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‘Covert Capital: U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia’ by Andrew Friedman

Author: Micah Zenko, Senior Fellow
November 14, 2013
Washington Post


In his 1906 lecture on the formation of modern nations in Europe, German historian Otto Hintze argued that states were built around the needs of their militaries and that in the 20thcentury, state organization would come to be determined "primarily by the necessities of defense and offense, that is, by the organization of the army and of warfare." The United States has undeniably been on a semi-permanent war footing since 1949, and this constant preparation for or conduct of foreign wars has transformed our politics, society, economy and laws in ways that endure well beyond the confrontations with each adversary.

In "Covert Capital," Andrew Friedman provides an original and entertaining narrative showing how Cold War planning and operations permanently changed the suburbs of Washington. Drawing on interviews and memoirs of cold warriors, urban and exurban planning, architecture, and social theory, Friedman sketches the origins of the landscape of secrecy and denial that has since sprawled into the access roads and anonymous office parks encircling the nation's capital. National security state employees, along with other residents of the District, Maryland and Virginia curious about the top-secret infrastructure they drive past, can learn a great deal from this book.

An initial instigator was Allen Dulles, who ran the Central Intelligence Agency from 1953 to 1961. Dulles successfully campaigned for Congress and reluctant local officials to move the CIA from its six-building complex at 2430 E St. in Foggy Bottom and temporary buildings along the Mall to the woods of Langley, which he came to know from parties at the nearby home of his sister, Eleanor Lansing Dulles, a State Department official. Allen sought to transform the new campus into an insulated and compartmentalized environment — and, by moving the CIA's headquarters from eight blocks to eight miles away from the White House, to enjoy greater autonomy.

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