Since 9/11 the number of security organizations in the U.S. has skyrocketed. Additionally, the number of personnel with security clearances, needed to operate these organizations has also sky-rocketed. However, this expansion has occurred in an incredibly disorganized fashion resulting in jumbled inefficiency, overlap and waste of millions of dollars. That is what Dana Priest and William Arkin claim their book is about.
The first half of the book is an in depth look at the plethora of secret organizations at work in America. It starts out well, discussing the incessant redundancy of these organizations. Many of the agencies are doing very similar, if not exactly the same things, and have numerous sub-agencies that are all repeating each other’s work. They highlight the fact that many of these agencies are contractors and claim that this factor exacerbates the wasteful disarray. They argue that there are so many organizations, agencies and programs, answering to various government departments or “non-existent” branches that it is impossible to keep track of them all. They believe that the secrecy is largely used to mask dysfunction, inefficiency, and unethical or illegal behavior.
The second half of the book seems to be a tangent attack on drones and military special operations and takes an in depth look at JSOC and RPA programs, including abuse of prisoners, wrongful imprisonment, and collateral damage. Although clearly biased, this portion of the book contains some interesting information about special operations and drones. However, as an Air Force pilot I would advise one to read with discernment and not take everything as fact.
They do a decent job of shedding light on the mass of waste and inefficiency in, “Top Secret America.” However, at the start of the book the authors claim to be unbiased. It quickly becomes clear that this is not the case. They are definitely opposed to the current structure of the intelligence system and have highlighted a few particular groups for their naughty list. In my opinion, they went overly in depth into insignificant topics. The inability to keep track of all the names and acronyms got redundant and boring. The end result is that the reader is left with very little knowledge of what any of the organizations do, except those few that the authors have pinpointed as targets. Additionally, readers should not expect to have the curtain pulled back to reveal who these agencies are or what they do, nor should they expect a semblance of a realistic solution.