National security expert Arkin (Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, 2011, etc.) follows up Top Secret America: The Rise of the New Security State (2011, co-authored with Dana Priest) with this report on America's secret government.
The author contends that America's government functions as “a dual system.” There are the “ABCs” of public law guided by the Constitution, and there are the “XYZs” functioning between the lines, “the charter of another realm.” Arkin focuses part of his argument on the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Alerted a week before the storm system arrived, he reports, the George W. Bush administration was discussing drafting a declaration of martial law under the terms of the Insurrection Act of 1807, and the author discusses Gov. Kathleen Blanco's opposition to federalization of the emergency response. Since Katrina, state governors have signed on to Barack Obama's “series of five integrated National Planning Frameworks covering the new buzzwords ‘prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.’ ” The author traces what the dual system is designed to do and how it performs, given the fallibility of the human agents tasked with executing it. He highlights the cascading failures of the federal response to Katrina, how the system evolved from the beginning, and what the legal possibilities may be for its current preventive and protective missions. The XYZs were born under Harry Truman and came of age during the Eisenhower administration. Arkin traces successive transformations, highlighting Bill Clinton's makeover as an enabler for subsequent actions by Bush and Obama. He provides useful backdrop in the form of discussions of martial law and how such relevant laws have been employed.
A systematic discussion that provides a well-documented basis for assessing future developments.