Welcome William Arkin, (The Washington Post), and Host Shane Harris (author, The Watchers)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

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

Host, Shane Harris:

In July 2010, as Washington Post journalists Dana Priest and William Arkin were getting ready to publish the first article in their Top Secret America series, they got an unusual request from the office of the United States’ intelligence director: Please don’t publish a key part of your research.

Priest and Arkin had spent years compiling a large database of government organizations engaged in top secret work, and the companies that were helping them do that work. It had the potential to shed light on a multi-billion dollar enterprise that employs hundreds of thousands of people across the United States, but that is opaque to most Americans. Intelligence officials argued that publishing the database would jeopardize national security. Many more observers–this one included–thought it might well embarrass U.S. officials if Americans knew how much of the spy business had effectively been outsourced, but that this knowledge would hardly aid America’s enemies.

This centuries-old conflict between the public’s right to know and the government’s efforts to keep secrets is at the heart of Priest and Arkin’s new book, based on their Post series. Top Secret America is a concise, informative account of what the authors call “an alternative geography” that sprung up in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. It’s a top-secret world they say has become so enormous and so unwieldy that even the people in charge of it don’t know how much money is costs and how many people it employs.

Top Secret America encompasses secretive government facilities where federal employees and contractors, often working side-by-side, intercept terrorist communications, pilot remote aircraft over Afghanistan, mine intelligence reports looking for the signs of a pending terrorist attack, and preform hundreds of other secretive tasks every day, all in the name of preserving a republic that has thrived largely because of its openness.

The authors argue that the United States is stuck on “yellow alert,” a kind of mid-grade sense of anxiety and dread in which the risk of terrorist attack is officially labeled as “significant,” but has also become part of the background noise of every day life. We barely notice anymore when an elderly woman in an airport is removed from her wheelchair and patted down for weapons. That account, which opens the book, is one of several vivid anecdotes that Priest and Arkin use to illustrate the contours of Top Secret America, and to show us how we’ve all, in one way or another, been consumed by it.

“It is time to close the decade-long chapter of fear,” the authors write in the introduction to the book, “to confront the colossal sum of money that could have been saved or better spent, to remember what we are truly defending, and in doing so, to begin a new era of openness and better security against our enemies.” That’s an idea that many current and former officials likely support, considering that many of them were sources for Priest and Arkin’s book. Top Secret America makes a worthy contribution to a debate that has consumed much energy in Washington, but for far too long has been smothered by the very same veil secrecy that the authors try to pierce.

162 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes William Arkin, Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State”

BevW November 6th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

William, Shane, Welcome to the Lake.

Shane, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Thanks for having me. Happy to be here. Hi, Bill.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I’m very pleased to be here today. Thanks FDL for inviting me. And thanks Shane.

Top Secret America — for those of you how haven’t purchased the book yet (hint, hint) is a spin-off of the newspaper series that I did with Dana Priest in The Washington Post last year. More than three years ago now, the two of us decided to put our heads together and try to figure out what had happened to secret government after 9/11. The results were both surprising and depressing, and I think most confirming of all, that it now seems that there is widespread acceptance of our thesis that there has been a fundamental reordering of our intelligence, military, and homeland security structure in the name of counter-terrorism, one that is completely out of control both financially and in terms of accountability, and basically no one in the administration or Congress seems really interested in tackling the problem.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

That’s a great place to start. The introduction to you book makes clear that the world of classified government programs and contracts is so vast, and so difficult to measure, that our own government officials don’t know how many people it employees and how much money it spends. So tell us what on earth possessed you and Dana Priest to tackle this project, which could have easily ended with frustration and few answers.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

850,000 with top secret security clearances. How come there aren’t more leaks?

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:07 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 4

We were both seeing something in our reporting and research that truly seemed different since 9/11, especially in the creation of ad hoc crisis-driven organizations, and they weren’t going away. So we decided to research them more fully with the assumption that everything has to be located somewhere, hence the alternate geography of Top Secret America.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:08 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 5

As we’ve learned since publication, there are even a million or more people with Top Secret clearances!

Why not more leaks? Well that depends on what you define as leak AND whether you think all of that Top Secret information being safeguarded is actually worth protecting.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Was there a moment when it dawned on you that this was the case? Or was it a gradual realization after years of reporting?

momma64 November 6th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

What happened over at “Frontline” on PBS. That was the worst hack job of a story-line I’ve ever seen. Especially after the wait.
I followed the story at WAPO as the parts where released.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

basically no one in the administration or Congress seems really interested in tackling the problem.

LOL.

Why should that be any diff from any of the other REAL SERIOUS problems that the incompetent USG in tackling. /rant

You can reply or not depending on your mood. It is a rant, but it is also a serious Q. The only thing the admin seems interested in is starting more warz. I’ve lost count but I think it’s 7 or 8 at the moment & Iran is looking ripe for attack as soon as IAEA made-up-out-of-lies report comes out.

Oh dear, /second rant.

I promise not to rant again.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I was excited when we identified 200 government organizations created after 9/11 and 200 companies doing Top Secret work for the government. But then the numbers never seemed to stabilize. Each door we opened, each sector, produced more.

But I think it was when we started to actually scout out addresses and run down organizations that we hadn’t heard of or couldn’t find that we realized that there really was a Top Secret America and we weren’t exaggerating.

Kelly Canfield November 6th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hi All – glad you’re here today. Very interested in this topic, as I think there is too much secrecy all the way around the government.

Don’t have intelligent questions or any insight to add -so I’ll go back to lurking.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to momma64 @ 9

I thought the Frontline piece was a decent summary of where we were ten years later, no more, no less. It was disappointing to me that it didn’t reflect my views more. But hey, I’m a big boy.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Tell us how you and Dana Priest found those places. You can’t really go to the Yellow Pages or Google Maps–or can you?

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 14

Well,Shane, once you have an actual address, you can go there physically and virtually. It was obtaining the addresses that was the difficult piece, and then figuring out what was out certain addresses when the only thing that it said out front was the address.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Of course its not worth protecting. There’s nothing I’ve seen highlighted from wikileaks that I didn’t already know or suspect. True, suspecting & having docs are an order of magnitude diff, and evidence in hand with worth a lot. State dept leaked memos about cavalier & cruel disregard for citizens of Iraq made it impossible for Maliki to accept extraterritoriality as a condition of abrogating the SOFA, as much as both he & O wanted a lot of U.S. troops to stay.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

More seriously though, we went through thousands of federal government property records, found some companies who were the leasers/renters of choice to Secret Government, and looked at electrical consumption records for the federal government. We made a gigantic database and then correlated the data.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

No big flashing signs that said “Top Secret Facility Here,” eh? :)

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 16

Wikileaks, remember now, is at the Secret level, an endless area of work that is just the standard day-to-day operating language of national security. I imagine that at the Top Secret level, there is a lot more that you would be surprised about and maybe even incensed with, but having said that, it mostly has to do with the methods of intelligence collection and the mountains of surveillance material that the intelligence community wrestles with everyday. If there is one thing we learned that every one on the inside agreed with, it was that they felt that they were swamped with information as well.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Hi William:

Haven’t read the book but I’m curious if you came across
the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center? Might they be are covering Zuccotti Park? Did you find out what the Wall Street Security people, who have access to video footage coming into MSCC, do with that video information?

How does the Handschu decree, impact the video surveillance in New York?

The NYPD Tactical Assistance Response Unit has been taping the OWS protests using video cameras and The SkyWatch tactical platform unit — a “watchtower” that has cameras with sophisticated facial recognition software. Did you uncover who was creating this software and where it was being deployed in the US?

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

What about stove piping. With so many orgs doing the same thing in diff ways, strikes me that any particular person in USG can get exactly the kind of info s/he wants. After all, contractor wants to please.

Did you come across evidence of made-to-order intel? Any insights on professionalism, or lack thereof, in contractors?

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Jumping off the database–I remember the days before your Post series ran. (this is the series on which the book is based.) Much of official Washington was hunkering down in anticipation, and you write in the book that top intelligence officials asked you not to publish information from that database. Tell us more about that, and generally about the run-up to the Post series.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 18

Funny enough, when we actually drove out to some in the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs of Washington, they might of as well had flashing signs, for they all looked similar!

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to spocko @ 20

Are there camera drones overhead at OWS?

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I agree with Bill on that last point. One of the conclusions of my reporting and my own book has been that intelligence analysts are often too overwhelmed by information to know what they know. It’s an unnervingly similar problem to what existed before 9/11, as well. Except in that case, their inability to know was more a function of different agencies not talking to each other.

magilla November 6th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I just have the terrible feeling that the only reason you are allowed to publicize this information is because the System knows it wont make any difference. It’s a fait d’accompli..

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 22

The Washington Post actually began its official dialog with the US government at the beginning of 2010 — the series came out in the summer — and we briefed more than a dozen government agencies on the database and our conclusions in March.

Yes it is true that some in government felt that we should publish anything, but were at the same time to give specifics as to whether there was anything we had that wasn’t either already in the public domain in some way or if its compromise would actually cause harm.

In the cases where they gave us specifics, the editors took it pretty seriously, but those were very few cases.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

That’s my general impression of anything secrud the USG does. Caught onto this with secret CIA ops, which you can know all about in real time if you spend a little time looking.

Secret in USG speak seems to mean keeping it out of the headlines at MSM.

Speaking of which, WaPo has become much more obedient to political leaders since Pentagon Paper days. How much headwind did you run into at the paper in getting these stories published?

crazyhead November 6th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Yes, let’s turn our security over to people whose only loyalty is to their paycheck and corporations that will do anything to make a buck.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to magilla @ 26

We are not “allowed” to publish this information by “the system.” The free press and the rights of citizens to free speech is enshrined in everything that we are. The Washington Post could have made a decision not to publish and our editors did make some of their own decisions on behalf of considerations of public safety, but in the end, I don’t really think that the government — the system — could have argued real harm, and if they wanted to, they could have taken legal action to stop us. The fact that they didn’t really demonstrates their view. Insiders who work in the dark just don’t want the lights on; that doesn’t mean turning them on is a threat to national security.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 24

Yep. Here is a story about them from Alternet

Here is a story about the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center in Counter Punch.
taxpayer funded, staffed by NYPD and Wall Street security types. Access to over 3000 public and private security cameras.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to crazyhead @ 29

I was surprised by how many high level people within the military and intelligence community equally shared the concern about how much work was being outsourced to private, profit-making companies but were also at the same time completely oblivious about what to do about it, if anything.

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I didn’t watch Frontline, but I have to say I’m glad I bought the book, since I knew you and Priest would have far more information in it–I think the WaPo caved to ridiculous requests on what got left out of the stories, even to really obvious things like which companies do business in Ft. Meade’s immediate vicinity.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

What did you find about events before 9/11 that set the stage for this massive expansion of classified work? How far back can you trace it?

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

One wag put it: Looking for a needle in a haystack by adding more hay.

But another wag upped the ante: Looking for a needle in a needle stack.

After reading Bamford on NSA, I just assume everything I say on my phone or type online is being housed in gigantic server farms and key word searched. I often wave to the poor demented FBI, CIA, NSA, MI6, KGB, etc agents who are tasked with tracking my boring life.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 25

In the case of the AT&T tap on the West Coast that fed west coast phone and internet data into massive servers, they had software that was mining the data. The software was created by and Israeli firm that had a back door “maintenance” account. What percentage of contractors had ties to foreign governments or might be sharing data based on their historical and current relationships?

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to spocko @ 31

OK, a lot of readers seem to want to talk about OWS. I’ll say this: There is no question that all of the notions and aesthetics of national security have infected State and local government since 9/11, and that includes the establishment of mini-national security states, including intelligence organizations that mimic the big boys. In NYC, this has always been the case, even before 9/11, and the conventional wisdom is, well, it’s NYC. I question the premise of the role of the States and local communities in this, and certainly in places where actual threats of terrorism don’t really exist, we are just setting up a system of surveillance and collection that is just looking for subjects. OWS isn’t a “target” because of any particular reason, but it is a target, whether in NYC or Oakland. The truth is that today — in the name of counter-terrorism and homeland security — the police feels justified in seeing threats in lawful civil society.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to spocko @ 31

Heh. As I typed. Nothing I didn’t already suspect, and without any evidence, was pretty sure my suspicions were accurate.

I swear I saw drone over 53 & 1 about 2 years ago. Just hovering back then. Thought at the time it was a test for what was to come.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to spocko @ 36

Heh. Channeling Bamford I see. That man is a national treasure.

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I really liked the anecdote of the realtor knowing the details of who all was moving in. It makes sense realtors would know this geography, but I had never thought of it.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 35

HA! I’ve read all of Bamford’s books. When I started working with a major ISP out in Falls Church VA back in the mid 1990′s it was very clear just how spot on he was about the NSA’s involvement with telecom and how eager the telcos were to help them out with access to their equipment.

It wasn’t even a question, the government wanted access, they got it. This was pre-9/11.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to spocko @ 36

I don’t know the answer to this question, but what about U.S. companies? What about NSA? Don’t we really think that the first order question for Americans is to get a handle on just what it is that the government is collecting and why? Without going into sources or targets, I think we could at least have this discussion, but we don’t. Sometimes I feel like those who do the surveillance, those who come up with newer and newer ways to follow everything, are happy to have a conspiracy-driven and chaotic debate about intelligence, as if it is some kind of deterrent against people doing bad things. I think though that history has shown us that that isn’t true.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

A good example of this proliferation are the dozens of “fusion centers” that have cropped up all across the country. Bill, do the big national security contractors view state and local governments as the next big market to tap, or are they just small potatoes compared to the billions the U.S. government spends?

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 39

I concur.

Bob Dobbs November 6th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

By organizing protests at some of these secretive office buildings in the suburbs, the Occupy movement — Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC — could do a great deal to expose this massive expense and illustrate your research.

Which office complexes do you think would be the greatest and most effective hypothetical targets for this kind of advocacy?

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 40

It is amazing how many people know at the local level that the feds think is secret. It’s kind of like having “classified” bases in “Southwest Asia,” which is what the military says all the time even though everyone locally — and all of our adversaries who would wish us harm — know. Who doesn’t know? The American people and the Congress, and if Congress does know, they are equally a part of the secret sauce, unable really to get a handle on the overall system.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 40

I also thought that was a nice touch. Good way of showing how much a part of ordinary, daily life this world has become, especially in Washington.

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Though a lot of this profiling is looking at the wrong haystacks. I’m in MI, with its big Arab and Muslim populations. We know FBI is (or was) profiling that community. But we’ve had more white terrorists in the last several years than brown ones, even with the UndieBomber (which, of course, was an example of having the info but not in the right place).

So it’s not just there’s too much info. It’s that they’re looking for certain kinds of things which means they’ll miss others.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Don’t we really think that the first order question for Americans is to get a handle on just what it is that the government is collecting and why?

Sorry, the USG is sooo far beyond that Q. After all your painstaking work, do you really think anyone in USG would look at you as being other than nuts for even asking it?

After all, if U.S. security state is spending lots of money and writing pretty PP reports, isn’t that the way bureaucrats get promoted?

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Bob Dobbs @ 45

Great tactic! Thanks for suggesting it.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 43

The States, except for New York, California, Florida and the border states, are small potatoes, but having said that, clearly the big companies in the IT and analysis business — SAIC, CACI, ManTech, GDIT, etc., as well as smaller companies, are getting contracts to man fusion centers and other elements of non-federal homeland security.

70yoh November 6th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

mr. arkin, are corporate/state spy agencies wedded?

mahalo! for your response.

peas!

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 43

Remember that PA was using a company w/Israeli ties to profile opponents of fracking. That, too, was a private contract.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Oh, I’m concerned about the US companies too. I know too many of them are like HBGary, happy to provide the tools of surveillance to anyone for any reason.

I don’t want to get too derailed about OWS, but last week I wondered if we could get access to some of the state and city surveillance information for two purposes.
1) To see if we CAN get access to this data, often paid for by out tax dollars.
2) To find out how it is being used. With the recent Black Bloc vandals striking Oakland I wondered how many were police undercover or were know agent provocateurs.

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 2:41 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 43

And I’m not sure, but I think the Waffle House plot they rolled up last week was one of the first cases of a JTTF-recruited informant setting up a sting for aspirational white terrorists.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 49

There is a tendency to measure output in intelligence buy numbers of reports and the speed of those reports, rather than in terms of the importance. But then, maybe my definition of importance and someone else’s definition would be very different. My sense is that today, even with all of the amazing increase in collection that has come with drones and computer network exploitation and better sensors and better computers to exploit it all, probably 90 percent of what decision-makers need is in the open. Having said that though, getting that last 10 percent isn’t easy, and getting the last 1 percent is harder still. We are never going to get a handle though on what is collected until we get a handle on what we really think the threat is and what the proper AMERICAN response is, within our laws, values, ethics, etc.

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

The most egregious recent example, IMO, was with Raymond Davis. Newspapers all over the world had reported he was a spook. The people who meant him harm-ISI, AQ, and related–all knew (and all had first hand evidence of it).

Yet the govt went to great lengths to prevent that detail from being published in mainstream orgs in this country. It really makes it clear that they’re not trying to hide this stuff from our enemies.

The same can be said about WikiLeaks. Our adversaries generally have good enough hackers, and our cybersecurity is so pathetic–that they can just take what they want.

But god forbid Americans get to read it.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Excellent Book Salon, William, thank you, for being here … sorry to get here so late …

” … the police feels justified in seeing threats in lawful civil society.”

Well, if there is no meaningful Rule of Law, what else may be expected. except that civil society cannot survive without a Rule of Law, which it is the obligation of the Judicial “branch”, in particular, to ensure … however SCOTUS, for example, is, now, the best that money can buy … to use the most apt terms … which apply to to all three “branches”, quite equally.

And, if “national security” closes the eyes and mind of “Justice”, then it would appear that “things” will simply get worse until they cause the collapse of American empire.

DW

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 47

It also shows what a big part of business it is.

I love picking fights w/DC area people on stimulus. Because all this secret expensive stuff Bill and Dana described represents, along with every thing else, massive, massive economic stimulus. Problem is, it prevents people in DC from really understanding how bad the economy is in the rest of the country. And they don’t want to be told–particularly not Republicans–that the govt does do stimulus, it works, but that it is limited to areas w/big Military-Intelligence Industrial Complex.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to Bob Dobbs @ 45

Wow, that is interesting. When I was in Falls Church my client had bought a facility that was abandoned by some CIA like group. The facility had Man Trap doorways, higher than Tempest level security in the space as well as multiple pipes for power, telco and internal power generation. That were pleased on what a great deal it was for them, but of course I wondered about the previous occupant. I was told not to ask any question, but be happy for the great facility they left behind to go to something bigger and more secure.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to 70yoh @ 52

The increasing marriage of the private and public sectors is the next big revelation in my mind. In the name of cyber security, critical infrastructure protection, see-something-say-something, etc., the “links” being made with the private sector — a kind of privileged “auxiliary” of state national security — is constantly growing. Take a look at InfraGard or some of the critical infrastructure protection programs; in isolation they seem civic and innocuous but overall, it’s an awful lot of people drinking at the national security fountain.

Bob Dobbs November 6th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 59

One reason that I believe it would be a good tactic is that in reporting on the protest the media might be forced to address what the hell was going on in that location… The silence would say everything.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 59

Yes, it’s often said that Washington is “recession proof” because of the very business that Bill and Dana are writing about. Bill, with defense budget cuts on the horizon, have you been hearing from any of your corporate sources about whether there’s a “Top Secret America recession” in the works?

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to spocko @ 60

So true! Think of the amount of money spent just on security? Steve Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists (Secrecy News) is the oracle on this subject and he estimates over $10 billion — billion! — just on security, the classification system, the clearances, physical security, etc., and I think even that’s low given the military efforts and local efforts. Talk about a self-perpetuating system!

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 63

The recession is EVEN having an impact on Washington, I’m hearing, but let’s remember that Arlington county, Virginia has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and six of the 10 wealthiest counties in America are in the Washington DC metropolitan area. You think all of those people are working on HeadStart?

jameshester12 November 6th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Public opinion matters. Keeping people in the dark and depriving them information makes it easy for the rulers to manipulate the opinion. Remember 70% of the Americans at one point believed Sadam was responsible for 911.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Let me switch gears here. There’s a funny and very revealing exchange in Chapter 8, where you call the public affairs office at the U.S. Forest Service to ask how many of their employees have top secret clearances. “We don’t have anyone with a top secret clearance,” the staffer tells you. You say, “Yes, you do,” and the staffer replies, “No, we don’t.” And it goes on like that until you say you’re happy to email the staffer the information that proves the Forest Service, of all places, does in fact have top secret-cleared employees. Two questions here: First, tell us why in the world the Forest Service needs employees with that level of clearance. And second, can you share some other examples of agencies that you had to educate about their own level of secrecy?

Kelly Canfield November 6th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 53

De-lurking: That would be Amdocs, right? They have two major versions of their product for the Telcos – one runs on PeopleSoft (which Oracle bought) and the other SAP.

Between those two platforms, that’s all of the Fortune 1,000 Companies, as well as the Federal Governemtn, the “features” are that they can incorporate into all their supply chains.

In that Enterprise platform, whether you’re a Telco or not, it’s easy to split out an information feed – with additional associated data from that specific Enterprise AND the telco records.

That’s a heap o’data. Teraquads per month actually.

Bob Dobbs November 6th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Do you have plans to put your geography onto a Google Map online, or something accessible to the public? Are the specific addresses in the book?

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to Bob Dobbs @ 45

I’m not in the business of advising OWS, but I would say this to the American people: Do you realize that some of the largest companies in America have moved their corporate HQs to the Washington DC area since 9/11? SAIC from San Diego; Northrop Grumman coming from California; joining CACI, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, ManTech already there. I think Boeing is moving as well. Why are they there? $$ Here’s the difference with Wall Street though, it’s all your money.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

For light entertainment I watch a lot of spy shows. Last night was Burn Notice. A lot of it was all the hoops that someone who wanted access to information had to jump through to get to data, key cards, codes and NanoRFID which could be sprayed on people then later used to track people with satellites when they left the facility.

First I thought “That’s BS, that stuff probably doesn’t exist.” Then I remembered a conversation I had with a client who provided tools for lots of secret government organizations. He said “Think of the most cutting edge tech you know of, now take that 3 – 5 years out. That is what these guys have and are using.” Finally I thought, “How much does that crap cost?” As we saw from Bamford’s books, a lot of the time people are looking in the wrong haystacks but they are still spending the our money to look there.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 67

We definitely found that Top Secret had infiltrated all elements of government, from the Architect of the Capitol to the Forest Service. What we found was for agencies to play in the counter-terrorism sand-box, to receive warnings or be part of the “sharing” of information, they all needed to have TS clearances. But on top of that, some people in every agency needed TS clearances just to participate in government emergency exercises, particularly any that touched upon continuity of government or other controversial programs.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

About 5 years after 9/11 (I was jogging 5 miles away when the first plane struck), I figured out that terrorism was like acne.

1. Everyone dies of acne (terrorism) if one doesn’t die of something else first.

2. You combat both by the same tactics (harden your targets, eat a good diet).

3. If 2 is insufficient, then take stronger measures (investigate, take antibiotics).

In 2010, more U.S.ians died from dog bites than from terrorism, leading me to suggest that terrorists replace dogs as man’s best friend.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Sounds like Top Secret clearance has just become the ticket to entry. You also wrote in your book about the agency responsible for processing many of these clearances just stopping work one day, there were too many applications in the backlog. Has the government gotten any better about getting these applications through the system, or can it still take months?

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to Bob Dobbs @ 69

You can noodle around in the full database, a snapshot as of 2010, at .

It doesn’t have the fidelity of Google maps — too much data for the Post to sponsor — but there’s a lot there. Also a profile of every States’ national security apparatus, the best anywhere.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 74

Top Secret America is a real and tangible thing Shane, and having a Top Secret clearance is the passport. Frankly, I don’t care to make the government’s granting of clearances more efficient. The real work needs to be done in asking whether the classification system is rational and how much additional expense — and here I mean more than money — it costs America to perpetuate an inflated system.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

To what degree, William, do you imagine that the federal (and state and “local”) “government” now views “the people” as being “the enemy”?

Seems thar’s gold, lots of it, in such “governmental” supposition … since 9-11.

Kind of raises heck with “democracy”, does it not? However, democracy has been inconvenient “here”, in the “Homeland” for more than a little while, if we are going to be honest about the larger picture.

DW

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Would you talk about some of the things that people who join Top Secret America give up? We know that their careers can be set for life–a clearance is a passport to perpetual employment, you and Dana write–but many of these people have to put up with a life of being minded by counter intelligence outfits, or having to submit anything they write publicly to a review board–even a letter to the editor.

perris November 6th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Top Secret America is a concise, informative account of what the authors call “an alternative geography” that sprung up in reaction to the 9/11 attacks.

not exactly right there in what caused the “alternative geography” philosophy

it wasn’t “a reaction to 9/11″, sept 11 was cover for what they planned in the first place

bush was going to have war with Iraq one way or another, he said so and 9/11 didn’t have anything to do with it, they were prepared to create their net work with or without the cover of 9/11

cheney tried the same crap under ford once nixon died, he did it to undermine detante, this time he had that effort as a template to correct

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 77

The “people” are not seen as the enemy, just the active people who question things. So that includes the entire spectrum from Tea Party and militias to OWS and supporters of Israel. That’s a lot of national security to tend to and way too much for each individual to much worry about big brother. But big brother is getting bigger and the tools of surveillance and monitoring are getting better. So I worry as to how — if we don’t end the “war” against terrorism — these tools could be used in the future. Yes, I worry.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

continuity of government

Got a phone call so have been absent for a bit.

What is the real secret about continuity of govt (I know what its purported purpose is) and why were Rummy/Cheney participating in it when they were out of govt? IOW, what is the hidden agenda?

rosalind November 6th, 2011 at 3:08 pm

when i opened my Credit Union account a few weeks back, i was required to answer the question: “Do you personally know any Foreign World Leaders?”

i don’t even want to know what part of the Security State is responsible for that idiocy…

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 67

As long as you are switching gears.
Funny stories? More ridiculous Spy v. Spy stuff?

And finally, what is Dana Priest REALLY like? :-) I’m a big fan.

perris November 6th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 81

What is the real secret about continuity of govt

as far as I can see, obama is a conitinuation of bush’s government so it seems the script is being followed perfectly

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to perris @ 79

I myself was skeptical about the 9/11 thesis. Could this all be dated from then? But in fact, data-wise, it is the dividing point. If anything I’d say many of the seeds were planted in the Clinton administration, not by Bush. 9/11 served to mobilize public opinion though.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to rosalind @ 83

So? You don’t want to answer… Suspicious….

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to rosalind @ 83

How did you respond?

“Well if you don’t count my spa dates with Thatcher, I guess only Castro and Hugo. Why do you ask?”

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to perris @ 85

LOL.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I think the “procurement reform” efforts of the Clinton administration–aka Al Gore’s Reinventing Government initiative–also had a lot to do with this. The push then, continued now, was to make it easier and faster for the gov’t to buy goods and services from contractors. One practical effect of this was to bring gov’t agencies and companies closer together. This evolution is a big part of the equation, I think.

perris November 6th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I’ll agree 9.11 mobilized public opinion but I am saying if not 9/11 then it would have been some oil crisis like his dad had, or something like “sadam is going to trade oil in euros and that will DESTROY our economy!!!”

I am saying 9/11 was convenient, there would have been another 9/11 excuse if not for the attack that they were warned about months ahead of time with precise intel.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Well, I’d venture to quess that everyone “here”, this evening, are among the questioners … and that we all have long been “objects of interest”.

Frankly, if the Tea Party is undergoing the same scrutiny as OWS, then I have, personally, been rather remiss in not perceiving it … whereas, those whose views are more in alignment with my views have been definitely subject to considerable scrutiny and very heavy-handed pressures; witness the FBI’s assault on those opposed to war, especially in the mid-westesrn US, even under the supposedly “lesser evil” (which is unmitigated bunk) of the Obama administration …

DW

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to spocko @ 84

Dana is a terrific Washington reporter, dogged and creative. I learned a lot from Dana watching her operate, particularly in terms of timing and building a story.

I’m more of an academic/historian and journalism isn’t my training. For one thing, I don’t believe anything anyone tells me, which kind of makes it hard to be in the MSM. We were a good team.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 90

Very interesting. Yet another USG initiative I naively took at face value. Geez.

rosalind November 6th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
In response to spocko @ 88

after bursting out laughing, i replied “no.”

then, unable to contain my smartass tendencies, i said: “Nope, not a money launderer for Hugo Chavez”.

which likely means the credit union employee was required to fill out a Suspicious Activity Report on me.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Agreed, the seeds were largely planted during the Clinton administration … a fact which I hope may come to be more deeply understood, and, as well, the fact that the Obama administration has ramped-up the Bush/Cheney “expansions” very considerably.

DW

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 92

I’d be amazed if anyone in TP is under surveillance. They are a wholly owned sub of PTB and therefore okey dokey.

bigbrother November 6th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

White House surrounded http://dailycaller.com/2011/11/06/environmentalists-ring-white-house-in-opposition-to-tar-sands-pipeline/
Looks like you have been watching back! As have millions of others.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to perris @ 91

OK, I’ll take you on. There was a 9/11, an actual event. I don’t like to think of what unfolded as preordained or a conspiracy because that dis-empowers me — the citizenry — from doing anything. I’d rather look at why 9/11 occurred in terms of the grievances/objectives of those who attacked and work from there. It’s so easy to say Bush did it, or Iraq would have been attacked anyway. It just doesn’t lead us towards any useful place.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to rosalind @ 95

See something, say something. ;)

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to rosalind @ 83

That one actually makes sense. The banks need to know if the dictator of Sao Tome is laundering money through you. There are some countries that are having a hard time finding banking services in this country because of it.

But then, they’re still stealing money. A lot of Qaddafi’s money came through the US.

rosalind November 6th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

“Dana is a terrific Washington reporter, dogged and creative.”

and she’s a fellow Slug!

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 96

“Very considerably” means a number. I don’t see Obama ramping up what started under Clinton/Bush, but I do see virtual continuity of effort. On the drone war, I’d say this: The USG and the U.S. military matured over that decade, learned how to do it, spent a lot of money to get better, etc., and Obama is reaping the benefits (?). At least the results are showing themselves in the Obama years. That doesn’t change the fundamental question though as to whether we are going to “win” the war by killing one terrorist at a time, which is kind of the strategy we are pursuing right now.

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 92

The Waffle House plotters have TP ties, and as I noted upthread, it looks like an informant turned them from aspirational into operational.

Problem is, the govt still refuses to call right wing nuts terrorists (the USA called them citizens who operate within our country and threaten safety and security, or some such tripe).

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to rosalind @ 102

Oh, you didn’t say you were a UC Santa Cruz grad. That explains the government’s concern.

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to rosalind @ 95

And then you told them you hung otu with rock stars and they worried you were laundering money from Bono TO Africa?

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Bill, tell us more about the work you’ve done prior to TSA. For instance, some people here may know your book Code Names, which is an exhaustive list of military and intelligence acronyms and program names. (I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf for years.) How did you experience reporting that book inform your work on Top Secret America?

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Bill

Can you talk about what you discovered on drones operating in the US?

That didn’t get a lot of focus in the WaPo series, and I think it confirms what a lot of us have been dreading.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Good to hear. Next time you talk to her tell her what a big fan I am.

‘I don’t believe anything anyone tells me’ In the olden days that would make you a good reporter. Now you would be a pain in the ass, with editors saying, “But did you get the ‘on the other hand’ quote exact?”
Speaking of “on the other hand’ quotes? Was there anyone dogging you from these companies once they found out you were doing this work?

Right now I’m working with New York Communities for Change who have been a victim of ridiculous “reporting” by a Fox News “journalist” saying they are the new ACORN and are directing OWS. I appreciate the real journalists that are still in the media and cherish them.

perris November 6th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

don’t want to turn this into a “truther” thread, this is about the book.

I am saying even if there was no 9/11 there would have been a different 9/11

for instance cheney under ford created the red october threat to undermine detante

so even if there was no conspiracy about the attack, cheney had a play book and followed it

in case the “team b” story is new to you, read this

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=ceney%20submarine%20team%20b&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBwQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fviews06%2F0213-28.htm&ei=qxa3TtjmKIXY0QGi7cTHCw&usg=AFQjCNF0-SqiV3TjL4lhEjXzmOxEkTRWfg&sig2=c1NHgA6oAh3VDKAg4uXBBg

while reading, realize that was written BEFORE we went into Iraq, not in hindsight

cheney followed the exact same script he followed before and if it wasn’t for 9/11 then it would have been something else

when you read that link, that’s what the movie “hunt for red october” was about, a fake submarine that existed in cheney’s head and there alone

but again, this is about the book and I am off topic, sorry

off to bed, I will pick up this book william, it looks incredibly informative

have a good night all

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 92

This question as to whether Obama is “worse” has gotten a lot of traction. In doing presentations with the publication of Top Secret America a lot of people have asked me why the Obama administration is being even harder on leakers or protestors than the Bush administration, and my honest answer has been, have they been? I think people are more surprised that by some actions of the government when they imagine Mr. Hope in the White House. But remember, this is a permanent national security establishment, and they take their orders from their own definitions of security. On protestors, I would say this: Certainly the mechanisms of State and local police intelligence have vastly expanded since 9/11. But the FBI? I think they actually work under more stringent conditions since Obama, requiring reasonable suspicion.

rosalind November 6th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

The “people” are not seen as the enemy, just the active people who question things.

gotta disagree with that one. any of us who have been subjected to the out-of-control TSA actions going through airport security know, we are definitely being treated as the enemy. any response to their gross invasions other than complete obsequiousness will be met with harsh treatment until you submit to their will.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to rosalind @ 112

You do have a point on TSA, but then, their motivation is quite different.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 108

Drones are increasingly operating in the U.S., first borrowed from the military and then by CPB and other civil agencies. I think the Maricopa Sheriff’s office in Arizona is even trying to get their own surveillance drones; the beginning I guess of a wave.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

There is the somewhat troubling collapse of building 7, however William. Which I should hope that you do not dismiss out of hand, for if your research that particular buiding’s collapse, you cannot fail to be impressed with the caliber of expertise (and such evidence as exists) which holds that it would appear that some “help” was applied to that structual failure.

Do you really wish to imagine that sufficient, in depth, and honest inquiry was engaged with all aspects of the 9-11 “event” … as so much of the evidence was made “top-secret” and wisked away before adequate reseasrch upon it was done?

I already feel very much die-empowered, in terms of having ANY affect upon policies at the governmnet level and have felt very much that way for years. Understand, a number of us approached Congressmen and Senators about the “Housing Bubble”, about the destruction of Glas Steigal, and other matters, over many year’s time, and were treated as if we were, how is it currently put(?), oh yes, “effing retards” …

Looking into 9-11 … asking meaningful questions about it does NOT dis-empower the citizens; REFUSING to examine what is going on and what is being done in our names, in the name of “the people”, however, does have a severe consequence, even beyond what this government might try to do to us … the rest of the world is becoming VERY weary of Amwerican terrorism, and the “Security State” is THE major reason that this is so.

DW

emptywheel November 6th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Actually, not with the new DIOG–they can just do assessments on anyone they want. And Obama’s DOJ has asked not to document those assessments, which IMO is a gigantic invitation for fishing expeditions.

I also think the shift to “self-radicalized Americans” as the target in the WOT, whether justified or not (I think it is, to a point, but far overblown at this point), is also an invitation for abuse.

Add in the way the WOT is already morphing to incorporate drug cartels and even the Yakuza, and we’re already seeing the adoption of these “exceptional” measures for more and more common crimes.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 107

It did. To me though, the work began in the early 1980s, when I became interested in the nuclear infrastructure, what I saw as the encroachment of the nuclear war-making system into all corners of the scientific and military establishment. The book I did then — Nuclear Battlefields — was my first mapping effort. I’ve been obsessively trying to make sense of Secret worlds ever since. Code Names just showed me that there was a lot hidden out there, but more, it introduced me to the post-9/11 explosion.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Great. I’ll be sure to send that to my RW BiL who believes in “black helicopters over America” he’ll be SO excited. Of course as long as they round up and capture brown people they are fine. Sigh.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to rosalind @ 102

Gee, my fellow alums are Madeleine Aldim & Hillary. I’m jealous.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 115

You will be happy to know that I am working on a book about 9/11 right now. I will just say that it is VERY original. No one will like it; a lot will read it.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I hope.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Please tell us more!

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I remember reading some excerpts from Code names. I used to embed actual code names in my emails to friends, just for laughs. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea. Of course as my tea party friends used to tell me, “If you don’t have anything to hide you don’t have anything to worry about…”

They, of course, are idiots.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Bill, what’s you’re opinion on whether the killing of bin Laden marks the end of the war on terrorism? And regardless, what effect will his death have on Top Secret America?

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Back to my 109 question.
Was there anyone dogging you from these companies once they found out you were doing this work?

I think of people like HBGary who, besides govt contracts go to people like the US Chamber of Commerce to spy on citizens who oppose corporate goals. They might not be able to pressure you with, “It’s top secret” but use other forms of intimidation to keep them out of your book. Anything like that?

realitychecker November 6th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 92

What are we, chopped liver lol? I think we are included in the arc that includes OWS.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 122

I’ll tell you my favorite story from the Top Secret America experience.

So one day, I drive out to a CIA building near the Dulles Smithsonian Museum annex. I knew that there was a new complex there, and I even think it is a matter of public record, though it doesn’t say: “CIA.”

I get there and park outside the gate in a little cul de sac right near the entrance, with all its security warnings, USG property, Abandon Hope All Yee Who Enter Here, etc. I get out and start taking pics.

A security jeep comes roaring out, Security guy stopped, lights ablazing, Sunglasses, gun on hip, the whole game. “Can I see your ID?,” he says.

“Can I see yours,” I say.

“I work for the Security Protective Service,” he says.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of that, what agency is that with?,” I asked.

“Listen, I don’t have to tell you, ID please?”

So I ask if I’m standing on public property, and he says yes.

SO I say, so let me get this straight, I’m standing on public property and someone who purports to be a federal officer but won’t show me his ID want to see mine. I work for the Washington Post. Show me your ID.”

“Have a good day,” he says, getting into the jeep and roaring off.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Then you do not imagine that the recently uncovered Iranian “plot” was not largely “set-up” by the FBI, operating under these “more stringent conditions”, William?

I would suggest that the FBI HAS been setting up “plots” since 9-11, and that it is one of their primary goals. The FBI certainly did not act as if they were following “stringent conditions” of the Rule of Law in the antrax investigations, but under other “stringent condidtions”. Expediency, political and otherwise, come to mind.

As to drones, as you mention @103, I would say that the expanding use of drones IS the signature methodology of the Obama version of the “endless war on terror”, which is of course, the supposed justification of the “Security State” … in the first place, is it not?

A lot comes down to how each of us interpret the “evidence”, William, and reasonable people may reasonably disagree on certain issues, as I’m certain you will agree.

DW

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 125

Seems to have no effect whatsoever, either on the WOT — at least as we define if — or Top Secret America. That could be good or bad. At least it hasn’t lead to some gigantic counter-attack, and maybe that says that at least in the realm of physical security and fighting al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. system has gotten a lot better. I just don’t know how to measure that though.

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I’ll remember that next time I’m in that situation. Of course I don’t work for the Washington Post.

“I write for Spocko’s Brain.” doesn’t have the same gravitas. :-)

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Sounds like your state of the art bully. If you stand up to them, they fold.

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Power of the press!

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to spocko @ 126

I don’t really think the companies had much impact on us at all. Some wanted to be showcased and I heard from sources that Lockheed Martin was mad that General Dynamics was profiled and not them. But afterwards, I also heard an earful from small companies doing special operations kind of work, in thinking that somehow they should have been treated specially, which in itself sort of proves the point.

billyc November 6th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Mr. Arkin, are you familiar with Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (2008)? If so, did his work influence, either directly or indirectly, your series in the WaPo in the summer of 2010?

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 129

The only terriss cases since 9/11 have been created by the FBI on really hapless vulnerable individuals. Federal Bureau of Incompetence.

Can’t wait to see Hoover, to be released 11/11/11.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I’m “looking forward”, William, to your new book, and will be interested to see if you include Building Number 7 and its measured collapse in your investigations, and I mean that most-seriously. I am less concerned with liking it … than with learning new and/or important understandings from it …

;~DW

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to spocko @ 131

You know, I said I worked for the Post because that’s what you have to say when reporting, not obtaining something under false pretenses. But I’ve also had that same experience as a private citizen — and also long before 9/11 and have always been obnoxious/stood up for my rights. I encourage all to do the same. Some security goon, no matter what Agency he or she works for, is just that.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Sorry for the rant, and for all of the people who wear Security Guard uniforms who read FDL.

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

No such thing as bad publicity, LOL.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to billyc @ 135

I thought his book was great and I was most edified by it.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:51 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 132

And in our country, we can stand up to them. There are many people all around the world who can’t.

Bob Dobbs November 6th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Don’t the conditions that Bin Laden was living demonstrate the absurdity of the trillions of dollars spent on this purported threat?

Is Top Secret America so cynical that they dismiss the obvious moral and physical crime against the people of the United States they have committed in this massive waste of resources?

spocko November 6th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

When I’m looking at ensuring my legal rights to photograph things I have
info from “Photography is not a Crime” blog. Of course as I have learned from experience, just because you can “beat the rap” doesn’t mean you can “beat the ride”

You can be within your legal rights to do something, but that won’t always stop you from taking “the ride” to the station.

As my friend Nicole Sandler learned when she was arrested trying to ask a question at an Allen West town hall found out. She “beat the rap” but the cops took her “on the ride” and arrested her (and she got maced while in jail.) Hopefully her ACLU case against the Broward county, FL Police will bear fruit.

BevW November 6th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this lively Book Salon discussion,

William, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the American surveillance community.

Shane, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

William’s website and book (Top Secret America)

Shane’s website and book (The Watchers)

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Thanks all, Have a great week.

Next Week -
Saturday – Nomi Prins / Black Tuesday (novel)
Sunday – Amanda Coyne / Crude Awakening: Money Mavericks and Mayhem in Alaska

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

We’re nearing the end of our time, so in addition to the final questions others have posted, I’ll add one. You write in the introduction that “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.” Has it? I realize the book hasn’t been out too long, but do you have any hope it’s moving the needle?

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Very few do stand up to bullies in the U.S. But right now the movement is growing from nil to something bigger than that, and that’s a wonderful sign.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Bravo, William!

Keep on keepin’ on!!!

More power to you … and to the rest of us.

;~DW

70yoh November 6th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

mr. arkin, mahalo! also, will data overload compromise security effectiveness?

peas!

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 136

If the FBI fails to secure convictions, then they have gone too far in their intelligence- and source-produced cases. So far, I think they have a pretty good track record, telling me that this is not the entrapment monolith of yore. Having said that though: Terrorists? There are a lot of really sick people out there — think Anthrax 2001 — and trying to find al Qaeda or Iran behind every plot is what bothers me.

William M. Arkin November 6th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to Shane Harris @ 146

Thanks all for attending. Thanks Shane and FDL.

Has the needle moved? The government is getting a better hand on contractors; we’ll see if anything changes.

And go Tea Party and OWS!!!!! You’re related!

eCAHNomics November 6th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

The FBI hasn’t secured a single conviction. Has just barely managed to intimidate snared individuals into pleas, through threats of sending them to Gitmo, or worse. A guilty plea is NOT a conviction. These days it might assumed to be the opposite.

I wondered why John Walker Lindh plead out, and a decade later I finally see the wisdom of his lawyer in advising that.

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

LOL!!!

Pulling the FDL “shift” must be a form of severe punishment for Those Who Know More, and have the Security Clearance to prove it.

;~DW

Shane Harris November 6th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks to Bill Arkin, the folks at FDL, and to everyone who joined or observed the discussion. Have a good week.

Bob Dobbs November 6th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

What percentage of the people detained or arrested for terrorism since 9/11 have been convicted of anything? Seriously, what track record? The last ten years have been a terrible stain on the United States.

mzchief November 6th, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to rosalind @ 83

Now you are owner-manager in that particular cooperative. No more looking from the outside in. Hmmm … the possibilities!

DWBartoo November 6th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

This has, truly, been a most-interesting Book Salon.

Thank you, William, Shane, Bev … and all you FireDogs, here, there, and everywhere …

DW

blackbeary November 6th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Vady intristink.

PeasantParty November 6th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Thank you for being here. I promised myself to lurk tonight because I could hog the salon.

70yoh November 6th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

looking forward to it. will you be needing to ‘hopscotch’ to your publisher?

peas!

kimsarah November 7th, 2011 at 12:19 am

Fear/guilt, divide/conquer, distraction and propoganda/disinformation are the GOP’s greatest weapons to keep the sheep pacified and separated. What’s worse, the GOP doesn’t own those tactics outright. The Dems are even getting better at using those weapons/tactics.

kimsarah November 7th, 2011 at 12:26 am
In response to eCAHNomics @ 10

Yup. Each day now, you can see Iran being built into one of many of the next blunders this gang will try to pull off. Thank goodness for OWS. A lot of eyes will be watching.

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