Rep. Steve Israel's novel, 'The Global War on Morris,' to debut

Rep. Steve Israel will become a published novelist Rep. Steve Israel will become a published novelist next year with the release of his parody of the NSA surveillance program, set mostly on Long Island and inspired by a secret briefing a decade ago. Photo Credit: Simon and Schuster

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WASHINGTON - Rep. Steve Israel will become a published novelist next year with the release of his parody of the NSA surveillance program, set mostly on Long Island.

Israel's 256-page novel, "The Global War on Morris," is scheduled to be released in January, his publisher, Simon & Schuster, said on its website.

"You're going to see a lot of Long Island in it. . . . You're going to see people you recognize in politics and in government," said Israel, 56, a Democrat from Huntington. "But mostly I'm hoping people will recognize how slippery the slope has been in violating privacy," he said.

His book, the publisher says, tells the story of happily married Mets fan and pharmaceutical salesman Morris Feldstein, who falls for a doctor's receptionist and buys her something with his company credit card. That simple act prompts a top-secret government surveillance program using a supercomputer called NICK to gather data and strands of Feldstein's life and declare him Public Enemy Number One.

As a politician, Israel has been generally supportive of government surveillance, his voting record shows. He proposed changes to a secret court overseeing foreign surveillance only after the NSA leaks.

But Israel said the impetus for the book came from a 2006 House Armed Services Committee hearing at which Pentagon officials discussed spying two years earlier on Quakers in Florida who protested the Iraq War.

"When a group of elderly Quakers was added to the database, I realized that it was the stuff that novels are made of," he said. It was that, he said, and "attending meetings with President [George W.] Bush and senior officials that prompted me to write this book."

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Israel said House ethics rules forbid him from taking an advance, so he needs brisk book sales to profit. He reported making less than $5,000 on "Charge!" his 2007 collection of military speeches. His novel was first reported by Washington's Roll Call.

Israel is the latest New York politician to write a book. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) has published three novels. Hillary Clinton just released "Hard Choices." Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will publish "Off the Sidelines" in September.

Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he spent five years writing based on notes he pounded into his iPhone after briefings.

He said he wrote in the same style as his parody of the House GOP, which The New Yorker blog published in September.

"This is really a satire that is meant to create a little bit of discomfort," he said.

@Newsday

CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly described as secret the meeting at which Rep. Steve Israel heard Pentagon officials discuss a surveillance program that spied on Quakers opposed to the Iraq War. It was an open meeting.

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