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Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry 1st Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1118146682
ISBN-10: 1118146689
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

If a democracy can be judged by the secrets it keeps, it's hard to know what to make of the United States. The American government declares all manner of information "top secret," but little remains secret for very long. Whether the constant stream of leaks from numerous sources is as good for democracy as it is bad for national security is debatable, but why do leaks happen? How do leaks happen? Is there any way to stop them? Do we want to stop them?

In Deep State, veteran journalists and national security analysts Marc Ambinder and D. B. Grady reveal how the exponential increase in state secrets has resulted in an unprecedented number of secret holders and a rapidly growing legion of secret leakers.

This penetrating exposé delves into the key elements of the secrecy apparatus in the United States. Based on a foundation of original and historical research as well as unprecedented access to lawmakers, intelligence agency heads, White House officials, and secret program managers, Deep State also draws from thousands of recently declassified documents and interviews with more than a hundred officials. Many of the interviews are on-the-record, candid, and insightful.

The authors explain how the increased exposure of secrets affects everything from budgets to Area 51 (and what really goes on there) to Congress to Seal Team Six, Delta Force, the FBI, CIA, NSA, and organizations that remain official secrets. They provide the fullest account to date of the NSA's controversial surveillance program spun up in the dark days after 9/11, and they explore President Obama's attempt to reconcile his instincts as a liberal with the realities of the executive branch he inherited. They also explore the ways in which the ubiquity of information access has become the secrecy industry's toughest opponent to date. This discussion includes a full account of how WikiLeaks and other organizations are changing the government's approach to handling sensitive information, for better or worse.

As the deep state's influence in our daily lives has become pervasive, it has also become clear that its edifice is crumbling. Real secrets can't be kept, trivial ones are held forever, and sensitive ones are far too susceptible to political manipulation. Deep State turns the secrecy apparatus of the United States inside out, and explores the real-world ramifications of a trend that ought to trouble everyone from the most hardened hawk to the most ardent civil libertarian.

From the Back Cover

"A riveting look at the nation's most closely held secrets. I learned more from this detailed and absorbing account than I ever thought possible in one book. Through phenomenal research and powerful writing, this is a book not to be missed. From the inside look at our country's deadly drone program to the surveillance programs that could affect every one of us, Ambinder and Grady have given us a careful, thoughtful view of a world once hidden and why it matters."
—Martha Raddatz, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent

"An intense journey down the rabbit hole of U.S. government secrecy. They have written an adrenaline-fueled, fast paced spy story that will change the way our society views its government. As I read Deep State, I had to continually remind myself that what I was reading was not a novel. There will be some in the chambers of power who do not want this book published, and there will be others in the dark corners of Washington's world of covert ops who read it to understand the secret apparatus they actually help run. Deep State is the must-read book of 2013."
—Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army

"Marc Ambinder and D. B. Grady have delivered a fine, clarifying history of the secretive American national security apparatus which does so much to avoid the necessary sunshine of public scrutiny. Deep State is deeply reported and very well written and shines some much needed light on the murky 'deep state.'"
—Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad

"Many books promise to take you inside and reveal the hidden side of the U.S. national security state. This book delivers on its promises, revealing previously secret details about the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. military's shadowy special operations forces units. A must-read for those seriously interested in national security matters."
—Matthew M. Aid, author of Intel Wars and The Secret Sentry

An unprecedented look at the surprising truths of national security and secrecy that are found in the darkest corners of the American government

There is a hidden country within the United States. It was formed from the growing number of secrets held by the government and the expanding ranks of secret-keepers given charge over them. The government secrecy industry speaks in a private language of codes and acronyms, and follows an arcane set of rules and customs designed to perpetuate itself, repel penetration, and deflect oversight. It justifies itself with the assertion that the American values worth preserving are often best sustained by subterfuge and deception.

Deep State tells the inside story of how state secrets are created, why they get leaked, and what the government is currently hiding. It explains how the American secrecy apparatus works, unveils the largely unknown key players and agencies, and explores the dangerous trend of weaponizing secrets for political warfare.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118146689
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118146682
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
EDIT: Out of respect for the obvious value to other reviewers, I am raising this to four stars, but continue to find the book disappointing. I did not see the value that others have found, and I certainly did not see the useful visualizations and other artifacts that would have made the intent of the book more manifest. Perhaps I have missed too much from being too close to the problems myself.

This is a seriously disappointing book. As another reviewer has noted, and I concur, it is a hodge podge. Worse, it avoids the serious issues of ethics, deep corruption, and the opportunity cost of continuing to spend $70-100 billion dollars a year (depending on how much of the black special operations intelligence world you count) a year to produce what General Tony Tinny has said provided him with "at best" 4% of what he needed to know.

I carefully examined the endnotes and the index first, and rate this book at three stars at best. All ten of the books below are vastly better than this one. While the authors strive to conclude on an intelligent note -- when everything is secret nothing can be protected and the cognitive dissonance between real and false secrets will inevitably spawn leaks -- there is no substance in this book. It is mish-mash, perhaps useful if integrated into a giant trash can of everything that can be known from open sources, but even there the authors are utterly oblivious to all of the sources that are listed in my own master list, easily found online:

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most)

As one of those who testified to the 1993 presidential commission on secrecy, and to the Aspin-Brown Commission and to the Moynihan Commission, I would have expected much more from these authors.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Now and then one has a hunger to get a more nuanced understanding of the military/security industrial complex. Intrepid writers like Seymour Hersh and James Bamford have pioneered this field of revealing dubious, illegal, and unconstitutional actions of the secret bodies of the state, the staggering scale institutional depth of the NSA, the CIA, and the like.

I had high hopes for this: Xeni Jardin at Boingboing.net [...] gave the book a tacit thumbs up, pointing to some interesting revelations in "Deep State" about "Ragtime" (the NSA's secret domestic spying program). The book does bring out bits and pieces that have been under-reported (like the story of "Primoris Era", a honeypot twitter handle who/that apparently lured beltway officials into sharing classified information), but the authors don't have a driving purpose or thesis, and instead seem to be dumping a collection of details (some quite interesting!), theories and assertions they've gathered over the last few years onto the table, then pasting them together with polemical rehashes of current events related to cyberwar, leaks/wikileaks, security, and so forth.

A book like this needs to be meticulously sourced and methodically presented -- while still maintaining narrative drive. It needs purpose grounded in deep principles. Deep State lacks these qualities.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors have done a pretty good job of covering a broad and complicated topic. The "industry" is examined from a variety of perspectives. It seems obvious that they can't go into too much detail given the topic. Having grown up and served in the military during the Cold War years, I am astonished at the amount and detail of supposedly classified information that is available to the general public. What a difference forty years makes. I highly recommend this book for those interested in "the shadows and the secrets."
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I read this book just as the details of the government's access to Verizon's phone records are spread across my newspaper's front page. If I recall correctly, such government activity goes back many years. This book, however, goes into some detail about how the data is actually obtained and what it tells us. I thought it a good read and well worth my time.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book breaks down the "secrecy industry" as the title says, and examines each part and how they all interact. It also looks at the key players in government, past and present, and how they arrived at their views of state secrecy and came to shape policy. It reads a lot like a real-life Tom Clancy novel, with minor characters making small decisions with big consequences down the line, and obscure programs adding up to the shadowy machine we have today. The NSA and cyber war chapters will make you lose sleep at night. A great read for history buffs and fans of thrillers.
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I read a lot of books on national security, and come from a military family so i am familiar with the subject. Deep State was a pretty shocking, sometimes scary read. its definitely one of the best books on the security state to come out in the last five years. the revelations on the level of White house and state Department involvement with the New York times on the WikiLeaks cable release were surprising, as were revelations of just how many people actually knew about the Bin laden raid beforehand. Everyone has already discussed the book's NSA warrantless wiretapping revelations, so theres not much to add except to say the level of detail revealed is unexpected, and I wonder how the NSA feels about being so exposed. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next one.
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