The Seattle Post-Intellligencer – 2009-03-18 00:22:27
SEATTLE (February 28, 2009) — Blank Spots on the Map is an expose of an empire that continues to grow every year—and which, officially, it isn’t even there. It is the adventurous, insightful, and often chilling story of a young geographer’s road trip through the underworld of US military and CIA “black ops” sites.
This is a shadow nation of state secrets: clandestine military bases, ultra-secret black sites, classified factories, hidden laboratories, and top-secret agencies making up what defense and intelligence insiders themselves call the “black world.” Run by an amorphous group of government agencies and private companies, this empire’s ever expanding budget dwarfs that of many good sized countries, yet it denies its own existence.
Author Trevor Paglen is a scholar in geography, an artist, and a provocateur. His research into areas that officially don’t exist leads him on a globe-trotting investigation into a vast, undemocratic, and uncontrolled black empire—the unmarked blank areas whether you are looking at Google Earth or a US Geological Survey map.
Paglen knocks on the doors of CIA prisons, stakes out the Groom Lake covert air base in Nevada from a mountaintop 30 miles away, observes classified spacecraft in the night sky with amateur astronomers, and dissects the Defense Department’s multibillion dollar black budget. Traveling to the Middle East, Central America, and even around our nation’s capital and its surrounding suburbs, he interviews the people who live on the edges of these blank spots.
Paglen visits the widow of Walter Kazra, who, while working construction at Groom Lake, was poisoned by the toxic garbage pits there. The U. S. Air Force defense to his estate’s suit? The base does not exist. The U. S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.
Whether Paglen reports from a hotel room in Vegas, Washington D. C. suburbs, secret prisons in Kabul, buried CIA aircraft in Honduras, or a trailer in Shoshone Indian territory, he is impassioned, rigorous, relentless—and eye-opening. This is a human, vivid, and telling portrait of a ballooning national mistake.