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

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  356 ratings  ·  56 reviews
The top-secret world that the government created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere. The result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe may be putting us in...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2011)
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Mal Warwick
Surprised by the news about NSA surveillance? Read this book!

Note: This review first appeared here on September 11, 2011 (yes, 9/11/11). In view of the recent news about the NSA’s Prism program and other widespread and long-standing efforts to amass personal information about the American public, I’m posting it again. This superb book deserves a far wider audience than it received in 2011.

If you treasure your freedom as an American . . . if you’re concerned about how the U.S. Government spends y...more
First of all, I want to thank Dana Priest and William Arkin for this amazing piece of reporting! Ever since I read the original expose in the Washington Post, I was hooked on the premise of Top Secret America. Through their unbelievable investigation, the book documents the bloated and ever expanding security state, everything from our drone assassinations to beat cops profiling and sending extraneous reports to the FBI. And worst of all, with all this money, time, and energy spent on intelligen...more
-850,000 Americans now have top security clearances
-250,000 Private contractors operate in the security sector
-1,200 Government agencies deal with issues of national security
-2,000 Private companies keep tabs on national security
-10,000 This is the number of locations for Intelligence installations
-50,000 Number of reports gleaned in a single year; some overlooked

No single government agency, private company, or single individual knows the total cost of these services. And, local law enforcement...more
Greg Moye
I gave this book three stars only because the subject matter is tremendously important. That being said, this is a poorly written book in my opinion and I stopped reading it half of the way through. Rather than provide an analysis of how our security infrastructure has grown uncontrollably since 9/11/2001, each chapter is structured as an endless list of agencies and programs. I felt the author could have dealt with the inventory in one chapter and then spent more time on analysis and the perspe...more
That people don't know about the size and intrusiveness of the Surveillance State is partly by design. Thankfully, William Arkin and Dana Priest have made it a point to try and end that problem.

This book is essentially an expansion of Arkin and Priest's investigative series for the Washington Post that goes by the same title. Much like the newspaper pieces, this book is very well done.

The authors examine, question, and shine a light on many of the different aspects of the National Security/Sur...more
Jim Crocker
It's everything you should know about what's going on behind the curtain. Just because you happen to be paranoid doesn't mean you're not being followed. Keep looking over your shoulder and checking those reflections in the store window.

And just so ya know, cell phones with GPS can be tracked, even when the phone is OFF.

See y'all at Cheyenne Mountain in March.
It gets a little dry and disconnected at times, but this is a book that every American should read. It's a frank look at the world we've created since 9/11. One critique is that by the end you're left with a mountain of problems and not much in the way of proposed solutions or even empowerment, but
May 15, 2013 Horza added it
Staggering revelations on nearly every page. I went in from a civil liberties angle, but the sheer opaque bulk of the surveillance state, unaccountable, unintegrated, inefficient and drowning in raw data is a formidable policy failure in its own right.
An interesting read, slightly undercut by some journalistic license (eg, the phrase Top Secret America is a recurring one, as opposed to an eye-catching title). Most of the book is concerned with government bloat and the resulting inefficiencies; thus, my own reading and interpretation was greatly influenced by Wilson's classic Bureaucracy.

my favorite quote: "It seemed hypocritical, even contrary to U.S. long-term interests, for an administration that said its goal was to create democracies out...more
Nancy Wagner
Well written, well researched. Just makes me SO ANGRY at all the money the country is wasting while not making us any safer!!!!
A very interesting look at the explosive growth of the security industry since 9/11, both in the government (DHS, CIA, FBI, the military, etc.) and the large number of private companies that are hired by the government. The amount of money that has been spent is staggering, and it isn't clear how much good it has done.

There are now large number of secret installations, many in office buildings that look just like ordinary commercial ones, mostly around Washington D.C. but also in many other area...more
This book was a difficult read primarly due to the amount of acronyms for the various governmental and privately run organizations. This type of book is one that shows one of the disadvantages of reading in eBook format. While there is a glossary in the back one can reference, doing so on a eReader is quite cumbersome. Aside from that the book was very approachable and provided a lot of primary sources, albeit aliases intact for most, to flush out the Author's arguement that "Top secret America...more
Shawn Fairweather
So here is the disclaimer first off *I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads*. Top Secret America came off as a pretty straight forward and an easy read especially for the casual reader that do not read alot of works on the military, intelligence, or current world events. What it lacked in in depth material it made up for it in a nice flow from subject to subject, rarely getting off topic like many similar books do when they spend too much time referencing sources.

I do wish t...more
The authors state the book is intended to bring awareness to the fact that the Fed doesn't know how much it's spending in the IC community since 9/11 and the numerous redundant agencies.
The Fed overspending and operating inefficiently? Shocker!
Second, the latter third of the book speaks to the JSOC. About how quickly it's grown, created it's own intelligence analyst positions, own fleet of drones, etc, etc. Essentially eluding that JSOC wastes money because there are other agencies doing those t...more
This is a well-written and comprehensive look at the growth of the USA military-industrial complex since September 11th, 2001. The authors detail not only the growth in the military and other organizations that deal with terrorism (like DHS, etc), but it specifically looks at how the growth has been in creating organizations, data, etc that have been classified as top secret. They examine the growth of top secret-related organizations, operations, etc. While people of different political backgro...more
marcus miller
Detailed account of how the security apparatus has grown in the U.S. since 9/11. Much of the growth took place rapidly with lots of duplication, waste, overreach and not much thought as to how this may affect our liberty and freedom. The authors detail the new technology developed and the way it is used to track terrorists, and in some or many cases, US citizens and others the government decides they want to track. It would be interesting to see how the authors would add to this based on the Sno...more
Sanjida Kamal
I'm not a big fan of non-fiction because of the idea that it would be filled with stats and facts that would make reading it boring. At times this book was just like that. At first, I was drawn to the main theme of the book which has to do with the-ever growing secret America. Yet at times the book became repetitive and wordy. It's still an important considering what it has to say. It isn't something that is in the center of the news or even in politics, though it should be. The existence of top...more
Dana Priest and William Arkin have assembled an incredible accounting of the rise of America's security state, what they call, "Top Secret America". The number of people with top secret clearance is astounding, even more so is the number of those who are not government employees, but private contractors. Priest and Arkin have uncovered a vast community that not even government insiders seem to have a handle on. Thanks are owed to each of them, as well as their various sources and the staff who h...more
On the whole, Priest gives a remarkable look into the network of corporations, governments agencies, special forces and clandestine services that have grown and been created since 2001. The latter parts on operational details behind the information and surveillance nets as well as details of the classified drone program and JSOC activities are excellent. If I had written the book, I might have featured those closer to the beginning of the book.

The first part, which contains extremely interestin...more
I'm a little more than halfway through this book, and my two-word takeaway from everything that I've read so far is "We're f***ed." Although the authors' goal is to describe "the rise of the new American security state," what they've really done, in my mind, is describe the constraints, both self-imposed and not, that prevent our government from effectively fighting terrorism and preventing terrorist attacks. The aforementioned constraints: a lack of institutional knowledge regarding terrorist g...more
Norm Applegate
A Disturbing Expose on Counter Terrorism. Gave it 5 Stars!

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, have written an incredibly important book. “Top Secret America.” Bottom-line, they have unveiled JSOP, Joint Special Operations Command, the pentagon’s secret killing machine and the growth of America’s post 9/11 counter terrorism agencies. Frightening.
Priest is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and along with Arkin, they expose the secret buildings, unlimited funding in the billions and sadly how no one...more
This is the most extraordinary book about the secret government that I have ever read. The depth of research is outstanding, and the story that it tells is very, very important. Incredibly, there are 850,000 people in the United States with security clearances. The intelligence system is no longer exclusively governmental, but rather intelligence gathering, analysis and so much else is being routinely outsourced to an impenetrable tangle of private companies. The system is unimaginably expensive...more
Ian Lindstrom
Okay, the beginning of this book suffers from all of the information that is chucked out in wild fashion. Very much skim worthy, the info is repeated and mixed in with descriptions of govt buildings, contractor buildings, over and over again.
It's good information, though, telling a story we all know (or should sense) to be playing out, but it doesn't really pick up until the middle of the book. There the figures, the names, the places are all written of in a much more interesting and readable...more
Stacy Bearse
This is the product of some pretty amazing reporting by Dana Priest of the WaPost. Dense with fact and sprinkled with opinion, it is the story of how the intelligence/law enforcement/special ops communities have mushroomed since 911. Are we safer as a result of the tens of billions spent? Probably. But a plethora of new agencies, legions of inexperienced new analysts, and tall silos of classified information is overwhelming. Our failure to predict the ground-shaking events of the Arab Spring lea...more
Henri Black
This book was very slow reading, and many times I wanted to quit reading it. However, the topic is an important one, and, I feel every American should read it. Can we as a nation afford the continued exponential growth of information gathering and secrecy? What happens when there is too much information to deal with effectively? This book makes you think about these things. Unfortunately there is too much filler material about government buildings, and how information for the book was obtained....more
(Skimmed thoroughly, rather than read carefully.) Well-researched book about the mass of multiple different intelligence agencies, what they do, and how they do it. Living in the DC area, it was especially interesting to read about the sub-culture of people who work in this industry and live in the DC region and suburbs. The size and complexity of the organizations and how much is contracted out to private companies wasn't news to me but is still disturbing and something I wish received more att...more
OMG... Thank you Dana & William
Excellent book. I started reading a library copy and quickly switched to Kindle version so I could take notes. William M. Arkin is a master of open source data collection and analysis. Dana Priest is an excellent author and did an excellent job gaining access to a world that is male dominated. I believe they had a point to make and attempted to support this point with facts. Ironically, shortly after finishing the book I read that a Drone had been used out West by a sherriff's department to arre...more
After 9/11 Washington went nuts trying to start new agencies, and over arm ever aspect of government. The book details the billions of dollars spent on things we didn't need and ways that the government turned that concern over foreign terrorism against it's own people. We now have drones flying over the US, police who evict people wearing full riot gear with automatic weapons, and more data collection on Americans than ever before. 1984 is here.
I had seen the set of articles on Top Secret America last fall on the Washington Post site so when I saw this book, I figured I would give it a read. The book has some interesting information and is well researched but at the end of the day I don't agree with the conclusions the authors arrive at. I felt like I finished the book but within the first few chapters it seemed evident that the author had it in for "top secret America" so it got a bit tiresome.
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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.
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The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace With America's Military Top Secret America (Enhanced Edition): The Rise of the New American Security State Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns

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“Terrorism is not just about indiscriminate violence. As its name suggests, it is about instilling paranoia” 0 likes
“Much of the new money, on top of the already existing multi-billion-dollar budgets of the intelligence community and the military agencies, went into classified budget annexes under a new catch-all category called “GWOT” (pronounced Gee-Watt), for the Global War on Terror.2” 0 likes
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