7 March 2013
Review of Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry
State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry
Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady
Read on Kindle; hardcover due April 1, 2013
This comprehensive assessment of the secrecy industry -- its origin in 1947
national security legislation, rise through promotion of the Cold War, decline
with collapse of the USSR, near death before 9/11 rescue, to steroidal
enhancement with Coldwarish cyberwar -- is paralleled with the
critical self-advancing role of journalism in managing information flow to
the public through quiet mutually beneficial arrangements between officials
and the press in deciding what shall be kept secret and what revealed, with
"national security" the plutonium-pitting goose.
Until the Internet blasted open the goose-bolthole for bandits like WikiLeaks.
Ambinder and Brown tell an applaudable if sordid story of complicity between
government and media to exploit public trust, aptly summarized by the opening
This is a book about secrets, and the authors feel an obligation to be
transparent about a few things. During his time in the military, author D.
B. Grady (which is a pseudonym for David Brown) held a security clearance.
No sensitive information he came across while serving in Afghanistan or in
the United States made it into this book.
In September 2012, author Marc Ambinder began consulting for Palantir
Technologies LLC, an analytics company that does work for intelligence agencies
and the Department of Defense, among other clients. He was brought in to
work on a specific project that did not require access to secrets or to
classified information. There was no cross-pollination; the manuscript had
already been completed, and nothing in this book comes from any material
gathered at Palantir.
Finally, both authors wrote extensively about secrecy while writing this
book. Weve written tens of thousands of words on the subject, and have
collectively written more than 20,000 posts to Twitter. If one compares our
body of work to this book, it is possible that we have reused phrases or
metaphors to describe certain subjects. If that is the case, it is entirely
unintentional. Our brains dont compartmentalize the way that computers
can. However, aside from some material about the U.S. Joint Special Operations
Command that also appeared in The Command: Deep inside the Presidents
Secret Army, the book is an original work in its entirety, the reporting
is fresh, and the conclusions, we hope, are original.
While researching this book we stumbled across many things that we wont
be able to write about. Though we have no legal obligation to submit our
work to the government before publication, we have an ethical obligation
as citizens to take extreme care when writing about sensitive subjects. We
shared certain chapters with a number of former senior national security
and intelligence officials, including several former directors of intelligence
agencies. Our purpose was to learn if the publication of this book would
truly jeopardize national security. After receiving the feedback, we asked
ourselves whether there was a compelling reason to print the secrets in question
anyway, and worked from there. We hope weve struck the proper balance.
The last paragraph confirms the national security complicity continues unabated,
whether chosen by the authors or enforced by publisher's lawyers and official
secrecy agreements. This is the gold standard of national security office-holding
and journalism, either join the club or be excluded from rewarding access.
Despite the authors' admirably researched coverage of the secrecy industry
and complicit journalism, they condemn both official secrecy
officially-sanctioned journalism to follow the USSR into extinction by
uncontrollable openness generated by public distrust of government and journalism
seen as global spying machines.
Don't dream of rejuggling of government and journalism, online or offline,
to head off their decline, no national defense will protect against it, no
increase in secrecy measures will stop leaks of vital secrets.
Too many secrets, too many secretkeepers, too many inherent faults to breach
overloaded containment vessels. Digital information cannot be controlled
by physical fortresses. A thumb drive can be a weapon of mass destruction.
Leaks spread at the speed of photons, too fast for human response. At this
speed leaks are indistinguishable from secrets except to inhuman machines.
Keeping secrets will depend not on HUMINT but on information system processors
requiring layers of interpretation for slow-witted human comprehension and
action forever too late. Government and journalism are not equipped mentally
or physically for this hyperspeed torrent over-flooding their bulwarks.
A spark of hope national security fear-mongering can work: A specialist is
quoted as saying quantum research is as crucial as was the invention of the
atomic bomb, the "US cannot survive being second in this race." Photons faster,
more unpredictable and more lethal than controlled atomic reactions. The
national security threat of Internet swarm is unbeatable except by highly
Very fast forward to plot exposure: Bêtes noires of this downfall
of authoritative information is WikiLeaks and other outsiders of the
Outsiders win the WarGame:
"A young man finds a back door into a military central computer in which
reality is confused with game-playing, possibly starting World War III."