Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs and Operations in the 9/11 World

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9781586420833: Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs and Operations in the 9/11 World
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The war on terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to a secrecy explosion. In the 9/11 world the U.S. military and intelligence organizations have created secret plans, programs, and operations at a frenzied pace, each with their own code name. In a perfect world, all of this secrecy would be to protect legitimate secrets from prying foreign eyes. But in researching Code Names, defense analyst William M. Arkin learned that while most genuine secrets remain secret, other activities labeled as secret are either questionable or remain perfectly in the open. The sheer volume and complexity of these operations ensures that the most politically important remain unreported by the press and shielded from the scrutiny of the American electorate. Despite the intelligence failures of 9/11 and the questionable assumptions that led to the war in Iraq and govern the war on terrorism, the U.S. government argues for massive amounts of funding and resources, while at the same time claiming that public accountability would compromise their missions. Arkin didn’t accept this argument during the Cold War – when he published two books that revealed U.S. nuclear “secrets” and led directly to a healthier public discussion of a “nuclear warfighting” emerging in the Reagan era – and he is challenging it again today.

From “Able Ally” to “Zodiac Beauchamp,” this book identifies more than 3,000 code names and details the plans and missions for which they stand. Code Names is divided into five distinct parts:

Introduction: Will explain to the American public, for the first time, just what the explosion in the creation of secret code names after 9/11 reveals about overall strategies in the war on terror.

Cast of Characters: A brief description of all relevant federal departments, agencies, commands, and organizations. For each there is a discussion of their missions, roles, and activities, their contingency plans and their secret bases of operations. The emphasis is on what is not readily known to the public.

Country-by-Country Directory: Details worldwide U.S. military and intelligence operations and relations and briefly describes each country’s recent cooperation or discord with the United States in the war on terror.

The Code Names Dictionary: An alphabetical listing of more than 3,000 code names. The emphasis will be on names that are current since the end of the Cold War, are of historical importance, and are not otherwise in the public domain.

Acronym List and Glossary.

Code Names offers stunning revelations and its publication is sure to cause a major stir. But Arkin knows where to draw the line. The information in his book will not jeopardize individuals or operations. His intention is to inform the debate and to give people information they ought to have. Arkin has written Code Names firm in the belief that an informed citizenry is a prerequisite to wise decision-making by world leaders.

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Review:

"Polo Step" is secret Pentagon code for classified material that is more sensitive than "Top Secret." When veteran military-affairs journalist William Arkin first publicly mentioned "Polo Step" in a 2002 column in the Los Angeles Times, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was apparently furious and ordered an investigation into the leak. Over 1,000 officials, military personnel, and contractors were ultimately interviewed, and the investigation even had its own code name, "Seven Seekers." Such is the zealousness, Arkin writes in his book Code Names, with which secrecy is protected in the 9/11 world. Arkin, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and long-time military commentator for NBC News, has come out with a fascinating retort to Washington's secrecy obsession. His 608-page tome is an encyclopedia of 3,000 U.S. national-security code names, some revealed for the first time, that tell a tantalizing hidden story about the American war on terrorism and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the code names in the book, listed in an alphabetic section that makes up the majority of the book, are "West Wing," a sensitive program to deploy 5,000 troops to Jordan to support the war in Iraq; a U.S. Air Force cyber-attack capability called "Project Suter," which is managed by a secretive unit called "Big Safari"; a CIA remote-viewing project called "Grill Flame"; and "Thirsty Saber," an ultra-secret project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a sensor "that would replicate human reasoning."

Arkin has a specific goal. He believes the post-9/11 drive for secrecy has imperiled American security and democracy. Information is often classified, he writes, not because of the danger of passing information to those who would harm the United States, but in order to close down public debate about controversial activities. The intelligence failures that allowed 9/11 to occur, Arkin writes, show that safety is better achieved when the national-security establishment is subjected to oversight and scrutiny. His book caused a small sensation even before it came out and is essential reading for understanding the mechanics of the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus. --Alex Roslin

About the Author:

William M. Arkin is a NBC News military analyst, consultant, and author. He has been a columnist for The Los Angeles Times, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic Education at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC, and an Adjunct Professor at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, U.S. Air Force, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Arkin’s work as a military analyst for NBC News has spanned Desert Fox in Iraq in 1998, the 1999 Yugoslav war, the events of September 11, and current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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