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Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security Hardcover – April 24, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230120954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230120952
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"PERMANENT EMERGENCY is in its own class . . . [it's] a page turner . . . Whether you largely agree with the TSA's role in homeland security or not, if you read this book your views about the agency and the people who serve in it will change. Maybe permanently."


“A lively, fun-to-read, insider's account of an agency whose mission is critical to our safety.”--Dana Priest, Investigative Reporter, The Washington Post and author of Top Secret America


“While it may not assuage the frustrations of air travelers, Kip Hawley’s memoir of building and operating the Transportation Security Agency provides gripping insights into the challenges of defending the public from terrorist threats.”—Bobby R. Inman, admiral, United States Navy (retired), former director of National Security Agency and former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency


"Written like a thriller, this book is indispensable for anyone who gets on an airplane. Hawley was there on the cutting edge, and we're safer for it."--Robert Baer, author of See No Evil and Sleeping with the Devil


"Kip Hawley has written a gripping and lucid account of his experience building the TSA from the ground up. The book explains the complexity of managing air security and it reads like a thriller. Should be in the carry on of every air traveler."--Michael Chertoff, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary (2005-2009)


“Since 9/11, Americans have been sold the idea that we have to give up our liberties in order to be safe and so we have tolerated cumbersome and expensive airport security procedures without asking enough questions about what actually works and what level of intrusion and cost we are willing to sustain.  In this eye-opening book, TSA insider and expert Kip Hawley shows why trying too hard to be absolutely safe may make us both less safe and less free.  His book provides a compelling argument for reexamination of our airport security practices and our antiterrorism strategies overall.”--Susan Herman, President of the ACLU and Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School

“Every flyer should read this book to understand what TSA has done to mitigate the terror threat to commercial air travel.  Hawley’s efforts vividly remind me of the bureaucratic chaos experienced attempting to stay one step ahead of U.S. Embassy bombers, on a DC road filled with obstacles, naysayers and turf battles, compounded with real-time terror plots and threats.”--Fred Burton, VP, Intelligence, Stratfor and the author of Ghost and Chasing Shadows

“This brisk and engaging narrative reveals the machinations behind the X-Ray machines and pat-downs in the nation's defense against airborne terrorist activity . . . The success with which the administrators managed these problems forms the dramatic, emotional core of this exciting book.” --Publishers Weekly

 “Hawley’s narrative traces the story of the Transportation Security Administration, created in the immediate wake of Sept. 11, 2001, and charged with improving airport security. In matters of transportation, Hawley demonstrates, the trade-off is not security vs. American values and constitutional protections, but security vs. efficiency, effectiveness and public approval . . . Throughout his narrative he brings to life details of incipient threats around the globe." –The Washington Post --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Kip Hawley left his job in Silicon Valley a month after 9/11 to help build the TSA. In mid-2005 he became the fourth administrator in the agency's troubled three-year existence. During his tenure he facilitated a transformationof theTSA's culture and operations, improving training, upgrading technology, and dramatically extending public outreach. Since leaving the TSA Hawley has been a regular guest commentator for print media (The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and theAssociated Press, among others), television (ABC, CBS, the Discovery Channel, CNN, NBC, and FOX News, among others). Today Hawley is a private consultant living in Pebble Beach, California.
Nathan Means has worked on a variety of non-fiction books, including New York Times bestseller In Fed We Trust and other well-received titles such as Arab Voices and The India Way. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

This book is an interesting read.
Christopher Eddington
Kip Hawley had an amazing career, and his account of the creation and administration of the TSA is spellbinding.
Steven Moore MD
If nothing else, this book makes the threats against us so much more real than the "headlines".

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Frequent Traveler on April 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book adds behind-the-scenes reality to the tip of the iceberg we see going through airports. It reads like a novel that we can all relate to. The degrees of separation between what we see as travellers and what the terrorists are trying to do to us becomes vivid - putting the why's behind many of the requirements we face. It is also a loud call for action to transform this massive and once hastily-assembled agency from one that is largely consumed on dealing problems that can't hurt us (but massively inconvenience us) to one that focuses primarily on the things that can kill us.

Appreciate the TSA for how they protect us or hate them for what they put us through, this book provides a plan for how we can better become part of the same team opposing the immediate threats that will now never go away. At some level it is policy, but in the end, this book is personal - as much mystery as history and highly relevant for all of us.

Informative, compelling, and very well written, this is a must read in the post 9/11 world.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jim Lenox on May 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I had to read this for my job and was dreading it at first. I want to spend as little time as possible with the TSA and could have cared less. I didn't expect this to be as thrilling an account of the birth of the new american security culture or as insightful a look into how fear has twisted our relationship with our government. This book combines the haphazard and urgent play by play of securing the skies of america with the swelling and excess of our newest branch of government and what emerges is a surprising and riveting tale.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By BPC on April 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Kip Hawley does an amazing job of pulling back the curtain on aviation security. The book takes a never before seen look at a relevant, timely, and important subject - the safety of American air travel - in an unparalleled way. You'll read about the terrorist who are constantly plotting to bring down airliners and the operatives, at home and abroad, who are dead set on stopping them. Permanent Emergency is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about what really goes into keeping the traveling public safe, or those who think they know all there is to know. Hawley and Means do an excellent job of weaving together a compelling narrative that will blow your doors off. Expect a movie out of this one - it's that informative, entertaining, and compelling.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By fb03 on May 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kip Hawley has written arguably the most profound, insightful book yet published about homeland security institutions in the post-9/11 era. It is a self-effacing and stunningly instructive Washington memoir, rare qualities for such books.

Above all, it truly is a gripping read. Hawley tells his insider story through a series of vignettes, mostly focused on individuals who contributed to the creation of TSA and supported its operations during the years he ran the organization. He recounts how actual terrorist plots and a torrent of information dredged daily from the nation's vast intelligence networks shaped U.S. homeland security institutions in the early days and years after the 9/11 attacks.

The last chapter, in particular, is uniquely brilliant, compelling yet disturbing. It sums up lessons learned, candidly tallies mistakes made, and offers concrete advice about how to focus and lead not just the TSA, but other vital institutions that are tasked with grappling daily with what Hawley so aptly calls the permanent emergency.

This book combines both optimism about American ingenuity and an appropriately fatalistic sense that the permanent emergency will most certainly yield other successful attacks against the homeland. After which, our increasingly partisan, shallow and brittle political life will probably disgorge politicians who will first and furiously, like Cronus, rush to sup on the homeland security institutions they birthed.

It is today a regrettable commonplace to deride TSA. This book proves, instead, that TSA is home for an army of frontline heroes who daily grapple with threats unseen and unknowable to the public. They have, for sure, often sketchy intelligence data, imperfect tools and sometimes ineffectual procedures.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Carolla on August 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Kip Hawley's book doesn't read like a Tom Clancy novel. It does indeed disect several plots that threatened US Aviation Security and presents the challenges that face those that seek to protect civil aviation world wide. This book is not as in-depth nor as comprehensive as Dr. Geoffrey Price's Practical Aviation Security: Predicting and Preventing Future Threats Practical Aviation Security: Predicting and Preventing Future Threats (Butterworth-Heinemann Homeland Security) but as a current consultant in the AVSEC field; a former university instructor in Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and a former intelligence officer with experience over the years in some weapons of mass destruction, aviation and counterterrorism "accounts," I commend it to the reading of professionals in the aviation field. The book is a bit hard to follow as Mr. Hawley almost anecdotedly intoduces and reintroduces bit and other players in the history of TSA's evolution from the headquarters level down to the beleagured individual screeners. In my opinion he also includes way too much descriptions of his management style, management theories, and organizational controversies in the US Government and not enough operational "meat." It will not satisfy the libertarian critics of TSA "tyranny" nor those seeking the imposition of an Israeli model for aviation security (AVSEC) in the USA. (Can't be done. El Al has 30 aircraft to follow, and one major in country airport.) He does however, call for a "reasonable risk analysis" to prevent catastrophic threats.Read more ›
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