Cover Image: Underground Empire

Underground Empire

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Member Reviews

As a financial journalist turned privacy lawyer I was fascinated by the history of the US government's increasing surveillance of the global financial system laid out in this book. There are discreet stories in each chapter that weave together a narrative of how the US used its regulatory leverage to worm its way into both the guts of the internet and the digital financial system as those both grew in a post-9/11 world.

I come away from this book thinking there really is nowhere to hide from the American government unless you cut yourself off from the contemporary global banking and communications systems. Truly terrifying.

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Thanks to the publisher for early access to this book. The authors focus on how America has exerted supremacy over the world through its network of fiber optic cables. Much of what we praise as "connectivity" can be used for a darker purpose, and the authors of this book feature one sinister use case.

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The need to navigate the tensions between the US and China cries out for an analysis based on an understanding of how these two large economies are related in the international political economy. In particular it requires a trying to understand how economic and technological developments are related to political and military power, and how large economies with adversarial governments can co-exist in mutual benefit. The US in in the process of broadening national security to include "emergent technologies," semiconductors, capital investment, social media, money and all kinds of other civilian capabilities without really knowing what we are doing.
This book is an excellent contribution to international political economy. It is well researched but also accessible in style and up to the minute in analyzing events. It documents the way the US has progressively exploited international infrastructures to pursue its foreign policy objectives. The authors are forcing us to think, finally, about the costs and long-term effects of these moves. The book is written in a very accessible style but shows an impressive degree of knowledge about the institutional structures and technologies that are part of this "underground empire," especially the financial system and the internet.
The authors do not advance a new theory of the relationship between trade, shared infrastructures and political/military power. They present a problem. Some of their stabs at a solution are unimpressive - a new Ministry of Economic Security? Really? How long before that was entirely captured by underground empire practitioners? But they do a great job of articulating the problem.

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