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American Coup: How a Terrified Government Is Destroying the Constitution Hardcover – September 10, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316251240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316251242
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Arkin is one of America's premier military experts, having served in Army intelligence in West Berlin during the Cold War. Since then, he has written more than a dozen books, briefed hundreds of top military, intelligence and government officials, and been a part of countless exposés. Working for the Washington Post, he conceived and co-authored the landmark "Top Secret America" investigation, and co-wrote the national bestseller of the same name with colleague Dana Priest. He lives in Vermont.

More About the Author

William Arkin is an analyst, author and journalist who has been working on the subject of national security for over 35 years. His unique career spans an early assignment in Army intelligence in Cold War Berlin to being a best-selling author today. He has worked as a military advisor to the most influential non-governmental human rights and environmental organizations, equally at ease heading Greenpeace International's response to the first Gulf War or teaching at the U.S. Air Force's premier strategy school. He is weirdly proud to say that he spent the night in Saddam General Hospital after being injured by an unexploded cluster bomb in Iraq and that some of his fondest memories were picking through the rubble of Slobodan Milosevic's Belgrade villa and Mullah Omar's compound in Afghanistan. He is probably the only person alive who can say that he has written for both The Nation magazine and Marine Corps Gazette. He has authored or coauthored more than a dozen books and been both a columnist and reporter with The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. He has lived in Vermont since 1993, mostly because he detests Washington but also because if you don't live in a place like Vermont, you don't get it.

Arkin is co-author, most recently, of Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (Little Brown), a New York Times and Washington Post best-selling non-fiction book based up a four-part series Arkin and his writing partner Dana Priest wrote in 2010. The book and series are the results of a three-year investigation into the shadows of the enormous system of military, intelligence and corporate interests created in the decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The series was accompanied by The Washington Post's largest ever online presentation, earned the authors the George Polk Award for National Reporting, the Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists award for Public Service, was a Goldsmith finalist for Investigative Reporting and Pulitzer award nominee, as well as recipient of a half dozen other major journalism awards.

Over the years, Arkin's research and journalism has brought his work to the front pages on dozens of occasions and he has appeared on television and radio countless times. He has appeared multiple times on CBS' 60 Minutes, on Meet the Press, and other programs as an independent analyst. As a long-time military analyst for NBC News, one of the few regular on-air analysts who was not a retired general or admiral, he brought both a journalistic and "civilian" perspective to contemporary military affairs.

Arkin began his string of investigative successes in the early 1980's with his ground-breaking research on the nuclear era, including his best-selling Nuclear Battlefields (Ballinger/Harper & Row) which was a news sensation from the front pages of The New York Times to media in Italy, Germany, and Japan, and even earned Arkin a mention in a monologue on the Johnny Carson show. The Reagan Administration went as far as to seek to put Arkin in jail for revealing the locations of American (and Soviet) nuclear weapons around the world; those were the days.

Arkin's then worked on the multi-volume Nuclear Weapons Databook series for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a set of references which the Reagan Administration also sought to prevent from publication. His subsequent revelation of "mini-nuke" research efforts by the Pentagon in 1992 led to a 1994 Congressional ban and ultimately a pledge by the U.S. government not to develop new nuclear weapons. His discovery of Top secret U.S. plans to secretly move nuclear weapons to a number of overseas locations shattered governments from Bermuda to Iceland to the Philippines. Foreign Affairs, the bible of the foreign policy establishment, commented about Arkin in 1997: "The author is well known (and in some government quarters, cordially detested) as an indefatigable researcher in military affairs, whose cunning and persistence have uncovered many secrets ..."

Working for the activist organization Greenpeace in its anti-nuclear hey-day, Arkin conceived a worldwide "Nuclear Free Seas" campaign, which combined research and action that proved so successful at dogging nuclear armed ships and submarines visiting foreign ports that the headache convinced the first Bush administration to remove nuclear weapons altogether from naval vessels.

Arkin then led Greenpeace International's research and action effort on the first Gulf War, being the first American military analyst to visit post-war Iraq in 1991, and the first to write about civilian casualties and the cascading effects of the bombing of electrical power. Gen. Charles A. ("Chuck") Horner, the commander of air forces during Desert Storm, said in a ten year anniversary interview in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings that the briefing Arkin gave him on the war and its civilian effects in Iraq was the best he'd ever received.

After the Gulf War, Arkin shifted his attention to the new era of conventional warfare. His groundbreaking research on the effects of the use cluster bombs in Iraq and Serbia formed the foundation for the international treaty that later banned their use. Arkin conducted the single most methodical assessment of the causes of civilian casualties after the Kosovo war (1999), a report done for Human Rights Watch that was accepted as authoritative by both NATO and the United States government. Arkin has also visited war zones in the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Israel on behalf of governments, the United Nations and independent inquiries.

Arkin's pioneering methods and meticulous work on the effects of conflict led also to a close collaboration with the United States Air Force, where he became a consultant. He was affiliated with the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies of the United States Air Force from 1992 to 2008 as lecturer and adjunct professor, and conceived and led the SAASS "Airpower Analyst" project to provide better tools for professional on-the-ground study. In 2007, he was National Security and Human Rights Fellow in residence at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where he worked on a study "Why Civilians Die." He has also been a consultant to the Air Force Research Institute working on the history and impact of airpower.

All during his period, Arkin found room for independent journalism and writing. His New York Times op-ed in 1994 revealing the development of blinding laser programs led to a U.S. decision to agree to an international ban on such weapons. After 9/11, he was the first to write about the Bush administration's preemptive nuclear war concepts, provoking front page coverage in Pakistan and throughout the Islamic world. Before the 2003 Iraq war, he revealed the details of prospective war planning, provoking one of the largest leak investigations in the history of the Defense Department. Arkin revealed the fundamentalist religious activities of Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, then the architect of the global war on terrorism. As a columnist for the Times and The Washington Post online, Arkin reported on the growth of secret government and the darker sides of the national security enterprise.

Arkin's 2005 book Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs and Operations in the 9/11 World (Steerforth), the product of years of research, was featured on the front page of The New York Times and in an Emmy-nominated History Channel documentary. His 2006 revelations of renewed domestic intelligence collection by the Pentagon provoked not only a change in policy to end the so-called "Talon" suspicious activity reporting program but also to the eventual closing of the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

A 2003 Washington Post profile of Arkin commented: "From his home in the mountains of Vermont, William Arkin seems to have mastered one of the great juggling acts of the multimedia age -- persuading news organizations, advocacy groups and the Pentagon, through sheer smarts and a bulldog personality, to take him on his own terms."

Customer Reviews

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It's also a pretty good read with entertaining anecdotes.
William Arkin is an essential voice for those interested in understanding the complicated landscape of the modern U.S. government.
Clif Steinberg
That being said, this is a good book and it is well worth the time it takes to read it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By ddfromvt on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who wants to know what drives the inexorable march toward more government intrusion needs to read this book. Arkin, in conversational and chilling detail, outlines the secret decisions our government is making as it delves further and further into our lives. More importantly, his dissection of The Program puts today's events -- Syria, Snowden, NSA abuses -- into context.

A breezy read for such a complex topic, "American Coup" represents the type of journalism that the founders certainly had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. Be forewarned, however: you will become angrier and angrier with each turn of the page.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Essentially: We now live in a time of "forever-war."

The worry about the government instituting martial-law is sooo 1990's because we now truly live a martial life. And we've accepted it. There is no "over there" anymore when it comes to the militarization of our lives. Over there is here. We live to assist the government in everything. See something, say something. And the bottom-line of everything that the government does in the name of national security is not to serve, protect, or assist you but to preserve itself. It's all part of the Continuity of Government (COG) and it's been in place for many years but it spectacularly grew into the multi-headed hydra immediately after 911.

No one and nothing is now immune to the shadow of the umbrella of government entities that "protect us" in the name of national security as fully 10% of the population of the United States (30 million persons) are astoundingly connected in one way or another to the Department of Defense. Arkin describes in specifics (most of it inefficient, bumbling, and embarrassing) the dual system of the government in protecting its continuity: a public system made up of laws and elected officials, and a hidden system made up of plans and appointed experts, unimpeded by Constitutional hampers.

Arkin writes near the end of the book of the expanding effect on all of our lives:

"Suffice it to say that whatever the threats, they are ubiquitous and unrelenting. At home, the enemy is not just Muslim Americans or Arab Americans or Somalis or Palestinians or Middle Easterners or those of the Muslim faith. It is illegal Mexicans. It is drug lords and smugglers and gangs and organized crime and the sex trade. It is foreign visitors and students and overcurious tourists.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Clif Steinberg on September 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
William Arkin is an essential voice for those interested in understanding the complicated landscape of the modern U.S. government. In this important work he illuminates a mostly unknown and unseen driving force in halls of power in the U.S., and describes how we have come to this point. With a great writing style, and the ability to weave together facts and concepts into a meaningful but disturbing tapestry, Mr. Arkin has produced an excellent book. Get it, read it, and pass it on to anyone you know who has an interest in modern civics.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By LF on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book has really got me thinking about who is behind the drive to war in Syria and why the NSA feels like it needs to collect everything on everyone. If Arkin is right that there is an XYZ operating between the lines of the constitution then we surely need to look much closer at what goes on in Washington regardless of who is president. It's also a pretty good read with entertaining anecdotes.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on January 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Be warned: this is not a "beginner's level" book. You must understand- at least to an extent- the way the government works. Arkin uses professional language and treats the reader as someone who understands American civics and American government. To clarify, I just graduated with a major in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, I took multiple classes on the Constitution, and I am now in the Navy, yet I still spent a decent amount of time doing outside research to get clarification on what Arkin was saying. This is not to say I know it all, only to warn you that it can be a difficult book.

That being said, this is a good book and it is well worth the time it takes to read it. If you are interested in the inner workings of the US government and are willing to put in the time to do a little research into certain things on the side, I highly recommend it.

When government officials are sworn in, be it FBI, Department of State, etc., they take an oath to defend and uphold the CONSTITUTION. They do not swear to protect the president, the federal government, or even the people of the United States. They swear to protect the Constitution of the United States. However, as Arkin makes clear throughout the book, the federal government is willing to do anything, including destroying the Constitution, in order to maintain security through an infinite number of "what-ifs". Some seem logical; others not so much. Either way, you decide whether you are fine with the government impeding on your civil liberties in order to maintain the security of the nation (and as Arkin makes clear throughout the book, the continuity of the government and the "XYZ", which are ultimately more important in their eyes).

I do my best to answer questions on these, so feel free to ask.
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