Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry

There is a hidden country within the United States. It was formed from the astonishing number of secrets held by the government and the growing ranks of secret-keepers given charge over them. The government secrecy industry speaks in a private language of codes and acronyms, and follows an arcane set of rules and customs designed to perpetuate itself, repel penetration, and deflect oversight. It justifies itself with the assertion that the American values worth preserving are often best sustained by subterfuge and deception.

There are indications that this deep state is crumbling. Necessary secrets are often impossible to keep, while frivolous secrets are kept forever. The entire system has fallen prey to political manipulation, with leaks carefully timed to advance agendas, and over-classification given to indefensible government activities.

Deep State, written by two of the country’s most respected national security journalists, disassembles the secrecy apparatus of the United States and examines real-world trends that ought to trouble everyone from the most aggressive hawk to the fiercest civil libertarian. The book:

– Provides the fullest account to date of the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance program first spun up in the dark days after 9/11.

– Examines President Obama’s attempt to reconcile his instincts as a liberal with the realities of executive power, and his use of the state secrets doctrine.

– Exposes how the public’s ubiquitous access to information has been the secrecy industry’s toughest opponent to date, and provides a full account of how WikiLeaks and other “sunlight” organizations are changing the government’s approach to handling sensitive information, for better and worse.

– Explains how the increased exposure of secrets affects everything from Congressional budgets to Area 51, from SEAL Team Six and Delta Force to the FBI, CIA, and NSA.

– Assesses whether the formal and informal mechanisms put in place to protect citizens from abuses by the American deep state work, and how they might be reformed.

Deep State is based on the authors’ insatiable curiosity for the ground truth and layered on a foundation of original and historical research as well as unprecedented access to lawmakers, intelligence agency heads, White House officials, and secret program managers. It draws on thousands of recently declassified documents and candid interviews with more than 100 military, industry, and government officials.

By the bestselling authors of The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army: Marc Ambinder, editor at large at The Week, contributing editor at GQ and the Atlantic, who has covered Washington for CBS News and ABC News; and D.B. Grady, a correspondent for the Atlantic, national security columnist for The Week, and former U.S. Army paratrooper and Afghanistan veteran.

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

If a democracy can be judged by the secrets it keeps, it’s hard to know what to make of the United States. The American government declares all manner of information “top secret,” but little remains secret for very long. Whether the constant stream of leaks from numerous sources is as good for democracy as it is bad for national security is debatable, but why do leaks happen? How do leaks happen? Is there any way to stop them? Do we want to stop them?

In Deep State, veteran journalists and national security analysts Marc Ambinder and D. B. Grady reveal how the exponential increase in state secrets has resulted in an unprecedented number of secret holders and a rapidly growing legion of secret leakers.

This penetrating exposé delves into the key elements of the secrecy apparatus in the United States. Based on a foundation of original and historical research as well as unprecedented access to lawmakers, intelligence agency heads, White House officials, and secret program managers, Deep State also draws from thousands of recently declassified documents and interviews with more than a hundred officials. Many of the interviews are on-the-record, candid, and insightful.

The authors explain how the increased exposure of secrets affects everything from budgets to Area 51 (and what really goes on there) to Congress to Seal Team Six, Delta Force, the FBI, CIA, NSA, and organizations that remain official secrets. They provide the fullest account to date of the NSA’s controversial surveillance program spun up in the dark days after 9/11, and they explore President Obama’s attempt to reconcile his instincts as a liberal with the realities of the executive branch he inherited. They also explore the ways in which the ubiquity of information access has become the secrecy industry’s toughest opponent to date. This discussion includes a full account of how WikiLeaks and other organizations are changing the government’s approach to handling sensitive information, for better or worse.

As the deep state’s influence in our daily lives has become pervasive, it has also become clear that its edifice is crumbling. Real secrets can’t be kept, trivial ones are held forever, and sensitive ones are far too susceptible to political manipulation. Deep State turns the secrecy apparatus of the United States inside out, and explores the real-world ramifications of a trend that ought to trouble everyone from the most hardened hawk to the most ardent civil libertarian.

About the Author

MARC AMBINDER is a contributing editor at GQ and the Atlantic and a former White House correspondent for National Journal. He has covered politics and policy for CBS News and ABC News.

D. B. GRADY is a correspondent for the Atlantic and a regular contributor to the Week and Mental Floss. He is a former U.S. Army paratrooper and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

 

  • File Size: 1055 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 14, 2013)

 

 

From the Back Cover

“A riveting look at the nation’s most closely held secrets. I learned more from this detailed and absorbing account than I ever thought possible in one book. Through phenomenal research and powerful writing, this is a book not to be missed. From the inside look at our country’s deadly drone program to the surveillance programs that could affect every one of us, Ambinder and Grady have given us a careful, thoughtful view of a world once hidden and why it matters.”
—Martha Raddatz, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent

“An intense journey down the rabbit hole of U.S. government secrecy. They have written an adrenaline-fueled, fast paced spy story that will change the way our society views its government. As I read Deep State, I had to continually remind myself that what I was reading was not a novel. There will be some in the chambers of power who do not want this book published, and there will be others in the dark corners of Washington’s world of covert ops who read it to understand the secret apparatus they actually help run. Deep State is the must-read book of 2013.”
—Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

“Marc Ambinder and D. B. Grady have delivered a fine, clarifying history of the secretive American national security apparatus which does so much to avoid the necessary sunshine of public scrutiny. Deep State is deeply reported and very well written and shines some much needed light on the murky ‘deep state.'”
—Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad

“Many books promise to take you inside and reveal the hidden side of the U.S. national security state. This book delivers on its promises, revealing previously secret details about the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. military’s shadowy special operations forces units. A must-read for those seriously interested in national security matters.”
—Matthew M. Aid, author of Intel Wars and The Secret Sentry

An unprecedented look at the surprising truths of national security and secrecy that are found in the darkest corners of the American government

There is a hidden country within the United States. It was formed from the growing number of secrets held by the government and the expanding ranks of secret-keepers given charge over them. The government secrecy industry speaks in a private language of codes and acronyms, and follows an arcane set of rules and customs designed to perpetuate itself, repel penetration, and deflect oversight. It justifies itself with the assertion that the American values worth preserving are often best sustained by subterfuge and deception.

Deep State tells the inside story of how state secrets are created, why they get leaked, and what the government is currently hiding. It explains how the American secrecy apparatus works, unveils the largely unknown key players and agencies, and explores the dangerous trend of weaponizing secrets for political warfare.

 

Amazon Reviews
Research and journalistic talent combine well
Ambinder’s best asset is not the one he’s best known for; he gets much attention for his penetrating access international-security circles, yet his real strength is that he can write, and write well. An entertaining and thoughtful look at Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” without unnecessary editorial tsk-ing.
An Interesting Book

I read this book just as the details of the government’s access to Verizon’s phone records are spread across my  newspaper’s front page. If I recall correctly, such government activity goes back many years. This book, however, goes into some detail about how the data is actually obtained and what it tells us. I thought it a good read and well worth my time.

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