• First Platoon

  • A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance
  • By: Annie Jacobsen
  • Narrated by: Annie Jacobsen
  • Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (364 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A powerful story of war in our time, of love of country, the experience of tragedy, and a platoon at the center of it all.

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 19-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 US Department of Defense’s quest to build the world’s most powerful biometrics database, with the ability to identify, monitor, catalog, 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 exposé 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.

©2021 Annie Jacobsen (P)2021 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

One of Houston Chronicle's "10 Books That Brought a Little Magic to Their Genres" in 2021

One of Science for the People's "Best Science Books of the Year"

On The Octavian's 2021 Book List 

“Jacobsen brings empathy, compassion, compelling writing and some truly dogged reporting.” (The Washington Post

“Jacobsen follows the lives of Americans told to gather that data in Afghanistan - and she questions what the U.S. government means to do with it all.” (NPR)  

“A deeply researched book about modern warfare. A startling prompt to stop worrying about fabricated conspiracy theories and to consider for a moment actual threats to privacy.” (Houston Chronicle)  

What listeners say about First Platoon

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An eye opener

Want to know how far we’ve come to living in a universe that resembles Goerge Orwell’s, 1984, where Big Brother is watching everything we do and can make life and death decisions with impunity? Want to know how this exact technology was used to free a war criminal and is going to try and be used to free another one? And what the implications of these 2 cases mean to you and I? Read this Pulitzer Prize Finalist book and find out. 5 stars out of 5 for me.

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An Absolutely Must Listen To

I discovered Annie about 2 years ago. This year I listened to all her books available on Audible. She is an amazing storyteller. Her details really paint a full picture, and the people she tells about become so real, I feel like I’ve met them. Her voice is also very soothing, so I’m delighted she narrates her own books. This book was a little hard to listen to, because I know service members who have died in Afghanistan, and have loved ones that served there. It was raw, real, and so thought provoking. This book builds a lot on subjects discussed in The Pentagon’s Brain, and highlights an area that is getting a lot of news these days: bio-metrics, tracking, and government transparency. What I really appreciate about Annie’s style, is that she presents the facts, without making judgments, she lets the reader ponder and draw their own conclusions. She presents multiple sides to each story, and shows how blurred the lines can be, especially in the world of military and intelligence. I would recommend this book, and then go get all of them. Your mind will be blown. I’m eagerly awaiting her next release.

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Very interesting

I generally love everything Annie Jacobson does... when this book started I was really struggling to figure out what it was going to be about and where it was going, and by the end it all made sense.... very very interesting food for thought.

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minority report

Minority report was just a primer, for First Platoon, as it is a primer for what is to come of big brother. this story of technology development and possible human manipulation is a must read!

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Incredible

This has to be Annie Jacobsen's best work. And that's saying a lot. She's able to terrify, intrigue, and spellbind a reader. Identify dominance became even more real for the average person this past year. And it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. What a wonderful book. The only drawback, and it's not major at all, is the narration. The author narrating can go either way. It's good this time and well paced. But not always. But who cares, because the story is that good.

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  • RL
  • 01-18-21

Narration

I thought the writer narrating he own work would be better than average. In this case, not so much. She pauses in the middle of sentences, as you do, but the places she choses to stop are weird. Right from the beginning of the book, her speech patterns took me right out of the story. The material is compelling, and I enjoyed it immensely. Just wish I had not done this book as "audio".

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Incredible Journalism

Annie paints a picture of a dystopian future driven by DNA, future crime prediction, and the reduction of a human to a digital, probabilistic value. Incredible research and storytelling has this prescient book sitting extraordinarily well in the spirit of the age.

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Great Read

Very informational and interesting read for military enthusiasts who are curious about the future of their activities. She adds a unique casual touch that helps the reader relate to the personal accounts given in the book. There are amazing visuals from these accounts that support the books' intentions of providing an entertaining and action-packed story. She is a great narrator and her voice and demeanor help to translate the complex topics in the book as you transition with her through each chapter. Overall a nice read.

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very interesting overall

excellent narrator. story is very intertwined and pertinent to the direction of military. raises important points about surveillance

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Would recommend to a friend

With the exception of “Phenomena” I have absolutely loved every book Annie Jacobsen has written and read. This was no different. There were many twists in the story and many of these twists are very important to todays climate and government.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Matthew
  • 06-19-22

Great book on biometric capture.

Shows that the real enemy is not the biometric capture but humans with agendas.

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  • Mr T Kearney
  • 05-10-22

I enjoyed this title. Interesting chapter of GWOT.

I really liked the story. Good history of biometrics and it's use in the GWOT. As usual Jacobsen tells it her way with facts and figures.

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  • Moneenroe
  • 02-27-22

A Must Read

Superbly researched. Well done Annie Jacobsen. An exposé of the perfidy of the direction the world is going and its conclusion is obvious. The egregious abuse of data resulting in a pardon for an obvious psychopath is disturbing. Thank you for writing this book.

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  • Dave Duggan
  • 03-24-21

Amazing

Best book I’ve read all year. This is a must read as are all of Annie’s books

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  • Gordon B
  • 01-18-21

Fantastic book

Another great book by Annie, I have many of her books and this one doesn’t disappoint.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-18-21

Not her best work

The whole first part of the book is tiresome and laborious. It really was hard to listen to. the middle section and towards the end is insightful and we'll written. this is the only reason it got the score I have it. She does a great job at the performance. I have read all of her books, and I can't help but feel let down by this one.

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  • Bill H
  • 04-24-21

Everyone concerned about surveillance read this.

This is an excellent examination of biometrics surveillance. Jacobsen’s analysis is superb. I would advise anyone to think about this and the implications of state control of knowledge of everyone’s genotype and phenotype.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-06-21

Excellent

A must read to preserve the bulwark of democracy. The genetic panopticon is real and ever growing. The time to act is now.

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  • Josh
  • 01-27-21

Always great work from Annie Jacobsen

This is another thorough narrative of the use of biometrics in the battlefield and beyond. Jacobsen explores the use of biometric data in the establishment of a western style Rule of Law judiciary system in Afghanistan via the story of a young platoon.