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The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency
     

The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency

4.7 3
by Annie Jacobsen
 

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A Pulitzer Prize Finalist and the definitive history of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, from the author of the New York Times bestseller Area 51

No one has ever written the history of the Defense Department's most secret, most powerful, and most controversial military science

Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A Pulitzer Prize Finalist and the definitive history of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, from the author of the New York Times bestseller Area 51

No one has ever written the history of the Defense Department's most secret, most powerful, and most controversial military science R&D agency. In the first-ever history about the organization, New York Times bestselling author Annie Jacobsen draws on inside sources, exclusive interviews, private documents, and declassified memos to paint a picture of DARPA, or "the Pentagon's brain," from its Cold War inception in 1958 to the present.

This is the book on DARPA—a compelling narrative about this clandestine intersection of science and the American military and the often frightening results.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
07/01/2015
Science is often viewed as a way for humanity to improve. However, in journalist Jacobsen's (Operation Paperclip) latest, it is directed at winning war—arguably humanity's cruelest facet. The author has methodically written the history of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), from its inception at the height of the atomic era in 1958 to the present. Her sources include countless archival materials, such as government documents and interviews. The author delves into how the success of DARPA rises and falls with America's military prowess, and how the technologies the agency has created affect daily life, from the Internet to global positioning systems (GPS). This technology is vastly overshadowed by the creation of biological, nuclear, and data mining operations—which receive much attention within this book. Jacobsen's account will serve as the model for histories of military research and development and is likely to lead to more works and articles about DARPA. VERDICT This engrossing, conversation-starting read is highly recommended for policymakers, historians, scientists, and others who study technology's implications. It will complement Jonathon Moreno's Mind Wars and Sarah Bridger's Scientists at War. [See Prepub Alert, 3/23/15.]—Jacob Sherman, John Peace Lib., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio
Kirkus Reviews
2015-06-17
The history of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military's top-secret research and development agency. During the Cold War, the arms race between the United States and Soviet Union was a result of the belief in mutually assured destruction. If one nation were to strike with nuclear weapons, it would precipitate its own downfall. This constant tension created a unique environment in which the American military needed to invest heavily in new arms and technology to stay one step ahead of their Soviet foes. Officially created in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower, DARPA was tasked with leading the military's efforts to develop the means to prevent a Soviet nuclear strike or invasion. The department quickly evolved to encompass all manners of defense, including cutting-edge psychological and biological warfare. Jacobsen (Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, 2014, etc.) is no stranger to secretive government projects, and she weaves a dramatic history of the agency that exposes, through newly declassified documents and firsthand interviews with former DARPA scientists, the astounding and often terrifying developments that emerged from the program. One of the greatest pleasures of Jacobsen's thoroughly crafted narrative is the anachronisms of obsolete high-tech. For instance, the author details the development of ARPANET, the predecessor to today's Internet, and the room-sized computers that it was designed to use. However, not all DARPA projects are as apolitical and quaint. There is the unavoidable truth that DARPA was created to develop sophisticated weaponry designed to annihilate populations. One of the most egregious examples is Agent Orange, the extremely toxic defoliant. Chronicling DARPA to the present day, Jacobsen also sketches portraits of the immensely brilliant, ambitious, and flawed scientists that dedicated themselves to science and country. Filled with the intrigue and high stakes of a spy novel, Jacobsen's history of DARPA is as much a fascinating testament to human ingenuity as it is a paean to endless industrial warfare and the bureaucracy of the military-industrial complex.
Publishers Weekly
★ 07/06/2015
Journalist Jacobsen (Operation Paperclip) draws on interviews with 71 individuals affiliated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to paint a fascinating and unsettling portrait of the secretive U.S. government agency. Though many Americans may not be familiar with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was created by Congress in 1958, they’re undoubtedly familiar with the fruits of its organizational labors. The modern computer, the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, the Internet, unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones), and even massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) all began as DARPA projects. Startling revelations, including the fact that four nuclear weapons were detonated in space during the Cuban Missile Crisis and that insect-shaped drones hovered above American antiwar protests in 2007, pop up through Jacobsen’s narrative as she relays how the agency’s innovations incorporated mechanical, psychological, and anthropological efforts to wage war. Jacobsen walks a fine line in telling the story of the agency and its innovations without coming across as a cheerleader or a critic, or letting the narrative devolve into a salacious tell-all. Jacobsen’s ability to objectively tell the story of DARPA, not to mention its murky past, is truly remarkable, making for a terrifically well-crafted treatise on the agency most Americans know next to nothing about. Agent: Jim Hornfischer, Hornfischer Literary Management. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Pulitzer Prize Finalist in History

One of The Washington Post's Notable Nonfiction Books of 2015

One of The Boston Globe's Best Books of 2015

One of Amazon's Top 100 Books of 2015"

A brilliantly researched account of a small but powerful secret government agency whose military research profoundly affects world affairs."—The Pulitzer Prize Committee"

Filled with the intrigue and high stakes of a spy novel, Jacobsen's history of DARPA is as much a fascinating testament to human ingenuity as it is a paean to endless industrial warfare and the bureaucracy of the military-industrial complex."—Kirkus Reviews"

A fascinating and unsettling portrait of the secretive U.S. government agency....Jacobsen walks a fine line in telling the story of the agency and its innovations without coming across as a cheerleader or a critic, or letting the narrative devolve into a salacious tell-all. Jacobsen's ability to objectively tell the story of DARPA, not to mention its murky past, is truly remarkable, making for a terrifically well-crafted treatise on the agency most Americans know next to nothing about."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

Jacobsen offers a definitive history of the clandestine agency.... She explores the implications of DARPA work on technology that will not be widely known to the public for generations but will certainly impact national security and concepts of war."—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)"

Jacobsen's account will serve as the model for histories of military research and development and is likely to lead to more works and articles about DARPA.... Engrossing, conversation-starting read..."—Library Journal"

Annie Jacobsen's considerable talents as an investigative journalist prove indispensable in uncovering the remarkable history of one of America's most powerful and clandestine military research agencies. And she is a great storyteller, making the tantalizing tale of The Pentagon's Brain — from the depths of the Cold War to present day — come alive on every page."—Gerald Posner, author of God's Bankers"

A fascinating and sometimes uneasy exploration of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency...."—Dina Temple-Raston, The Washington Post"

In this fascinating and terrifying account, Annie Jacobsen regales us with the stories behind the agency's 'consequential and sometimes Orwellian' innovations, including autonomous weapons systems—killer robots that could decide, without human intervention, who lives and who dies."—Bryan Schatz, Mother Jones"

Annie Jacobsen has a gift for unearthing secret, long-buried information."—Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times"

An exciting read that asks an important question: what is the risk of allowing lethal technologies to be developed in secret?"—Ann Finkbeiner, Nature"

The Pentagon's Brain puts Jacobsen in the company of important writers ... such as Shane Harris and Rajiv Chandrasekran."—Chris Bray, Bookforum

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316371766
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
09/22/2015
Pages:
560
Sales rank:
379,675
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.80(d)

What People are Saying About This

Annie Jacobsen's considerable talents as an investigative journalist prove indispensable in uncovering the remarkable history of one of America's most powerful and clandestine military research agencies. And she is a great storyteller, making the tantalizing tale of The Pentagon's Brain — from the depths of the Cold War to present day — come alive on every page. --Gerald Posner, author of God's Bankers

Meet the Author

Annie Jacobsen is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Area 51 and Operation Paperclip and was a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine. A graduate of Princeton University, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.

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The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The subtitle of the book declares that it is “An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top Secret Military Research Agency.” But how could Jacobsen write a history of this organization when its key operations are classified, if not deeply clandestine? What she’s actually written is a narrative of the evolution of warfare from the beginning of the Cold War to the present, focusing on the science and technology which the US military developed in hopes of achieving an advantage over the enemy – whether that enemy was Russians, the Vietcong, or Iraqi insurgents. For the most part, that science and technology have been “hard,” but DARPA has dabbled in biology, medicine, sociology, psychology, and anthropology as well. DARPA appears in the narrative from time to time, but it's hard to ascertain, from the limited evidence Jacobsen can provide, just how much the agency drove military decisions and how much it contributed to the outcome of various military operations. Because Jacobsen is a journalist aiming for a sensational – even alarming – expose, she doesn't acknowledge as often as she should how much this same science and technology has benefited civilians. Were it not for the US military's interest in global positioning systems, electronic sensors, networked computers, and a host of other things which are now part of our daily lives, we'd still live much as Americans did in the 1920s. So, in short, one must read this book critically. But it's worth reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating, page-turning, mind-blower. Intermittently amazed and terrified. Who knew so much of all the technology we Americans enjoy today was born of military science and warfare? With bristling insight, the author tells the story of the DARPA scientists who create and destroy. Thought provoking.