The National Security State is a nation where the executive branch of the government, in coordination with its associated government agencies, provides the federal government with intelligence about actual, perceived, and potential threats to the nation (Dean, 2011). The actions of this state involve the overthrowing of other independent countries as well as the extrajudicial punishment of enemies (Dean, 2011). The actions of this national security state are often unknown by the public. This implies that the people of this country have not given consent to the actions of the government (Dean, 2011).
A culture of secrecy is a culture wherein perceived threats such as fear of communist infiltration gives the federal government “license” to harass people suspected of espionage or subversion. This culture allows the often illegal operations of said government to be hidden through “black budgets” and other means (Dean, 2011). In the video about the nuclear testing in Nevada during the Cold War, the idea of the National Security State was present. Throughout the video the narrator asks the audience to think about why nuclear testing was important. The narrator goes on to describe that this nuclear testing was crucial for the defense of the United States (Atomic Energy Commission, 195?). Throughout the film we see that the residents of the Nevada town of Mercury don’t really know much about the nuclear tests other than that they happen and that there are certain aspects of the tests that they will never know about (Atomic Energy Commission, 195?). This is a clear symptom of the National Security State, that is, the people of the United States often know little or nothing of what the federal government is actually doing and have not given it’s explicit consent to engage in these secretive activities.
Likewise, in the article about the nuclear testing in Nevada we see the National Security State in operation. This is because William Laurence was secretly hired by the Manhattan Project to write articles in favor of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy for average Americans in the New York Times. (Fox, 2014). This is an example of the National Security State in action as Laurence’s reporting was intentionally designed to deceive the American public into believing that his reporting was objective and neutral. This perception of neutrality was used to promote the agenda of the Atomic Energy Commission (Fox, 2014).This behavior is dangerous as the government is secretly attempting to influence the American public in the name of national security.
I would argue that the national security state still exists today as we still see extrajudicial and secretive actions by the U.S government. Some examples that come to mind are the illegal detention and torture of captured insurgents by the U.S military at Guantanamo Bay and the continued secrecy of the Area 51 site in Nevada. These are examples of the national security state as the U.S government tried to keep Guantanamo Bay a secret from the American public in the name of national security. At the same time the purpose of Area 51 continues to be unknown to the American public.
- Dean, Robert. “Introduction: Cultures of Secrecy in Postwar America .” Diplomatic History 35, no. 4 (September 2011): 611–13.
- ATOMIC BOMB TESTS IN MERCURY, NEVADA HISTORIC FILM 40982. United States of America: Atomic Energy Commission, 195?. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL_YzlhqpbY.
- Fox, Sarah. Downwind : A People’s History of the Nuclear West. Bison Books, 2014.
One thought on “Blogpost #1”
I really enjoyed how you used the video and the article to show some of what the National State Security was up to during this time. You provided great examples, such as when Laurence’s reporting was intentionally designed to deceive the American public into believing that his reporting was objective and neutral. I also agree with you that the National State Security still exists today. When I was thinking about this in present day, I also thought about the secrecy of Area 51 and the events that took place after 9/11 with Guantanamo Bay. I am curious if we will ever know what truly happens at Area 51 and what other things are being kept from us.