Top Secret America’s Secret is Out

Top Secret America, the Rise of the New American Security State – the expansion and elaboration of the Washington Post series by Dana Priest and Bill Arkin – a project that took up most of my winter and spring, has gotten off to a blazing start days before it’s official publication date.  It’s already at 120 on Amazon, and a major Frontline special on it won’t air until Sept. 6. The challenge for this was always to take a groundbreaking and informative newspaper series and make it into something more. A book has to engage and involve a reader in a way a newspaper project never can. The strategy was to back out from the investigative conclusions summarized in the series and approach it the way Priest and Arkin did themselves in two years of reporting; to make it a journey of discovery where the readers reach the disquieting conclusions bit by bit as they feel the massive haunches, the rope-like trunk, the solid mass of the belly of the beast and only slowly realize they are dealing with a mastodon — the uncontrolled, even metastatic growth of invasive, redundant and ruinously expensive security measures, the very overreaction that terrorists count on.

The skeptical take on this book project, which I heard a lot as we labored on it, was that, after the massive three part series in the Post, nothing was left to be said. The very first reader review was very reassuring on that point:

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.

Here’s the early review from Kirkus.



It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

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