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Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State Hardcover – September 6, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"One of the many strengths of Top Secret America is that Priest and Arkin take nothing for granted. They ask basic, even faux- naïve questions about the purpose, accountability, and effectiveness of the acronym soup of covert programs, companies, and Pentagon commands created or expanded after September 11. Their analysis is neither naïve about the threat posed by al-Qaeda and similar groups, nor credulous about the generals, spies, and bureaucrats who have so dramatically expanded the country's defenses in response to September 11."―Steve Coll, New York Review of Books

"This is an invaluable book, a breathtaking investigative account of America's vast new secret world...it offers an indispensable guide to anyone who worries about the explosive growth of what the authors call America's terrorism-industrial complex since September 11th....Priest and Arkin explain better than Congress ever has the staggering waste and ineptitude that inevitably has followed."―Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times

"Priest and Arkin fully flesh out how the Byzantine security maze actually works, breaking down its components....The authors' arguments are compelling."Lydia DePillis, Washington City Paper

"The book is far more ambitious than was the [Washington Post] series...and makes the team's investigation available in detail to those of us who live beyond the Beltway....Since Priest and Arkin themselves lack security clearances, part of the interest of their book is how they acquired so much secret information."―Richard Rhodes, The Washington Post

"Priest and Arkin blow the whistle on how, since 9/11 and the adoption of the Patriot Act, the government and its contractors use classification and security screens to conceal expenditures that have failed to enhance national security...This is an important book."―Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Dana Priest is an investigative reporter for The Washington Post. She has won numerous awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for public service for "The Other Walter Reed" and the 2006 Pulitzer for beat reporting for her work on CIA secret prisons and counterterrorism operations overseas. She is the author of The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military.

William M. Arkin has been a columnist and reporter with The Washington Post since 1998. He has worked on the subject of government secrecy and national security affairs for more than 30 years. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books about the U.S. military and national security.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316182214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316182218
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book essentially identifies the amalgamation of Federal agencies, Military units, and commercial firms that, for reasons of National Security, operate behind a veil of government mandated secrecy. This amalgamation has always been an important component of the U.S. National Security Establishment. Yet according to the authors of this book, since the tragedy of 9/11, the number of organizations within this veil of secrecy as well as the number of persons holding security clearances necessary to work at these entities had grown exponentially. The entire book is really focused on documenting this growth and exploring how selected parts of this secret structure work.

Those purchasing this book expecting to find exposures of corruption and other villainies will be doomed to disappointment. The story Priest and Arkin paint is rather one of numerous examples of well meaning, patriotic people desperately trying to fight what until recently was called the `the Global War on Terrorism' without a clue as to how to go about it. Millions of dollars have been ignorantly wasted in creating new organizations, the purchase of exotic hardware and software, and in the creation of far reaching programs all under the rubric of `Counter-Terrorism'. Because there has been no single authority guiding this growth, agencies and programs have tended to overlap and even duplicate each other. Because of misplaced secrecy one agency will spend millions on a project that duplicates what another agency is already doing.

This general confusion has been exacerbated by the extensive use of private contractors, indeed of the over 800 hundred thousand persons who hold security clearances in this country over 200 hundred thousand are contractor personal.
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Format: Hardcover
TOP SECRET AMERICA is an astonishing and alarming book, and should be read by anyone who cares about the fate of this country. The bloat and chaos described by the authors is horrifying, as is the spread of programs and equipment meant to fight terrorists into everyday law enforcement activities. I'm not sure what was most alarming: that there are now so many secret anti-terrorism programs that nobody in the government knows who is doing what, or how to control the octopus; or that during these hard times the private contractors busy ripping off the taxpayer via fear tactics are making billions of profits. Actually, there was a lot in the book that was scary and eye-opening, and I thank these two reporters for lifting a curtain on what has been, until now, the true "top secret."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dana Priest and William Arkin have produced a remarkable, very deep view of our entire antiterrorism, intelligence, clandestine operational set of networks.

The in depth work and analysis they have here produced is indeed worthy of the highest praise and of immense potential value to our nation.

It is obvious that many high level federal and contractor people opened up to these two highly talented researchers to allow us to gain an insight into the gigantic infrastructure of Top Secret America, and we owe our thanks to these individuals in addition to the authors.

The immense amount of money increasingly devoted to the agencies and programs in conjunction with the amount of inefficient overlap described in this work is frankly sickening and inexcusable.

Within the conclusions, here is a statement right on, absolutely correct, and is referring the mass of agencies, organizations, etc., involved in antiterrorism, intelligence, and cybersecurity and the enormous amount of overclassification and impossibility of ever insuring none of it will leak:

"The smarter and safer route is to design policies and construct foreign relationships based on operating forthrightly, in a way which won't embarrass us or harm anything of value when it is revealed." Great statement and objective. As long as we have politicians who feed at the trough of contractor profits derived from permanent war, however, it isn't going to happen.

My very high praise for this outstanding piece of important work is only mitigated slightly by some non-organizational assertions (in other words not concerning structure or budgets) and in some cases an appearance of not questioning what should have been questioned.
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Format: Hardcover
Since 9/11, the number of newly classified documents has totaled 23 million; not surprisingly, it has become more difficult to learn the extent of our intelligence efforts. America's 'War on Terror' has become a multi-billion-dollar terrorism-industrial complex. Nobody knows how much it costs, how many it employs. Since 9/11, 33 large office complexes for top secret intelligence work have been completed in the D.C. area - the equivalent of nearly three Pentagons. More than 250,000 contractors (854,000 total) are working on top secret programs; the thought was that they would be less expensive - wrong; a large number were recruited from existing government intelligence employment, at much higher salaries. (A 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that contractors made up 29% of intelligence agency workforces, but cost 49% of their personnel budgets. Secretary Gates said federal workers cost 25% less than contractors.) More than a thousand agencies have been created. Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies (about 800 doing nothing but IT) work on counter-terrorism programs, homeland security, and intelligence in about 10,000 locations in the U.S. Many do the same work - eg. 51 organizations and military commands in 15 cities track money to/from terrorist networks. The NSA intercepts and stores 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls, etc. each day. Dozens of databases feeding separate computer networks, however, cannot interact with one another. Sixty classified analytic Web sites were recently still in operation that were supposed to have been closed down for lack of usefulness. There is no mechanism to insure that everybody doesn't produce the same thing, gravitating to the lowest-hanging fruit.Read more ›
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