Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.

Author:Cole, Georgina
Position:Book review
 
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Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011. 296pp.

ISBN: 9780316182218

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Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Diana Priest and military expert William M. Arkin expose a thriving culture of government secrecy in Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. Priest and Arkin, both Washington Post reporters, aim to reveal the inner workings of the U.S. terrorism-industrial complex and the clandestine world of post 9/11 counter-terrorism agencies. Blending into the local neighbourhoods of suburbia, counter-terrorism agencies have become an invisible and alternative geography on the American landscape causing an 'incremental assault on individual privacy' (p.220).

Originally written and published as a series of popular newspaper articles, the book was constructed over two years of research. Around two dozen journalists assisted with the investigation, including reporters, researchers, cartography experts, database reporters, video journalists, digital designers, graphic designers, and graphics editors at the Washington Post. Through analysis of hundreds of thousands of documents and the undertaking of more than a hundred interviews, Priest and Arkin primarily attempt to work out how many counter-terrorism organisations are actually out there, and to detail what type of work they do, the private outsourcing that is involved, as well as the general locality and size of these organisations. As such, the intention of the book is clearly laid out; 'the government has still not engaged the American people in an honest conversation about terrorism and the appropriate U.S. response to it. We hope our book will promote one' (p. xix).

Top Secret America meticulously examines the covert projects, watch lists and databases, secret organisations and authorities dotted across America. Like being inserted into the world of a spy novel, Priest and Arkin describe secretive locations around the country in which there exist 'buildings without addresses, offices without floors, acronyms without explanation' (p. 61). Indeed, as described by a Senate Armed Services Committee staff member, the intelligence world of behind-the-scenes America has become an entity, a 'living, breathing organism' (p. 198). The statistics presented in Top Secret America are confronting: the National Security Agency receives 1.7 billion pieces of...

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