Customer Reviews: Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State
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on September 14, 2011
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. Again most contractors are not the venal crooks that are often portrayed by journalists and writers who ought to know better. Although Priest and Arkin did not go into it, contractors in the secret world usually provide three types of services: 1) collection and analysis services which some in the U.S, Intelligence Community do not think are core intelligence functions; 2) the design of information systems or collection systems that will improve the speed and efficiency of intelligence production in agencies that have contracted for their services; and 3) operating what are considered specialty functions such as the IT infrastructure management. Contractors are also used in smaller numbers to fulfill a host of other roles with varying degrees of success. The use of contractors no matter how well qualified for their missions has clearly added to the uncontrolled expansion of the secret world.

Priest and Arkin in the best Washington Post tradition report on this uncontrolled growth of the Secret World, but do not pass judgment on it except in the most obvious cases of duplication of effort and clear cut waste. Yet if the reader is attentive it is obvious that most of the uncontrolled growth of secret world that they so accurately report on could have been prevented had the U.S. Government actually developed a coherent counter-terrorism strategy that could have guided an effective response to the threats posed by al Qaeda specifically and terrorism in general.
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on September 3, 2011
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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VINE VOICEon September 17, 2011
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.

I suggest some items for consideration (samples), and please keep in mind that the following small points are to be taken in context of what is an outstanding piece - Top Secret America.

1) Ayman al-Zawahiri was not "in the ranks" of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ); he was its leader, and it is difficult to understand why the obfuscation in this work. This man was a terrorist leader long prior to the US promoting of the little known bin Laden to the world. It should further be noted that al-Zawahiri was one of the five signers of the infamous 1998 Fatwah, attributed erroneously solely to bin Laden, and one of the four who at that time led organizations, in his case EIJ. The only signer who was an individual, not the leader of an organization was bin Laden.

Compare these bits of information to all that our public has heard about the authorship of this Fatwah. Knowing the above it is worth some thought why al-Zawahiri has been continually referred to solely as companion, doctor (his is a doctor), second in command, "side kick" (Dana Priest), etc., of bin Laden. He has always been a major terrorist leader. Of course now he is acknowledged as being in command of what is called al-Qaeda.

2) The USS Cole attack was not by al-Qaeda; it was EIJ, led by al-Zawahiri. Dana Priest had an opportunity to correct this error when she noted that the CIA stopped distributing reports on responsibility soon after the attack, but that opportunity was not taken.

3) Whereas it is stated that the evidence of WMD in Iraq was so well buried that very few people had actually seen the evidence, it would have been more accurate to note that such evidence did not exist. Put it this way: It was known that no substantial evidence was in existence. I certainly put that out continually.

4) The source Curveball: It was known that he was a flake prior to Powell's UN speech by both German Intelligence and the CIA, and the information broke publicly a couple days prior to that speech. Besides, there simply wasn't evidence to support anything he said.

5) Powell's UN speech was barely touched upon, but it was a complete disaster, as he now understands. However, at the time the speech was made almost every single assertion could immediately be refuted as baseless and outrageous. This disaster is an example which could have served in this book to point out how politics can and does control what is called intelligence when the objective is war.

6) The assertion is made that it is terrorists who "sought to undermine the openness of our government" and to "force it to become a fortress." Factually, no, that's our own government. The policies put into effect after 9/11 were done so by our government, not some foreign organization.

7) It is clear that a lot of value has been placed on what the 9/11 commission. Acceptance of a severely flawed investigation shouldn't be a given. It is not that the members should be faulted necessarily. Their ground rules and limitations insured the commission was worthless as an investigative body. There is yet to be a valid investigation of this subject.

8) It is asserted that Raymond Davis, CIA in Pakistan, shot "two would-be assailants." I wonder who is responsible for that designation of those he shot and then photographed lying in the street. According to Pak Intelligence, they were Pakistani intelligence agents following him for a good reason.

9) In praise of the effectiveness of drones, after an attack "a motionless body" and "helping to kill terrorists 5000 miles away ..." Well, actually, more than one "motionless body," and "helping to kill" countless others within the blast zones.

10) "... in Pakistan where a number of civilians have died in the (drone) attacks..." Actually, quite a number of civilians, and by most on the ground, on site evaluations following the drone attacks, the ratio has been about 9:1, civilians killed to suspects. In this book an assertion is made that because a Pakistani General agrees substantially with the CIA low count of civilians killed by drone attacks, that "helped confirm their (CIA) accuracy." Don't think so.

11) "... the US backed Northern Alliance..." ... "vanquish the Taliban" Fact: Prior to our invasion of Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance received its backing from Russia and Iran. It was the US Air Force, not the NA, which forced the Taliban from government. Further, the Taliban were not vanquished; they dispersed, and in fact are still, after 10 years, very much a presence.

12) The JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) were "... blamed for deaths and torture they did not commit ..." Perhaps, but with not a single example given, we're left with the knowledge that indeed they are responsible for both many civilian deaths and torture. So, whereas the assertion probably has a basis in truth, it should be put within context.

13) It is quoted that in December 2001 al-Qaeda had a force of 3,000 and that after the battle of Tora Bora, the dead al-Qaeda were carried off by the truck load. Without questioning the amount of dead, in that "al-Qaeda" consisted of about 200 at the time, it is not made clear where the 3000 came from. Everyone we fight and kill is not a member of "al-Qaeda."

14) Reference is made to the "al-Qaeda operatives" in the Philippines. As I recall, when the US starting asserting al-Qaeda in the Philippines, the leadership of that outfit was very clear in objecting and asserting that they were neither al-Qaeda nor did they have any affiliation with al-Qaeda.

15) The Abu Ghraib abuse is referred to being as just "by low level army soldiers." That's misleading and a cop-out. Responsibility for those war crimes goes right up the chain of command. Those prosecuted are not synonymous with those responsible. And the reason for no further prosecutions was a decision made by the incoming OBama administration.

16) The claim is made that Abu Zarkawi, al-Qaeda top operative in Iraq, was captured June 7 2006. No, he was killed, on June 8 in a bombing raid, not captured. Two witnesses, a neighbor and Iraq police officer, both claimed he was taken off a stretcher and a US troop stomped on his chest and stomach until blood came out his mouth, and then died..

Abu Zarkawi (Zarqawi) certainly had no affiliation with either al-Qaeda or bin Laden prior to our invasion. He was non-affiliated out of Jordan, and was in Iraq for his leg. It is questionable that he ever was affiliated with al-Qaeda. What we called al-Qaeda in Iraq [AQI ], called itself the "Islamic State of Iraq." A more accurate term may be "the "non-aligned mujahideen" which he brought together from many other nations to fight in Iraq after our invasion.

17) It's timely to point out that the label "al-Qaeda" has been enormously over used. Everything and everybody who now want to attack us and whom we are fighting is not always either nor affiliated with al-Qaeda. As an example, even in Iraq as quoted from a DoD intelligence officer: "It was kind of a running joke in our office. We would sarcastically refer to everybody as al-Qaeda." Not just there has it been and is it being done.

I repeat: 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."

Thank you for reading this review, the length for which I apologize, and I realize that some of the above points may be other than commonly believed.
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HALL OF FAMEon September 2, 2011
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. Findings are shared by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports/year - a volume so large than many are routinely ignored; high-level managers rely on personal briefers to help summarize the material. We've recreated a problem identified as a main cause of 9/11 - lack of information-sharing.

Secrecy is sometimes used to protect ineffective projects, according to one senior intelligence official Whether all these efforts have made us safer or not is impossible to determine, and there is no known assessment mechanism. What is clear, however, is that it thwarted neither the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead (Hasan had exchanged e-mails with a known radical cleric in Yemen), nor the Christmas Day bomb attempt (stopped by an alert passenger). Further, the new agencies and added staff, mountains of data, computers, and technology had little to do with bin Laden's killing - this was accomplished by a small team that had been tracking him for nearly ten years. Interrogating a prisoner eventually led to finding bin Laden's courier, and it was mostly routine from there on.

Within that new bureaucracy, the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has grown more than tenfold (from 1,800 to 25,000) since 9/11, while sustaining a level of obscurity that not even the CIA manages. The unit takes orders directly from the president of secretary of defense and is overseen by a military-only chain of command. JSOC's core includes the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team 6, the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron, the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the 75th Ranger Regiment. Capabilities include the ability to retrieve and examine items captured in raids - thumb drives, cellphones, CDs, and computers.

'Top Secret America' is not just about massive waste of dollars on a security state that does more harm than good. It is also about loyal employees upset about what they are asked to do - often illegal and dysfunctional. The term 'wasteful redundancy' occurs often in the book.

JSOC is not immune from controversy - reports have accused its members of assaulting and torturing prisoners and hiding them in secret facilities, detaining mothers, wives, and daughters when they couldn't find the men they were looking for. Thirty-four were disciplined disciplined in a one-year period alone. Civilians have also been killed or wounded - its success in targeting the right homes, businesses and individuals has only been about 50%.

The CIA has also undergone a transformation since 9/11, increasingly focused on finding targets to capture or kills. The drone program has killed more than 2,000 militants and civilians since 2001, but the CIA doesn't even acknowledge the drone program. Regardless, its 118 strikes last year were outnumbered 'many times' by instances of providing tips to foreign partners.

'Top Secret America,' however, does not cover all the costs of added security since 9/11. It's estimated that twice as many guards (more than a million) now patrol public spaces, and the cumulative increase in Homeland Security expenditures since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars - again without any sort of real cost-benefit analysis. Then there's the trillions more spent in the Dept. of Defense supposedly on the 'War on Terror' in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bottom-Line: America is now in a perpetual state of yellow alert. 'Top Secret America' documents innumerable examples of new redundancies created as a result. The inevitable result is increased time spent on political infighting and further harm to our economy. Worst of all, we've taken no actions since then to reduce the motivations of potential terrorists - we continue to provide blatant one-sided support for Israel and its abuses of Palestinians, just recently played a lead role in the overthrow of another Arab state, Libya, continue to wage war in and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, frequently bomb Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen, while also threatening Iran and Syria.
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on September 11, 2011
Once a generation a book comes out which is so compelling and revealing that it stands alone in journalistic excellent. "Top Secret America" will be that book for the second decade of this millennium. The authors provide the human side what could have been a dry, yeasty recitation of facts. What's also stunning about the book is the insights into clandestine world of the secrecy merchants. Priest's access into this world is unparalleled. She doesn't let on how she was able to get the CIA, NSA, and other alphabet soup of government agencies to open their kimonos, but she does. Hopefully, our legislators will see the colossal waste underway all in the name of 9/11.
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VINE VOICEon February 28, 2014
Whether or not you think you agree with the truly explosive growth of the intelligence-industrial complex after 9/11, you need to read this book. If you disagree with the growth, you'll want to know just how big and powerful it's become. If you agree with the growth, you'll want to see how wasteful and counterproductive the virtually unmanaged growth has been.

Dana Priest has the skill to make even complex government rules and contracts easily understood and knows when to break up what could be dry explanations with quotes and compelling anecdotes. (Wonder what the hold up was with White House approval in Zero Dark Thirty? The other side of the scenario is laid out in this book.)

Compellingly written with an abundance of detailed footnotes, Priest has done a masterful job with this book. Unreservedly recommended.
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on July 20, 2013
This is the most comprehensive view of the Surveillance State as it is in the 21st century.

What are the consequences of privatizing National Security?

If National Security was grounds for abuse ever since the National Security Act of 1947, as we approached Y2K the rate of abuse simply became uncontrollable. We still don't know the consequences of this; we might not know for decades.

We do know, however, that the bulk of our personal information - including our most personal correspondence - is firmly in the hands of corporations which are working side-by-side with the National Security State. Some people don't care, but I suspect this is only so because most don't understand the implications of feeding a "big data" computer with every personal information possible.

850,000 people hold Top Secret clearances. That is partly what is moving the US economy forward, but the people must be very careful in case they want to survive beyond 2020. This book gives you some weapons for this survival.
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I generally take a very jaundiced view of books that emerge from Washington Post columns I have already read, but this book surprised, engages, and out-performs the columns by such a leap that I have to rate it at six stars (10% of what I read and review), and call it a nation-changing book.

Early on the book captures me in a way the columns did not--this is a book with integrity. It is a book that sees the corruption in Washington and the inter-play of political fears of losing elections and the need to arouse public fears of the unknown. It is not just a book about the massive waste of taxpayer expenditures on a security state that harms more than it hurts, it is a book about loyal, sensible employees who are anguished at the idiocy of what they are asked to do, and in the many cases of those who broke ranks to speak to the authors, eager to have the public know the truth of the matter.

This is a book that seeks to arouse the public to do its duty, to have a conversation, to demand of the politicians in Washington a serious conversation, a serious assessment, of what it is we are about--as a nation, and with this pervasive security state program.

This is also a book that demonstrates how much can be known through Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), something I have spent over 20 years championing, with one book recently standing out as a manifesto for change in how we do intelligence. I refer to Hamilton Bean's book, with a Foreword by Senator Gary Hart, No More Secrets: Open Source Information and the Reshaping of U.S. Intelligence (Praeger Security International). I could not bring myself to give that book six stars, but in the light of this book, certainly suggest that the two together could be, should be, a wake up call for any citizen with a brain. Our leaders in Washington STINK, our so-called experts are WRONG, our pundits and commentators are CORRUPT, and no one now running for President--with the exception of Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico being banned from the Republican debates--is telling the public the truth, in part because none of them know what the truth is.

To my surprise, what strikes me on page after page of this book is the innate sense of ethics that the authors bring to the work, and the ethics of the many people they interviewed who KNOW that what they are doing is insane, often illegal by our own standards, and certainly dysfunctional.

Although I have always known that we have over 1000 "compartments" about Top Secret with "bigot lists" from 3 to zillions, this book provides for the first time (this was not in the columns) a good solid look at just how insanely out of control all of this stuff is. Neither the Director of National Intelligence, by his own admission, nor the Secretary of Defense, by his own admission, have a clue about the full scope or how to get a grip on it.

CIA comes across as cavalier again and again, while the Department of Defense comes across as inept and out of touch. The authors make much of the 9/11 Commission's findings that despite the fact that George Tenet "declared war" on Al Qaeda, no one in CIA or in the Department of Defense actually took that seriously, and frankly, I don't blame them. We should have been focused on our domestic enemies and the policies that make us hated by Muslims around the world, something the former MI-5 Chief, Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, has recently slammed, starting with the illegitimate invasion of Iraq and runninig up to the illegitimate subversion of Libya.

As I work my way through the middle of the book I have what can only be described as a queasy stomach. I am a former spy. I held Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Clearances for 30 years. They were taken away from me in 2006 and I am about to file a major legal action against both the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) which has never provided me with a Statement of Reasons for declining to restore the clearances, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, for age discrimination in refusing to consider me for over 35 jobs, all of which I kept track of, including four that were cancelled when I was found to be the only qualified candidate. This massive alternative secret government is OUT OF CONTROL, without Constitutional or checks and balance oversight, and a danger to the Republic second only to the Wall Street crime families and the two-party system that shakes them down for campaign funding.

"Wasteful redundancy" is a recurring phrase in this book, but toward the end there is a shift toward "pathological cancer" (my term). The book is devastatingly damning of the Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) including the Transportation Security Agency (TSA)--any President serious about cutting the budget would start there and then work there way across the secret world (cut it back to $20 billion from $90 billion) and "defense" which should be cut back to $300 billion from $900 billion plus.

The authors do a fine job of addressing the "false economy" of using contractors (quoting Mark Lowenthal) as the same time that the document the magnitude of our insanity in continuing to spend 70% of our secret budget on contractors. For more details on this outrage, see Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. The authors touch on, but do not go deeply enough into, the continuing outrage of the contractors we pay using our money to strip our government agencies of the best and the brightest. I will go on record now: if it is every up to me, and you resign to go to work for a contractor, you lose your clearance and start over and it will not be fast in coming back. I am just sick at the mis-management that continues because the top leaders lack the spine to get it right.

My stomach turns again as I read about how the US Government, in our name, can decide to assassinate someone simply because a bureaucracy makes a determination that they "pose a current and ongoing threat to the United States and therefore meet(s) the legal criteria for lethal action pursuant to the Presidential Finding." This is SICK, and even worse when we take out truck drivers taking a dump on the side of the road. There is no integrity and no intelligence in all of this, and I for one hope that 2012 produces a presidential candidate with the brains to tell the truth and the balls to make it stick. What we are doing is a cancer. It is wrong, it is unsustainable at multiple levels, and it should lead to courts-martial and International Tribunal hearings.

The authors do a better job than anyone in recent history on Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG), and this is certainly worth reading, but I for one am not at all convinced that they killed Bin Laden. According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steve Pieczenik, Bin Laden died of marfan in 2001, and that tracks with everything I have heard. My personal speculation, based on my deep knowledge of CIA, is that they set up a safehouse with a patsy for JSOG to come in and kill (while making a real mess), and then deep-sixed the body (pun intended) because they knew it would not stand up to scrutiny. They tell the CIA story about getting the courier, when in fact another story is that a Pakistani officer gave up Bin Laden to claim the $25 million, and I for one cannot know what the truth is without a deep honest investigation such as our government is incapable of producing. What I do know is that I cannot believe CIA or the White House or Congress or the media, that is the "root" problem that this book lays out for all to consider.

The book is a tad naive in accepting at face value some of the claimed attacks by Al Qaeda--the USS Cole, for example, as with the Underpants Bomber of more recent vintage, and the exploding ink cartridges on UPS flights, are in my view far more likely to be Israeli Mossad false flag operations, perhaps declared to one or two US officials who believe devoutly that mind warfare demands that the US people be "tuned up" despite the fact that this is explicitly forbidden by Congress.

Color photos are includes, which is a very nice touch, but I am extremely disappointed to not see appendices with the names, no doubt because there are so many of them. I was hoping for a stand-alone reference. At the end there are pointers to the online databases that one hopes will be maintained. In my view--surely not a popular view within this sick secret world--I believe we need to have the same kind of citizen concern about secret facilities that we do about child molesters. Both are pernicious and both undermine society.

The book ends, rather appropriately, by confirming that since Obama took office, nothing has changed. We are in Bush-Cheney III (Lite).

I have one major list of books reviews on intelligence that I offer to those who would like to learn more by reading summaries of the investigations of others--my own books are here on Amazon and also free online, and I have been glad to see "the" book, On Intelligence: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World making a come-back, at the same time that the world "integrity" is the single most frequently searched term at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog. Search for this one list to get right to it: < Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most) >.

Within my ten book limit, here are seven books that I offer for additional reading.

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition
Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids
Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life

God Bless America--America the Beautiful that is, and the good people trapped in a bad system that do what they can to get by and when they can, help reporters such as these authors devise a "best truth" for presentation to the public. Many will not understand the depth of my passion for reconstructing America as a Smart Nation and drop-kicking most of secrecy into the tar-pits of history, but I have paid dues, and I believe that my forthcoming book, Manifesto for Truth: Expanding the Open Source Revolution, will help bury the American security state that is evil incarnate, a stain on our national honor, and an obstacle to our achieving a prosperous nation at peace.
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on September 16, 2011
A notable omission from this book is any description of the worldview that makes a person comfortable laboring within the post-9/11 American security state. The people who work within Top Secret America are members of a government-sponsored church, and like all churches there are certain underlying assumptions that are never explicitly discussed or questioned. The book provides only a superficial description of the psychology/sociology/culture/ideology of Top Secret America, and thus is severely impaired (in my opinion) as a result.

I also would have enjoyed the book more if the authors had explicitly adopted a particular position on some issue related to Top Secret America, and then assembled a set of facts they believe support their hypothesis. Instead, the reader is provided with a (necessarily) high-level tour of 'Top Secret America', and left to draw his/her own conclusions. This is rather risky, since comfort-maximizing humans are notorious for shying away from questions likely to have uncomfortable answers, and there are now vast numbers of Americans laboring quite comfortably within the post-9/11 American security state.

Despite my reservations, I gave the book 4 stars because any light shed on the new American 'shadow government' - a government accountable to no one except itself - is likely to be beneficial.
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on November 2, 2011
Dana Priest does an amazing job of opening our eyes up to the new and dangerous world of secret America. It is not so much a focus on the erosion of our civil rights or needless scaremongering but a factual presentation of how our security and intelligence services have been privatized and what the possible negative side effects of it are. Of greatest interest to me is the fact that most government security analysts get the right type of clearance and then move into the private sector.

The privatization of our security is the most interesting aspect of this book but Priest's analysis of the alphabet soup of security firms is amazing. He does an amazing job of gaining entry behind doors which would be normally be closed. This is an amazing work and is one which citizens should read if they want an honest and upfront analysis of the new world of American security while also not hearing chicken little running around saying that the sky is falling. This is a very informative and intelligent book.
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