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The top-secret world that the government created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere. The result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe may be putting us in The top-secret world that the government created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere. The result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe may be putting us in greater danger. In Top Secret America, award-winning reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin uncover the enormous size, shape, mission, and consequences of this invisible universe of over 1,300 government facilities in every state in America; nearly 2,000 outside companies used as contractors; and more than 850,000 people granted "Top Secret" security clearance. A landmark exposé of a new, secret "Fourth Branch" of American government, Top Secret America is a tour de force of investigative reporting-and a book sure to spark national and international alarm.


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The top-secret world that the government created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere. The result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe may be putting us in The top-secret world that the government created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere. The result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe may be putting us in greater danger. In Top Secret America, award-winning reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin uncover the enormous size, shape, mission, and consequences of this invisible universe of over 1,300 government facilities in every state in America; nearly 2,000 outside companies used as contractors; and more than 850,000 people granted "Top Secret" security clearance. A landmark exposé of a new, secret "Fourth Branch" of American government, Top Secret America is a tour de force of investigative reporting-and a book sure to spark national and international alarm.

30 review for Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Surprised by the news about NSA surveillance? Read this book! Note: This review first appeared here on September 11, 2011 (yes, 9/11/11). In view of the recent news about the NSA’s Prism program and other widespread and long-standing efforts to amass personal information about the American public, I’m posting it again. This superb book deserves a far wider audience than it received in 2011. If you treasure your freedom as an American . . . if you’re concerned about how the U.S. Government spends y Surprised by the news about NSA surveillance? Read this book! Note: This review first appeared here on September 11, 2011 (yes, 9/11/11). In view of the recent news about the NSA’s Prism program and other widespread and long-standing efforts to amass personal information about the American public, I’m posting it again. This superb book deserves a far wider audience than it received in 2011. If you treasure your freedom as an American . . . if you’re concerned about how the U.S. Government spends your tax money . . . or if you simply want to understand how our country is managed . . . you owe it to yourself to read this brilliant book. Alternately mind-boggling and blood-curdling, Top Secret America is the most impressive piece of investigative journalism I’ve read in years. Dana Priest and Bill Arkin have written a book that, in a rational world, would usher in an orgy of housecleaning through the far reaches of the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and every other department, agency, or office that pretends to be involved in strengthening our national security. Even then — even if we somehow reined in the known alphabet agencies — we would only be scratching the surface. Here’s Priest writing about the work of her co-author: ”After two years of investigating, Arkin had come up with a jaw-dropping 1,074 federal government organizations and nearly two thousand private companies involved with programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in at least 17,000 locations across the United States — all of them working at the top secret classification level.” There is an additional three thousand “state and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions.” Perhaps there’s one saving grace in this brouhaha of activity. Priest again: ”Post 9/11, government agencies annually published some 50,000 separate serialized intelligence reports under 1,500 titles, the classified equivalent of newspapers, magazines, and journals. Some were distributed daily; others came out once a week, monthly, or annually.” There is so much “information” generated by the counterterrorism establishment that senior managers frequently ignore it all and instead ask their aides to talk to people to find out what’s really meaningful. Don’t be mollified by the belief that all this activity is carried out by designated intelligence agencies. The nation’s warriors have their own alphabet-soup of agencies, departments, and units devoted to the same ends. The Pentagon created a major new entity called the Northern Command headed by a four-star general (the military’s highest rank) to protect the “homeland.” However, the Northern Command has no troops of its own and, to take any action, must ask permission from the leaders of each state’s National Guard and other agencies on whom it depends for personnel. Priest and Arkin clearly take a dim view of all this: ** Many, if not all, of the Federal Government’s most closely guarded secrets are vulnerable to theft through simple file-sharing software installed on 20 million computers. ** The Director of National Intelligence, a new position created in 2004 to coordinate the work of the 16 major U.S. intellgence agencies, possesses no power to do so and is frequently ignored by them. But his staff numbers in the thousands, and they hold forth from a new, 500,000-square foot office building. ** The degree of duplication in the national security world is chilling. “Each large organization [engaged in counterterrorism] started its own training centers, supply depots, and transportation infrastructure. Each agency and subagency manned its own unit for hiding the identities of undercover employees and for creating cover names and addresses for them and for their most sensitive projects. Each ecosystem developed a set of regional and local offices.” Duplication of effort runs so deep that there are three separate lists of “High Value Targets,” one each for the CIA, the Pentagon, and the super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (the people who killed Bin Laden). And “at least thirty-four major federal agencies and military commands, operating in sixteen U.S. cities, tracked the money flow to and from terrorist networks.” The depth and quality of Priest and Arkin’s research is unexcelled, and their writing is brisk and easy to read. The book benefits from the straightforward, first-person approach Priest adopted. It’s written largely from her point of view, with Arkin’s contributions as a researcher noted in the third person. Dana Priest has reported for the Washington Post for more than 20 years. She won the George Polk Award in 2005 for reporting on secret CIA detention facilities and the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for uncovering black sites prisons. Her exposure of the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital helped the Washington Post win another Pulitzer in 2007. She deserves another Pulitzer for this illuminating book. Bill Arkin served in U.S. Army intelligence in 1974 to 1978 and had worked as a consultant, political commentator, blogger, activist, and researcher for a number of progressive organizations before teaming up with Priest to write the widely-acclaimed series of Washington Post articles on which this book was based.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    -850,000 Americans now have top security clearances -250,000 Private contractors operate in the security sector -1,200 Government agencies deal with issues of national security -2,000 Private companies keep tabs on national security -10,000 This is the number of locations for Intelligence installations -50,000 Number of reports gleaned in a single year; some overlooked No single government agency, private company, or single individual knows the total cost of these services. And, local law enforcement -850,000 Americans now have top security clearances -250,000 Private contractors operate in the security sector -1,200 Government agencies deal with issues of national security -2,000 Private companies keep tabs on national security -10,000 This is the number of locations for Intelligence installations -50,000 Number of reports gleaned in a single year; some overlooked No single government agency, private company, or single individual knows the total cost of these services. And, local law enforcement agencies are using techniques developed in The War On Terror to investigate political activities of private citizens and political groups. Any form of oversight is clearing lacking. It seems to me, after reading this thought provoking book, that while 'business is booming' in this particular sector of the economy, America is being held hostage to a very expensive, inefficient, and potentially corrupt national policy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Fairweather

    So here is the disclaimer first off *I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads*. Top Secret America came off as a pretty straight forward and an easy read especially for the casual reader that do not read alot of works on the military, intelligence, or current world events. What it lacked in in depth material it made up for it in a nice flow from subject to subject, rarely getting off topic like many similar books do when they spend too much time referencing sources. I do wish t So here is the disclaimer first off *I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads*. Top Secret America came off as a pretty straight forward and an easy read especially for the casual reader that do not read alot of works on the military, intelligence, or current world events. What it lacked in in depth material it made up for it in a nice flow from subject to subject, rarely getting off topic like many similar books do when they spend too much time referencing sources. I do wish that more detail could have been provided because frankly much of the information discussed could be digested while watching the evening news. The author and main contributor are both writers for the Washington Post and I must say that I didnt feel that the piece was that slanted as one could assume. Instead it was a generalized overview of the last ten years of the intelligence state that our country has buried itself in. I feel confident when I say that many citizens today look back and feel that far too much money has been spent on funding our military ventures over the last decade and the intelligence community has grown too big for its own good. I have to agree but only to a point. What many do not realize and this book only touches on it briefly at various points is the idea that the government was not prepared to enter a period such as this, one that would require something else more than simple military dominance. It can be argued that being there wasnt a precedent already established, that the intelligence community as well as the military had to function on a trial and error basis. Is our intel experts more attuned than they were ten years ago? Most definately, however the road that it had to take was obscenely treacherous, expensive, and bordered on legality. I will acknowledge that I am far from being politically correct, so I have a knowledge and acceptance understanding that the CIA, NSA, JOSC etc. all at times have to do ugly things to get their work done. Yes, the public is usually better off not knowing what they do because the truth is never pretty. I have to say that im actually more dissappointed that these organizations that are supposed to be based on secrecy so often allowed such things to be leaked to the media and general public, but that is a tangent that I dont feel like going off on right now. I will say that the main problem facing Top Secret America is primarily two-fold. One, throwing money at a problem with the hope that the best results will present themselves will never work...just ask the Washington Redskins and New York Yankees (most of the time). This is why the intelligence community in many ways couldnt get out of its own way after more than quadrupling in size. The other, and this isnt merely an intelligence or federal government issue but rather a societal issue in the United States. WE HAVE TOO MUCH INFORMATION AT OUR FINGER TIPS! As brought up in this book numerous times, the CIA and all the others were constantly doubling their efforts along with various other entities and departments based on their compartmentaliztion of their inner structure and methodologies. They simply lose or even forget all the data they possess because as the author states, an intelligence agency acts as a dresser. Open up a drawer and you will find various compartments, however due to protocol...only the owner of the drawer knows whats going on in each compartment, but he doesnt know whats going on in the drawer below, or in the next dresser over. I tend to be the type of person who looks to deeply at things alot. Whether im at work reviewing a project I worked on, driving home trying to remember everything I compiled for that project or in bed, wondering if I included everything in it. Now if I had the over abundance of data to work with as intel agents do as they are being fed reports and photos by analysts from all over the world, how can they move on something? Its not as simple as it sounds. Not to mention we as a society now daily increase their workload. How? By spending every waking minute social networking, blogging, texting etc. We put so much data and info out there that analysts spend an eternity having to sift through everything to find that one minute piece of info with the hope that it may turn out to be justified. It isnt just social networking either, the media has multiplied like rabbits which is also studied. Never before has the public been able to find out information, news, scandals, or anything else before the press gets to feed it to us? Much of it unfiltered. How powerful is this? Well according to the authors sources...that is where the intelligence war will be fought starting this year...just ask Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, and all the other countries that were in, are in, or almost in a state of revolution...all fueled by excessive information and social networking. For as glamorous as some make out the lifestyle of those in Top Secret America, one should ask themselves if they really think that is true, and if they still do, this book is a good place to start to familiarize how challenging their path can be, whether it be trying to do the impossible, or just trying to overcome the intel communities self defeating nature...they still must find a way to overcome and complete their task. Its not easy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Greg Moye

    I gave this book three stars only because the subject matter is tremendously important. That being said, this is a poorly written book in my opinion and I stopped reading it half of the way through. Rather than provide an analysis of how our security infrastructure has grown uncontrollably since 9/11/2001, each chapter is structured as an endless list of agencies and programs. I felt the author could have dealt with the inventory in one chapter and then spent more time on analysis and the perspe I gave this book three stars only because the subject matter is tremendously important. That being said, this is a poorly written book in my opinion and I stopped reading it half of the way through. Rather than provide an analysis of how our security infrastructure has grown uncontrollably since 9/11/2001, each chapter is structured as an endless list of agencies and programs. I felt the author could have dealt with the inventory in one chapter and then spent more time on analysis and the perspectives of the key people she interviewed for the book. The true story here is the out of control spending, and the redundant ineffective organizational structure of this nation's security programs. As citizens we need an understanding of how much financial, technical, political, and human capital is being squandered in the current environment. After reading just a few chapters of this book, you will understand the Bush and Obama administrations have made no effort toward effectively satisfying the requirements of the 9/11 commission.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    That people don't know about the size and intrusiveness of the Surveillance State is partly by design. Thankfully, William Arkin and Dana Priest have made it a point to try and end that problem. This book is essentially an expansion of Arkin and Priest's investigative series for the Washington Post that goes by the same title. Much like the newspaper pieces, this book is very well done. The authors examine, question, and shine a light on many of the different aspects of the National Security/Sur That people don't know about the size and intrusiveness of the Surveillance State is partly by design. Thankfully, William Arkin and Dana Priest have made it a point to try and end that problem. This book is essentially an expansion of Arkin and Priest's investigative series for the Washington Post that goes by the same title. Much like the newspaper pieces, this book is very well done. The authors examine, question, and shine a light on many of the different aspects of the National Security/Surveillance apparatus within the United States, including its economic effects. The authors particularly focus on the massive enlargement of the National Security/Surveillance State that has taken place since 2001. For those wanting to take a critical look into this Top Secret world that's been created in the last 10 years, I know of no better place to start.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jim Crocker

    It's everything you should know about what's going on behind the curtain. Just because you happen to be paranoid doesn't mean you're not being followed. Keep looking over your shoulder and checking those reflections in the store window. And just so ya know, cell phones with GPS can be tracked, even when the phone is OFF. See y'all at Cheyenne Mountain in March. It's everything you should know about what's going on behind the curtain. Just because you happen to be paranoid doesn't mean you're not being followed. Keep looking over your shoulder and checking those reflections in the store window. And just so ya know, cell phones with GPS can be tracked, even when the phone is OFF. See y'all at Cheyenne Mountain in March.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    It gets a little dry and disconnected at times, but this is a book that every American should read. It's a frank look at the world we've created since 9/11. One critique is that by the end you're left with a mountain of problems and not much in the way of proposed solutions or even empowerment, but It gets a little dry and disconnected at times, but this is a book that every American should read. It's a frank look at the world we've created since 9/11. One critique is that by the end you're left with a mountain of problems and not much in the way of proposed solutions or even empowerment, but

  8. 5 out of 5

    Horza

    Staggering revelations on nearly every page. I went in from a civil liberties angle, but the sheer opaque bulk of the surveillance state, unaccountable, unintegrated, inefficient and drowning in raw data is a formidable policy failure in its own right.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Wagner

    Well written, well researched. Just makes me SO ANGRY at all the money the country is wasting while not making us any safer!!!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Superb book regarding our post 9/11 world that puts many attributes of government, fear, power and money into perspective. While the book was written in 2012, I can only believe that things are worse now than ever.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    Excellent investigative reporting; less than excellent storytelling.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    The chapter on JSOC was fascinating. I imagine the Snowden leaks would have been a great addition to the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    On the whole, Priest gives a remarkable look into the network of corporations, governments agencies, special forces and clandestine services that have grown and been created since 2001. The latter parts on operational details behind the information and surveillance nets as well as details of the classified drone program and JSOC activities are excellent. If I had written the book, I might have featured those closer to the beginning of the book. The first part, which contains extremely interestin On the whole, Priest gives a remarkable look into the network of corporations, governments agencies, special forces and clandestine services that have grown and been created since 2001. The latter parts on operational details behind the information and surveillance nets as well as details of the classified drone program and JSOC activities are excellent. If I had written the book, I might have featured those closer to the beginning of the book. The first part, which contains extremely interesting material, might have benefitted by focusing more on visualization and analogy to establish the expanse of the top-secret programs Arkin uncovered. In places it feels a bit like a very long grocery list of alphabet soup type organizations. Many of the footnotes in these sections add little to the text, and I found them better to ignore. In any case, the first chapters describing the ecosystem of intelligence and defense corporations which are swallowing defense spending by the truckload are eye opening. Enabled by a sought after security clearance, you can really make a fortune on the fears of politicians that cannot find a defense budget too big. The amount of sheer bureaucrat driven thinking in the intelligence communities is impressive. Multiple government agencies tasked with the same goal... but each of them hiring the same exact contractors to bring ideas to the table. Not exactly leveraging redundancy! Small projects turning into small intel shops turning into intel shops with their own air force turning into billion dollar sub-compartments of the DIA, DoD, CIA or elsewhere. Tons of inter-agency pissing matches to the detriment of budgets and security. Ballooning use of private contractors that prove to be more expensive than the agency analysts that were trained by the agency but then moved to the contractor to draw a bigger salary from work they sell to the agency that trained them. Hilarious soirees in fantastic vacation destinations like Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc. where government regulators literally explain to contractors what they need to do to get more funding. The CIA and the Polish GROM commandos were on the ground for Operation Iraqi Freedom as early as July 2002 (evidenced by awards signed by administration officials for meritorious service during that time) despite the war officially beginning in March 2003 and a vote not coming til later in fall 2002. The parts on JSOC, what's next for JSOC, the drone program and how these are all handled in scope of the Constitution are ultimately depressing and leave you wondering nervously about where the country is headed. In one passage, discussing John Rizzo, the CIA in-house lawyer charged with reviewing assassination targets for the CIA kill list, says something to the effect that he has trouble remembering the difference between various targeted individuals because "their names all sound the same." Some of this stuff is truly unbelievable. The level of detail Arkin is able to divine regarding clandestine activities on Monster.com, accessing drone bases in Qatar, etc. is inspiring. He is some kind of genius. I'd highly recommend this book with the mentioned reservation about presentation in the first sections.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Danns

    This book was a difficult read primarly due to the amount of acronyms for the various governmental and privately run organizations. This type of book is one that shows one of the disadvantages of reading in eBook format. While there is a glossary in the back one can reference, doing so on a eReader is quite cumbersome. Aside from that the book was very approachable and provided a lot of primary sources, albeit aliases intact for most, to flush out the Author's arguement that "Top secret America This book was a difficult read primarly due to the amount of acronyms for the various governmental and privately run organizations. This type of book is one that shows one of the disadvantages of reading in eBook format. While there is a glossary in the back one can reference, doing so on a eReader is quite cumbersome. Aside from that the book was very approachable and provided a lot of primary sources, albeit aliases intact for most, to flush out the Author's arguement that "Top secret America has become an institution that by it's very nature is an unmanagable mess." A bit of history is presented to set the stage for what would become the explosion of survelience and covert military action post 9/11. An overall is presented of how this military industry kicked into high gear in reaction to 9/11 and then the book breaks down to exploring specific facets of Top Secret America including electronic survelience, drones, and secret prisions, and special forces. Most of this information is pretty mainstream today but what I find a bit disturbing overall is that while nation was shocked into awareness over the Snowden leaks, what Dana Priest was collecting and reporting on for the past 10 years was exactly what those leaks revealed. It is a wakeup call that collectively we have had our heads in the sand for far too long and let this monster run without fetters for too long. What really hit home to me was the magnitude of the military industrial complex surrounding Top Secret America. The enormous amounts of money that goes into funding and the number of jobs it creates. Most of the money is going to contractors, private industry which in turn creates demand to steal away qualified individuals who were once employed by government institutions. As those employees leave the government sector for private employment demand for qualified personnel increases thus raising the reliance on private companies. The CIA, NSA, FBI, etc all become training grounds for these private corporations to pillage from. Cost increases and allegiance is no longer to the government but to the share holders. Add in this increasing population of Top Secret America and what was once a specialized group is becoming more and more diverse. There is a monster of beauracracy in place defining levels of secrecy to the point that information is not shared effectively. Former chains of command are broken and confusion permeates the entire industry. You have multiple groups producing the same information in different ways and not sharing or working together. The amount of information is more overwhelming than effective that often the needle is lost in the many haystacks. This is a very thought provoking book. How do we reign in this beast when there is so much money involved?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sanjida Kamal

    I'm not a big fan of non-fiction because of the idea that it would be filled with stats and facts that would make reading it boring. At times this book was just like that. At first, I was drawn to the main theme of the book which has to do with the-ever growing secret America. Yet at times the book became repetitive and wordy. It's still an important considering what it has to say. It isn't something that is in the center of the news or even in politics, though it should be. The existence of top I'm not a big fan of non-fiction because of the idea that it would be filled with stats and facts that would make reading it boring. At times this book was just like that. At first, I was drawn to the main theme of the book which has to do with the-ever growing secret America. Yet at times the book became repetitive and wordy. It's still an important considering what it has to say. It isn't something that is in the center of the news or even in politics, though it should be. The existence of top secret America is just as secret as the organizations that it's comprised of. The numbers are mind boggling. It also briefly alludes to how 9/11 may have been foreseen. I can trust that most of the facts in this book are true considering the history and work of the author. Dana Priest is the investigative reporter of the Washington Post and has received two Pulitzer Prizes for her work. It's therefore kind of unbelievable how this book or even the contents in it isn't getting the attention it deserves. Top secret America has grown and is growing at a rapid pace since 9/11. The numbers are quite unbelievable. With numbers like that one would think that the world would be a safer place to live in but in fact the numbers may be what is hindering the anti-terrorism effort. There is a lack of coordination and communication between groups/agencies. Many agencies are so focused on the small picture that they aren't able to piece together the bigger one, much like how they didn't see the Arab Spring coming. Reading through this book made me think of the Cold War Era yet somehow the numbers say that present day America is more extreme than the Cold War Era. Technology has allowed agencies and private organizations to literally track anyone anywhere through satellites without anyone's knowledge. People can kill and participate in a war in some desert thousands of miles away from a remote control somewhere in suburban America. There is so much attention and money put into stopping terrorism than any other criminal activity. This is so even though more people die from drug related violence than that die in terrorist related violence. But no one wants to be the one who says to stop funding anti-terrorist related activities for fear that reducing such funding could have disastrous outcomes. More than anything people need to stop being fed this fear and the notion that we need to spend so much on something that isn't working. There needs to be a level of transparency so as to allow things that work to continue and to discontinue what doesn't work. If we drown ourselves in fear and become bankrupt in the attempt to keep ourselves safe, then the terrorists will win.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    I'm a little more than halfway through this book, and my two-word takeaway from everything that I've read so far is "We're f***ed." Although the authors' goal is to describe "the rise of the new American security state," what they've really done, in my mind, is describe the constraints, both self-imposed and not, that prevent our government from effectively fighting terrorism and preventing terrorist attacks. The aforementioned constraints: a lack of institutional knowledge regarding terrorist g I'm a little more than halfway through this book, and my two-word takeaway from everything that I've read so far is "We're f***ed." Although the authors' goal is to describe "the rise of the new American security state," what they've really done, in my mind, is describe the constraints, both self-imposed and not, that prevent our government from effectively fighting terrorism and preventing terrorist attacks. The aforementioned constraints: a lack of institutional knowledge regarding terrorist groups due to private companies luring experienced intelligence officers away from government work into contracting positions; constant bureaucratic infighting and outmaneuvering amongst the various government agencies involved in intelligence; a lack of knowledge by Congress and the American people as to just how effective these various agencies are at fighting terrorism....and many, many more. The great thing about this book is that it's not coming at this issue from a partisan angle; rather, the authors are identifying trends and what are really boring problems embedded in those trends. In other words, this isn't a Jeremy Scahill/Glenn Greenwald screeching screed in which we learn that we are the most evil nation on earth and if we stopped doing anything to go after terrorists they'd just go away; this is a book where the authors are posing the questions "what are we doing to fight terrorism?" "what trends have come about as a result of our war on terrorism?" and "are our methods of fighting terrorism working and/or feasible?" Yes, some chapters are more boring and involve a lot of number-reciting than others, but if you just plow through it you'll get to the good stuff. A great book and indeed a necessary book after all of the Snowden stuff.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    This is a well-written and comprehensive look at the growth of the USA military-industrial complex since September 11th, 2001. The authors detail not only the growth in the military and other organizations that deal with terrorism (like DHS, etc), but it specifically looks at how the growth has been in creating organizations, data, etc that have been classified as top secret. They examine the growth of top secret-related organizations, operations, etc. While people of different political backgro This is a well-written and comprehensive look at the growth of the USA military-industrial complex since September 11th, 2001. The authors detail not only the growth in the military and other organizations that deal with terrorism (like DHS, etc), but it specifically looks at how the growth has been in creating organizations, data, etc that have been classified as top secret. They examine the growth of top secret-related organizations, operations, etc. While people of different political backgrounds may agree/disagree with some of the premises in this book what I found interesting and particularly relevant to the current political climate is that the growth in the top secret USA has lead to an explosion in money being spent that is not being tracked, being spent with organizations that are essentially doing the same work, and no one is figuring out the effectiveness of a variety of programs, operations, etc that have come into existence. It is the lack of accountability that really amazes me. I hope that with the wars in Iraq and Afgahnistan winding down that the higher-ups in the government can scrutinize the spending, the programs, the use of expensive contractors, etc and figure out a way to be more effective and more efficient with money. And I bet if they could figure out what programs were actually working and eliminated the programs that are a waste of money, there would be savings that could be used for the deficit or something. Anyway, this book really makes you think and poses a lot of interesting questions and topics to think about. I won this copy in one of the Goodreads giveaways.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    A very interesting look at the explosive growth of the security industry since 9/11, both in the government (DHS, CIA, FBI, the military, etc.) and the large number of private companies that are hired by the government. The amount of money that has been spent is staggering, and it isn't clear how much good it has done. There are now large number of secret installations, many in office buildings that look just like ordinary commercial ones, mostly around Washington D.C. but also in many other area A very interesting look at the explosive growth of the security industry since 9/11, both in the government (DHS, CIA, FBI, the military, etc.) and the large number of private companies that are hired by the government. The amount of money that has been spent is staggering, and it isn't clear how much good it has done. There are now large number of secret installations, many in office buildings that look just like ordinary commercial ones, mostly around Washington D.C. but also in many other areas. It was very interesting to learn how the authors discovered where many of them are. Once they would find one, they would examine nearby buildings (they tend to cluster, with private companies opening offices very close to the government offices that are their clients) to look for clues such as high security or a lack of signage (e.g. no external signs or a building directory with few or no entries). Building permits, job offer listings and requests for bids (e.g. installation of a fiber optic line) also gave clues. Not unexpectedly there is a lot of duplication and overlap. The sheer amount of data that is now accumulated is also staggering and worrisome. If you take a picture of infrastructure (bridge, train, etc.) there is a reasonable chance it will be reported and end up in a database somewhere. And it still isn't clear how many domestic phone calls, e-mails, etc. are intercepted.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James

    Dana Priest and William Arkin have assembled an incredible accounting of the rise of America's security state, what they call, "Top Secret America". The number of people with top secret clearance is astounding, even more so is the number of those who are not government employees, but private contractors. Priest and Arkin have uncovered a vast community that not even government insiders seem to have a handle on. Thanks are owed to each of them, as well as their various sources and the staff who h Dana Priest and William Arkin have assembled an incredible accounting of the rise of America's security state, what they call, "Top Secret America". The number of people with top secret clearance is astounding, even more so is the number of those who are not government employees, but private contractors. Priest and Arkin have uncovered a vast community that not even government insiders seem to have a handle on. Thanks are owed to each of them, as well as their various sources and the staff who helped to compile and, when possible, make sense of this monstrosity. They have produced a book that is fascinating and enjoyable to read, even though it uncovers something that should be of grave concern to all Americans. As an aside, if short on time, one should, at least, read their reporting for the Washington Post and view the excellent Frontline documentary on PBS by the same name. Both are outstanding previews of what is described, in detail, in their book. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest on what has become of the new American security state since September 11, 2001. When Cofer Black famously told Congress, "All you need to know is that there was a before 9/11 and there was an after 9/11", he wasn't kidding. Read this book and find out why.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    The authors state the book is intended to bring awareness to the fact that the Fed doesn't know how much it's spending in the IC community since 9/11 and the numerous redundant agencies. The Fed overspending and operating inefficiently? Shocker! Second, the latter third of the book speaks to the JSOC. About how quickly it's grown, created it's own intelligence analyst positions, own fleet of drones, etc, etc. Essentially eluding that JSOC wastes money because there are other agencies doing those t The authors state the book is intended to bring awareness to the fact that the Fed doesn't know how much it's spending in the IC community since 9/11 and the numerous redundant agencies. The Fed overspending and operating inefficiently? Shocker! Second, the latter third of the book speaks to the JSOC. About how quickly it's grown, created it's own intelligence analyst positions, own fleet of drones, etc, etc. Essentially eluding that JSOC wastes money because there are other agencies doing those things. Yet, then goes on to show that the JSOC has captured more terrorists than all other military branches combined, killed more terrorists then all other branches combined, conducted all the really, really hard operations (i.e. killed UBL), and operates well in numerous other countries working with that nation's military to pursue terrorists (e.g. Philippines). Kind of conflicting messages. Overall the book was an interesting read (mainly due to the stats) but I thought the authors did a poor job of making their case that the IC was operating poorly. Inefficiently, yes. But the whole Fed is inefficient - would have been good to see them compare and contrast the IC to other Federal agencies (e.g. Social Security, or other large agency).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    I purchased this book several years ago. I saw a show on PBS in which the author was talking about government surveillance programs so I thought this book would be as interesting as the show. The intelligence community does seem to have bloated since 09/11. I would imagine that many entities would cause waste and duplication of services. Priest blames the failure to predict the Arab Spring uprisings as an intelligence failure. She also blames the intelligence community for failing to stop the "U I purchased this book several years ago. I saw a show on PBS in which the author was talking about government surveillance programs so I thought this book would be as interesting as the show. The intelligence community does seem to have bloated since 09/11. I would imagine that many entities would cause waste and duplication of services. Priest blames the failure to predict the Arab Spring uprisings as an intelligence failure. She also blames the intelligence community for failing to stop the "Underwear Bomber" on Christmas Day a few years ago. These may have been intelligence failures but these events would be books in themselves. She gives both events a few sentences. I think its much more complicated than that. No report or individual is cited in these claims. I think she arrived at the conclusion before she had facts. Also Priest starts fear mongering with 1984 claims such as its inevitable before the intel community starts spying on American citizens. There are many points that I agree with that Priest makes. Some of her observations are spot on. But her conjecture turns this investigative work into an opinion editorial.

  22. 4 out of 5

    marcus miller

    Detailed account of how the security apparatus has grown in the U.S. since 9/11. Much of the growth took place rapidly with lots of duplication, waste, overreach and not much thought as to how this may affect our liberty and freedom. The authors detail the new technology developed and the way it is used to track terrorists, and in some or many cases, US citizens and others the government decides they want to track. It would be interesting to see how the authors would add to this based on the Sno Detailed account of how the security apparatus has grown in the U.S. since 9/11. Much of the growth took place rapidly with lots of duplication, waste, overreach and not much thought as to how this may affect our liberty and freedom. The authors detail the new technology developed and the way it is used to track terrorists, and in some or many cases, US citizens and others the government decides they want to track. It would be interesting to see how the authors would add to this based on the Snowden documents which are being released. These documents detail reading the President of Brazil's emails, tapping US civilians phones and data mining of US cell phone companies and social media sites. The authors ask how much of our freedom, liberty and privacy are we willing to give up for security and safety, along with the question of how much are we willing to pay for our security. They suggest most Americans have given little thought to either question. The lack of questioning and the willingness to accept the burgeoning security apparatus are, they argue, a danger to democracy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Norm Applegate

    A Disturbing Expose on Counter Terrorism. Gave it 5 Stars! Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, have written an incredibly important book. “Top Secret America.” Bottom-line, they have unveiled JSOP, Joint Special Operations Command, the pentagon’s secret killing machine and the growth of America’s post 9/11 counter terrorism agencies. Frightening. Priest is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and along with Arkin, they expose the secret buildings, unlimited funding in the billions and sadly how no one A Disturbing Expose on Counter Terrorism. Gave it 5 Stars! Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, have written an incredibly important book. “Top Secret America.” Bottom-line, they have unveiled JSOP, Joint Special Operations Command, the pentagon’s secret killing machine and the growth of America’s post 9/11 counter terrorism agencies. Frightening. Priest is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and along with Arkin, they expose the secret buildings, unlimited funding in the billions and sadly how no one in Congress is accountable. Some worry about surveillance by Goggle and Facebook! It’s nothing compared to what the government is doing in the name security. Not sure what we are getting for the vast dollar amount spent by Congress. Close to a trillion dollars has been spent! The CIA, NSA and who knows how many other secret agencies involved missed the “Arab Spring.” The book is a must read for anyone interested in where our nation is headed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Whitley

    This is the most extraordinary book about the secret government that I have ever read. The depth of research is outstanding, and the story that it tells is very, very important. Incredibly, there are 850,000 people in the United States with security clearances. The intelligence system is no longer exclusively governmental, but rather intelligence gathering, analysis and so much else is being routinely outsourced to an impenetrable tangle of private companies. The system is unimaginably expensive This is the most extraordinary book about the secret government that I have ever read. The depth of research is outstanding, and the story that it tells is very, very important. Incredibly, there are 850,000 people in the United States with security clearances. The intelligence system is no longer exclusively governmental, but rather intelligence gathering, analysis and so much else is being routinely outsourced to an impenetrable tangle of private companies. The system is unimaginably expensive, completely out of control, far beyond the ability of congress to oversee, and growing like a viral colony. Read it and weep for our Constitution, our freedom and our future. Probably 95% of all classification is unnecessary, and most of it conceals budgetary excess, not sensitive secrets.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    An interesting read, slightly undercut by some journalistic license (eg, the phrase Top Secret America is a recurring one, as opposed to an eye-catching title). Most of the book is concerned with government bloat and the resulting inefficiencies; thus, my own reading and interpretation was greatly influenced by Wilson's classic Bureaucracy. my favorite quote: "It seemed hypocritical, even contrary to U.S. long-term interests, for an administration that said its goal was to create democracies out An interesting read, slightly undercut by some journalistic license (eg, the phrase Top Secret America is a recurring one, as opposed to an eye-catching title). Most of the book is concerned with government bloat and the resulting inefficiencies; thus, my own reading and interpretation was greatly influenced by Wilson's classic Bureaucracy. my favorite quote: "It seemed hypocritical, even contrary to U.S. long-term interests, for an administration that said its goal was to create democracies out of Iraq and Afghanistan now to be effectively undermining the legal system in Eastern Europe by cutting private deals with intelligence officials there in exchange for U.S. money and equipment that would make them more powerful."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ian Lindstrom

    Okay, the beginning of this book suffers from all of the information that is chucked out in wild fashion. Very much skim worthy, the info is repeated and mixed in with descriptions of govt buildings, contractor buildings, over and over again. It's good information, though, telling a story we all know (or should sense) to be playing out, but it doesn't really pick up until the middle of the book. There the figures, the names, the places are all written of in a much more interesting and readable Okay, the beginning of this book suffers from all of the information that is chucked out in wild fashion. Very much skim worthy, the info is repeated and mixed in with descriptions of govt buildings, contractor buildings, over and over again. It's good information, though, telling a story we all know (or should sense) to be playing out, but it doesn't really pick up until the middle of the book. There the figures, the names, the places are all written of in a much more interesting and readable manner. It gives some very good quotes and perspectives from those tight within this community and, in the end, comes out being a very revealing and worthwhile read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    Good information from the author, well researched. If anything, I just had the wrong expectations for the book. I was hoping for a juicier, more intense "whistle-blower" type of book, and this information seemed presented a little too dispassionately. Possibly that wasn't intended, but just the way I perceived it. The most interesting sections were those dealing with use of drones and armchair warfare, along with the role of private corporations in the war on terror. It is also troubling how man Good information from the author, well researched. If anything, I just had the wrong expectations for the book. I was hoping for a juicier, more intense "whistle-blower" type of book, and this information seemed presented a little too dispassionately. Possibly that wasn't intended, but just the way I perceived it. The most interesting sections were those dealing with use of drones and armchair warfare, along with the role of private corporations in the war on terror. It is also troubling how many intelligence agencies there are who don't really talk to each other, and how many people in the US actually have top secret clearance. Overall, this was good, just not great.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    (Skimmed thoroughly, rather than read carefully.) Well-researched book about the mass of multiple different intelligence agencies, what they do, and how they do it. Living in the DC area, it was especially interesting to read about the sub-culture of people who work in this industry and live in the DC region and suburbs. The size and complexity of the organizations and how much is contracted out to private companies wasn't news to me but is still disturbing and something I wish received more att (Skimmed thoroughly, rather than read carefully.) Well-researched book about the mass of multiple different intelligence agencies, what they do, and how they do it. Living in the DC area, it was especially interesting to read about the sub-culture of people who work in this industry and live in the DC region and suburbs. The size and complexity of the organizations and how much is contracted out to private companies wasn't news to me but is still disturbing and something I wish received more attention. This book is a step in starting that conversation.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Bearse

    This is the product of some pretty amazing reporting by Dana Priest of the WaPost. Dense with fact and sprinkled with opinion, it is the story of how the intelligence/law enforcement/special ops communities have mushroomed since 911. Are we safer as a result of the tens of billions spent? Probably. But a plethora of new agencies, legions of inexperienced new analysts, and tall silos of classified information is overwhelming. Our failure to predict the ground-shaking events of the Arab Spring lea This is the product of some pretty amazing reporting by Dana Priest of the WaPost. Dense with fact and sprinkled with opinion, it is the story of how the intelligence/law enforcement/special ops communities have mushroomed since 911. Are we safer as a result of the tens of billions spent? Probably. But a plethora of new agencies, legions of inexperienced new analysts, and tall silos of classified information is overwhelming. Our failure to predict the ground-shaking events of the Arab Spring leads one to question if we can see the forest through the trees.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Excellent book. I started reading a library copy and quickly switched to Kindle version so I could take notes. William M. Arkin is a master of open source data collection and analysis. Dana Priest is an excellent author and did an excellent job gaining access to a world that is male dominated. I believe they had a point to make and attempted to support this point with facts. Ironically, shortly after finishing the book I read that a Drone had been used out West by a sherriff's department to arre Excellent book. I started reading a library copy and quickly switched to Kindle version so I could take notes. William M. Arkin is a master of open source data collection and analysis. Dana Priest is an excellent author and did an excellent job gaining access to a world that is male dominated. I believe they had a point to make and attempted to support this point with facts. Ironically, shortly after finishing the book I read that a Drone had been used out West by a sherriff's department to arrest cattle rustlers.

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