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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and insightful
Surprising and unique in its approach, and impressive in its scope. Draws a clear line from the early days of the CIA straight through to the rise of the Homeland Security state after 9-11, showing how the cultural logic of the intelligence community in the early Cold War morphed over time and helped to give us Vietnam, the Iran-Contra affair, and now drone strikes in...
Published 13 months ago by Vinnie Wilhelm

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2.0 out of 5 stars Coming Up Short ...
Covert Capital promised to be Edge City for a particular place (the Dulles Corridor) and for particular reasons (the growth of the intelligence community). But the book falls far short.

First, let's start with the good. By focusing on the real participants, especially the three Dulles actors, the book explains how "corporate" headquarters are really...
Published 2 months ago by William C. Ferry


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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and insightful, January 3, 2014
This review is from: Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Paperback)
Surprising and unique in its approach, and impressive in its scope. Draws a clear line from the early days of the CIA straight through to the rise of the Homeland Security state after 9-11, showing how the cultural logic of the intelligence community in the early Cold War morphed over time and helped to give us Vietnam, the Iran-Contra affair, and now drone strikes in Pakistan, etc. He does it largely by focusing on the day-to-day world and physical landscape in which the CIA and other intelligence guys actually lived – their houses, their offices, their social connections in Northern Virginia and abroad. Really gives a sense of how these people came to think the way they did, the context that gave rise to the policies they pursued. Demonstrates how U.S. foreign policy shaped and was shaped by the Virginia suburbs, but also, in a bigger sense, how the experience of becoming an imperial power has changed America. Thought-provoking and often very disturbing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best social geographies--in league with Mike Davis's City of Quartz, July 1, 2014
This review is from: Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Paperback)
Covert Capital is a really engrossing read. Like City of Quartz, it mines the deep history of a region (encompassing the colonial and Confederate context of northern Virginia), while, in the tradition of Fast Food Nation, it investigates how a specific industry--security, in this case--shaped a landscape. All of this in rapid-fire, breathless prose, and filled with a wealth of details (did you know the Pentagon has 600 drinking fountains?).

People interested in the history of American wars, especially as they impact the homefront, will find new revelations and models for thinking about American engagement in the Vietnam War and Iran crisis. Feminists, in particular, will find Friedman's analysis of the wives of diplomats and bureaucrats, and how they parlayed influence through personal networks and leisure activities, such as dinner parties, fascinating. Friedman's account of Eleanor Dulles's power brokering read like histories of Renaissance autocrats Catherine de Medici or Lucretia Borgia!

Design buffs will appreciate Freidman's analysis of the architecture of institutions (CIA headquarters at Langley and Dulles Airport) and domestic structures (the suburban fortresses of Dulles and his relocated Vietnamese and Iranian strongmen), as well as the descriptions of the layout of entire cities (Washington, D.C., Edge City) and the infrastructure, such as highways and airports, built to service these cities. Familiar names such as Philip Johnson and Eero Saarinaan appear in very unfamiliar contexts--the construction of our nation's paranoic security complex.

I found Freidman's sharp, unmitigated prose the most exciting aspect of the book. Gone are the tired euphemisms--he uses "torturer" instead of "interrogation expert" and "colonial independence" for what Americans call Vietnamese "recalcitrance", making a small but significant reparation for the first casualty of war, language.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Coming Up Short ..., November 5, 2014
By 
William C. Ferry (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Paperback)
Covert Capital promised to be Edge City for a particular place (the Dulles Corridor) and for particular reasons (the growth of the intelligence community). But the book falls far short.

First, let's start with the good. By focusing on the real participants, especially the three Dulles actors, the book explains how "corporate" headquarters are really located. As Edge City states, corporate headquarters generally are located where the CEO lives or wants to live, and where he plays. The three Dulles siblings were living or playing in the broad expanses of that part of Virginia; there's no Edge City I can think of that is so properly named as the Dulles Corridor.

But then we move to the bad. Drawing parallels between the built (or to be built) environment of NoVA and our government's foreign policy is like comparing apples to broccoli. In the smoky haze of a leftist college professor's ivory tower, perhaps there are some spiritual connections, but not only is there no causation shown, there is hardly any association shown.

If the book had returned more often to the real, conscious decisions by government actors for why CIA was located in Langley, I think we'd be left with a book far more informative. In the same era, corporate headquarters were leaving their downtowns for the same reasons CIA left: the obvious reasons: a need for more space unconstrained by downtown; a desire to have beautiful space, the "campus" look; inner-city crime, decay, and riots; and the non-obvious reasons: a conscious decision to relocate essential defense industries outside of the nuclear target zones that were our cold-war era cities; and the ability of corporate (and CIA) CEOs to force their organizations to relocate to where they wanted to work.

Another oft-overlooked fact of suburban relocation of headquarters functions was the labor advantage of well-educated suburban housewives returning to the labor force after their early child-bearing years. Gareau gets that in Edge Cities, but Professor Friedman misses it in his delusional fantasies about keeping women down and relocating to the 'burbs to get away from black folks. I think the story of CIA could be told from this post-feminist perspective ... how powerful organizations become when all those smart women came back into the workforce. (in my own neighborhood's Edge City, the I-271 Corridor on the East Side of Cleveland, Progressive Insurance has built a multi-gazillion dollar powerhouse on the backs of these ladies' labors and a conscious decision to stay out of downtown Cleveland)
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4.0 out of 5 stars " The author makes a good point in juxtaposing the evils of CIA imperialism abroad ..., January 5, 2015
This review is from: Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Paperback)
This book provides an interesting look at the CIA in Northern Virginia by studying its architectural history. Each chapter is an essay in and of itself. While the text is highly scholarly, a layperson can appreciate the historical photographs of Eleanor Dulles' swimming pool and the Kennedy men in a Hickory Hill dining room with a sheepdog. In lieu of ever touring the CIA Langley headquarters themselves, readers can learn about its construction, landscaping, tour bus stops, and interior maintenance issues within these pages. In response to facility maintenance problems, the author shares this old joke, "Maybe the agency should abandon the Langley headquarters and start all over in a bordello in Pittsburgh."

The author makes a good point in juxtaposing the evils of CIA imperialism abroad and the laconic suburban lifestyle in Northern Virginia built on gender stereotyping. The question readers may ask is can the modern day security-industrial-complex create similar enclaves in new locations? Kudos to Andrew Friedman for providing insights in a subtle and unique manner.
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3.0 out of 5 stars the rest of the book is so laden with academic jargon and odd analyses that I felt like one of the 49ers during the Gold Rush tr, October 1, 2014
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The book contains a lot of historical detail about the development of the intelligence community in Northern Virginia and its growth over the years, including the growth of communities from countries affected by US overseas wars, all of which were fascinating. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is so laden with academic jargon and odd analyses that I felt like one of the 49ers during the Gold Rush trying to pick out the pieces of gold from a river of mud. This could have been a great book but sadly fell short for me.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious Psudo-Left blather that actually Moves us further right via obscurantism, November 4, 2014
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This review is from: Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Paperback)
This book is great for those who subscribe to The Nation and Architectural Digest and want to stay classy by believing that plausible denial was a static construct throughout the Cold War and there was never any ambiguity or evolution in the relationship between CIA and their nominal bosses.

The author blends the airy language of landscape architecture, and urban planning with discussion of actual CIA covert operations. All problematic questions are avoided, and we get a CIA that is always following the will of presidents.

Great way to stay classy and employed at pricey Mainline colleges. This is gutless Oceania writing, and should cause even more alarm over the rot caused by income inequality the resulting corruption in every institution in America, especially academia. Operation Mongoose? Who needs details? Blame The Bobby and move on to your pastoral rewards!
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, December 8, 2013
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This review is from: Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (Paperback)
Some interesting history of the intelligence community in northern Virginia, but it takes a huge effort to tease his history out of the atrocious academic writing style. He never discusses why he has focused on northern Virginia, while ignoring the Maryland suburbs of DC and the NSA at Fort Meade. The book reads like a doctoral dissertation that was badly adapted for publication (and probably is). Friedman looks for profound meanings in rather mundane architectural details while saying little about the real "covert" sociology of Fairfax County. He also makes no attempt to integrate the story of the growth of the intelligence community into the much larger story of the booming growth of northern Virginia over the past 30 years. Much of that growth was spurred by the internet companies such as AOL, and had only indirect connections to the intelligence community. His notion that the "Dulles Corridor" was named for the Dulles bothers and their sister is absurd. The name emerged from the simple fact that businesses located along the Dulles Airport Access Road for the sake of proximity to the road to the airport and to Washington, DC.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, May 23, 2014
This book is the epitome of a left-wing academic attempting to abstract the facts of northern VA's development, including all the govt agencies located there, to a larger ideological objective, pulling out all the tropes of his clique. As a result the book is unreadable and mostly incomprehensible. Too bad. The straight facts about NoVA development are interesting enough.
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Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia
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