A Pentagon so powerful it can cover up its own internal mistakes in pursuit of endless wars. And a people at its mercy, in its last moments before a fundamental change so complete it might be impossible to take back.


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An urgent investigation into warfare, good, and evil in the age of biometrics, the technology that would allow the government to identify anyone, anywhere, at any time This is a story that starts off close and goes very big. The initial part of the story might sound familiar at first: It is about a platoon of mostly nineteen-year-old boys sent to Afghanistan, and an expe An urgent investigation into warfare, good, and evil in the age of biometrics, the technology that would allow the government to identify anyone, anywhere, at any time This is a story that starts off close and goes very big. The initial part of the story might sound familiar at first: It is about a platoon of mostly nineteen-year-old boys sent to Afghanistan, and an experience that ends abruptly in catastrophe. Their part of the story folds into the next: inexorably linked to those soldiers and never comprehensively reported before is the U.S. Department of Defense's quest to build the world's most powerful biometrics database, with the power to identify, monitor, catalogue, and police people all over the world. First Platoon is an American saga that illuminates a transformation of society made possible by this new technology. Part war story, part legal drama, it is about identity in the age of identification. About humanity--physical bravery, trauma, PTSD, a yearning to do right and good--in the age of biometrics, which reduce people to iris scans, fingerprint scans, voice patterning, detection by odor, gait, and more. And about the power of point-of-view in a burgeoning surveillance state. Based on hundreds of formerly classified documents, FOIA requests, and exclusive interviews, First Platoon is an investigative expos� by a master chronicler of government secrets. First Platoon reveals a post-9/11 Pentagon whose identification machines have grown more capable than the humans who must make sense of them. A Pentagon so powerful it can cover up its own internal mistakes in pursuit of endless wars. And a people at its mercy, in its last moments before a fundamental change so complete it might be impossible to take back.

30 review for First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mary Van Opstal

    I rarely read if ever books about the military or war, but my brother Spc. James Twist was heavily interviewed along with many of his peers in this book about his platoon in Afghanistan. Like many of his platoon members, he left with not only PTSD but was pushed out of the army because he and his peers turned in a superior. The book was well written about how biometrics were intertwined so heavily with the war in Afghanistan, and how it really messed up first Platoon. My brother took his own lif I rarely read if ever books about the military or war, but my brother Spc. James Twist was heavily interviewed along with many of his peers in this book about his platoon in Afghanistan. Like many of his platoon members, he left with not only PTSD but was pushed out of the army because he and his peers turned in a superior. The book was well written about how biometrics were intertwined so heavily with the war in Afghanistan, and how it really messed up first Platoon. My brother took his own life because of the intensity of his PTSD from his time there. This book made my mad because of the lies and deceit that occurred during their time over seas and here at home with the Clint Lorance case. We need to take care of our veterans, and we as a country don’t do enough.

  2. 4 out of 5

    RANGER

    A startling deep dive into the shadowy, totalitarian world of identity intelligence -- Annie Jacobsen's "First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance" is a disturbing examination of the totalitarian world of identity intelligence, that combination of biometric information, high tech surveillance platforms, human personality/behavior/DNA analysis, and the network of ultra-classified DOD, DOJ and DHS databases that stores and shares this information. Thematically, there are A startling deep dive into the shadowy, totalitarian world of identity intelligence -- Annie Jacobsen's "First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance" is a disturbing examination of the totalitarian world of identity intelligence, that combination of biometric information, high tech surveillance platforms, human personality/behavior/DNA analysis, and the network of ultra-classified DOD, DOJ and DHS databases that stores and shares this information. Thematically, there are three stories woven together here: One is the history and development of identity intelligence. This strand is sometimes dry and sometimes fascinating, delving as it does into all kinds of historical trivia to show how the rise of biometric collection and surveillance contributes to both crime-solving and social order. I LOVE historical books that go down these kinds of rabbit holes. But it's not for everyone. The second is the application of identity intelligence collection and utilization in fighting America's modern wars and the broader expansion of this brutally dystopian technology in controlling civil society. This is how identity intelligence looks today, a fully totalitarian endstate hidden behind security clearances, changing the tactics of soldiers on the battlefield and law-enforcement agencies at home while forcing policy makers to hide or rein in these capabilities depending on the shifting attitudes of public opinion or political agendas. The third is the tragic story of the Cursed Platoon, a nickname given to the 1st Platoon, C Troop, 4th Combat Team, 82nd Airborne, during their combat deployment in Afghanistan where their platoon leader, 1LT Clint Lorance, would order them to open fire on innocent civilians. The Cursed Platoon could be the subject of a separate book except for the role identity intelligence plays in the narrative. The Cursed Platoon story is an important one in showing how the military obsession with collecting battlefield biometrics tended to undermine small unit tactics and changed the face of warfare. 1LT Lorance, the flawed young officer "spoiling for a fight," has come from a previous assignment in which identity intelligence instilled him with hubris and overconfidence in his ability to understand the enemy... and thus emboldened him to give illegal orders to his men. When the entire platoon is disgraced and 1LT Lorance sentenced to prison for murder, his defense team manages to manipulate the highly classified identity intelligence database information and the public's naïve trust in government and technology to portray the flawed, out-of-control 1LT as a hero and a scapegoat. 1LT Lorance receives a presidential pardon while the rest of the platoon, struggling with the guilt and disgrace inflicted on them by his criminal behavior, must watch him being treated as a national hero on cable news networks while their own lives seemingly spiral out of control. The tale of the Cursed Platoon is a cautionary one for the rest of us -- a parable for the monolithic, soul-crushing, life-sapping power that identity intelligence gives to government and policymakers. Identity intelligence promises to keep us safe from evil-doers - It's mild inconveniences and resultant losses of freedom being a small price to pay for the safety and security they promise. But as the Cursed Platoon discovers, identity intelligence is flawed. People can, and do, manipulate the data. As a professional soldier and intelligence officer for much of my life, I was particularly disheartened to see how eagerly the generals and politicians embraced identity intelligence as the panacea for all that was going wrong in the War on Terror. Billions were spent on technologies that brought confusion rather than clarity as warfighters were inundated with data. Battlefield soldiers were distracted, engaging in dystopian police work instead of warfighting, and hardly winning hearts and minds. Surveillance operators and analysts were given a god-like power over human lives. The cynical embrace of this totalitarian capability in Afghanistan to "secure Afghan Democracy" is frightening... and Orwellian. Far from being a panacea, the relentless pursuit of biometric data and surveillance omnipotence probably cost us the war. Now that capability has been brought home and is being implemented for use against Americans. That is the most frightening conclusion of "First Platoon." As usual, Annie Jacobsen presents the facts and lets the reader decide. Her poignant interviews with the struggling veterans of the Cursed Platoon are among the most gut-wrenching things she has ever written. Her ability to humanize such a technologically complex subject is one reason why I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to all who are interested in technology, conflict, law-enforcement, intelligence, US military history, technology history, and the threats to freedom posed by those who control the data and collection capabilities of identity intelligence. Read this important book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is a fascinating book that takes one incident in Afghanistan and uses it to expose the Department of Defense's widespread use of biometrics in Afghanistan, how that affects one case of a lieutenant convicted of war crimes (rightly so it appears) whom President Donald Trump subsequently pardoned (relying on biometric evidence from the defense teams which seems to have been bogus). She then jumps off into a wider discussion of biometrics with a tentative discussion of how biometrics are comin This is a fascinating book that takes one incident in Afghanistan and uses it to expose the Department of Defense's widespread use of biometrics in Afghanistan, how that affects one case of a lieutenant convicted of war crimes (rightly so it appears) whom President Donald Trump subsequently pardoned (relying on biometric evidence from the defense teams which seems to have been bogus). She then jumps off into a wider discussion of biometrics with a tentative discussion of how biometrics are coming from the battlefield to your local village. It ends up being a frightening glimpse into Big Brother alive and thriving in the United States. "It would be years before these same military surveillance methodologies would eventually come home, to tag and track citizens in the United States," the author writes, but come they do and are in use at this moment with little to no legal oversight. When a guy who is intimately familiar with how this technology was used in Afghanistan and is only referred to as Kevin H tells you, "What Palantir is capable of is straight-up Big Brother. People should pay attention. For real." It seems wise to listen to that guy. Of course the difficulty is that we cannot pay attention because the technology and its use is highly secret, even when used against American citizens. An interesting read and a glimpse of the future, and it isn't good.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Compelling and astonishing reporting that will enrage you even more about the Trump pardon of Lorance.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is so different from any book I have read. Very thought provoking. I look forward to reading more of Annie Jacobsen’s books. Note: this reads like an in-depth research report, over 100 pages of citations and notes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Mind blowing stuff! I have no words!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Misty Thomas

    I never read books about war but when it is a book about your son and his brothers you tend to take notice. My son, Zach Thomas, of the cursed platoon that Annie Jacobsen so eloquently writes about. She brings light to a side of war the government tries so hard to protect. There is nothing that I can say about the use of Biometrics that she doesn't cover or that hasn't been said in the reviews but I can talk about the way the government uses the lives of young soldiers as pawns to do their dirty I never read books about war but when it is a book about your son and his brothers you tend to take notice. My son, Zach Thomas, of the cursed platoon that Annie Jacobsen so eloquently writes about. She brings light to a side of war the government tries so hard to protect. There is nothing that I can say about the use of Biometrics that she doesn't cover or that hasn't been said in the reviews but I can talk about the way the government uses the lives of young soldiers as pawns to do their dirty work without ever being honest about their actions. So many of these young soldiers never make it out alive and the ones that do, never make it back as the person that left. They agree to put their life on the line to fight for the rights of our country and its civilians all on false pretenses only to be slapped in the face with a pardon of Lorrance. The pardon of Lorrance is a big enough sting that several in this platoon are no longer living because the PTSD was too much and the silent pain that the others feel is a burden that most will never feel and unfortunately, the government has now said is irrelevant and their story is a lie. Thank you Annie for writing an eye-opening account of what is going on and shedding light on the truth that was overshadowed by a murderer being hailed as a hero!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ronnie

    I first heard/read about this book after reading books on the Pentagon and DARPA. When I started reading I felt like a was reading a modern version of a book of the effects/affects of the violence from the Civil War which Matthew Pearl wrote so eloquently about. But then Annie grabs you by the intellectual throat with such vine and vigour that you can't put the book down. Artificial intelligence. Biometrics. Panopticon.(The sight of God)...Drones...Cameras in stores and at every street corner. F I first heard/read about this book after reading books on the Pentagon and DARPA. When I started reading I felt like a was reading a modern version of a book of the effects/affects of the violence from the Civil War which Matthew Pearl wrote so eloquently about. But then Annie grabs you by the intellectual throat with such vine and vigour that you can't put the book down. Artificial intelligence. Biometrics. Panopticon.(The sight of God)...Drones...Cameras in stores and at every street corner. Facial identity .Usage in war and now in civilian life. Good .Bad...and Very Ugly. Then I felt I was reading a newer version of Lt. Calley and the My Lai Massacre....(Paging Seymour Hersh)...This book drips with freshness and fierceness.. Freshness because its all current on a daily basis. Fierceness because she maintains an honesty that at times leaves you gasping for psychological and cerebral air.Its a nightmare book. Annie's written other books.But this is something. I was able to get it from Leominster Public Library.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Awortwi Dzimah

    Essentially picked this book to read to leverage on military data mining and intelligence technologies for applications in mining engineering: military grade data mining advanced technologies could potentially be game-changers for the global mining industry. That said, I learnt a lot and, must say, overwhelmingly on the period between 2011 to 2020 of US military interventions in Afghanistan though in narrow terms to *The First Platoon* who had to lead in the biometric data intelligence war. Annie Essentially picked this book to read to leverage on military data mining and intelligence technologies for applications in mining engineering: military grade data mining advanced technologies could potentially be game-changers for the global mining industry. That said, I learnt a lot and, must say, overwhelmingly on the period between 2011 to 2020 of US military interventions in Afghanistan though in narrow terms to *The First Platoon* who had to lead in the biometric data intelligence war. Annie Jacobsen did a great exposé on the merits and demerits of bio data intelligence for law enforcement; I look forward to reading more of her books.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tim Yearneau

    A mind blowing book that takes a deep dive into biometrics and how the US Military applied it to Afghanistan. First Platoon is the main character in this look into the profanity that is war. And they got screwed. In every which way. Ironically, we've basically lost this war using high tech methods to a foe using low tech methods. Jacobsen does an amazing job pulling pieces from multiple sources and weaves it into fine tuned whole. Sure to evoke thought and emotion and opinion, I couldn't put thi A mind blowing book that takes a deep dive into biometrics and how the US Military applied it to Afghanistan. First Platoon is the main character in this look into the profanity that is war. And they got screwed. In every which way. Ironically, we've basically lost this war using high tech methods to a foe using low tech methods. Jacobsen does an amazing job pulling pieces from multiple sources and weaves it into fine tuned whole. Sure to evoke thought and emotion and opinion, I couldn't put this one down. Very simply, eye opening.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I often wondered about all the cameras I see on top of a variety of street poles. I always suspected they do surveillance--aka "Identity Dominance"--and I think this book confirms my suspicion. The synopsis I read of the book says our civil liberties are threatened. I want to-read. I often wondered about all the cameras I see on top of a variety of street poles. I always suspected they do surveillance--aka "Identity Dominance"--and I think this book confirms my suspicion. The synopsis I read of the book says our civil liberties are threatened. I want to-read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dee Bee

    In some ways disturbing. Not the authors fault, well written and she is just providing the story and information. Other books of hers are also well written good stories and good information. This one...hmm...kinda tough to think about where the technology is going.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Cherpeski

    Interesting book. Scary tale of the information being collected and used to track people.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roy Nickerson

    This is a pretty important book to read, especially for those in the Profession of Arms and in the legal system.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Greg Jaffe

    my review.. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo... my review.. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jack Jacobson

    An important book. All Americans should be aware of what is happening to our privacy. This book lays it out in great detail, and it's frightening. An important book. All Americans should be aware of what is happening to our privacy. This book lays it out in great detail, and it's frightening.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kyle.L.Carroll

    A subject like this in a lesser authors hands would have floundered. Jacobsen makes it sing. An important book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Ochs

  19. 5 out of 5

    John

  20. 5 out of 5

    KC Kasberg

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Kelly

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Frandsen

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nick Armenta

  24. 5 out of 5

    Corey Fegan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Afzal

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joey Spiotto

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael John Toy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tina Wettlaufer

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

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