Top Secret America Book Summary - Top Secret America Book explained in key points
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Top Secret America summary

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

The Rise of the New American Security State

(5 ratings)
18 mins
10 key ideas
Audio & text

What is Top Secret America about?

This book shows how the American security state expanded its powers after 9/11 by establishing Top Secret America – a group of agencies that operate largely in secrecy. Though Top Secret America was founded to protect Americans, it’s created new dangers instead. Top Secret America has been a waste of resources and a threat to liberty, and it must be shut down as soon as possible.

About the Author

Dana Priest is an investigative reporter for the Washington Post, and the author of The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military. She’s received two Pulitzer Prizes for her work, and she writes extensively on national security. William M. Arkin is a political commentator and a journalist. He’s also an expert on both American and international military activities.

Table of Contents

    Top Secret America
    summarized in 10 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 10

    Secret sections of the American government are increasing their activity, with very little supervision.

    Do you trust your government? In recent years, an increasing number of Americans have begun questioning the power and actions of their politicians and civil servants.

    This is largely because many government activities are now taking place in secret, rather than in the public sphere. The authors of this book call this hidden area of the government “Top Secret America.”

    Secret agencies, such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have grown immensely in recent years. This is supposedly a response to new threats to the nation, most notably from post-9/11 terrorism.

    In an attempt to fight such threats, these secret agencies have lost a great deal of accountability and visibility in government. Citizens are unable to track what they get up to. Why is this?

    Well, when the security sector began to grow, it grew without supervision. Many of the documents used by security agencies are classified as top secret, meaning that most outsiders can’t access them.

    Even those who can access these documents find it hard to make sense of them. Top secret documents can only be read in secure reading rooms, where note-taking is forbidden. Moreover, readers aren’t allowed to consult experts like lawyers or academics for help in understanding them.

    Two super-users – people who are able to access the documents – told the authors that there simply isn’t enough time in one human life to thoroughly go through all of them.

    Clearly, there is little adequate supervision of what secret agencies are doing. For the most part, they are allowed to do whatever they please, and this has had serious consequences.

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    Who should read Top Secret America

    • Anyone interested in international or American politics
    • Anyone interested in the War on Terror and the aftermath of 9/11
    • Anyone interested in the debate surrounding security and personal freedom

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