Editorials | Issues
|The Washington Post Reveals 'Top Secret America'|
Max Fisher - The Atlantic Wire
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July 19, 2010
The Washington Post has unveiled its comprehensive, alarming, and much-anticipated report on "Top Secret America." The dedicated site details the billions of dollars in private, for-profit intelligence operations that have emerged since Sept. 11, 2001, which the Post calls our "fourth branch" of government.
|FRONTLINE goes inside The Washington Post's major two-year examination into the massive, unwieldy, top secret world the U.S. government has created in response to 9/11. Coming fall 2010 to PBS.|
Led by reporters William Arkin and Pulitzer Prize-winner Dana Priest, the investigation was two years in the making and shook up the vast U.S. intelligence community even before it was released. The "Top Secret America" website includes articles, videos, interactive features, and maps all begging to be explored.
Intro | Read Stories | See Map | Explore Connections | Find Companies | Search Data
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A note on this project for the Washington Post editors:
"Top Secret America" is a project nearly two years in the making that describes the huge national security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
When it comes to national security, all too often no expense is spared and few questions are asked - with the result an enterprise so massive that nobody in government has a full understanding of it. It is, as Dana Priest and William M. Arkin have found, ubiquitous, often inefficient and mostly invisible to the people it is meant to protect and who fund it.
The articles in this series and an online database at topsecretamerica.com depict the scope and complexity of the government's national security program through interactive maps and other graphics. Every data point on the website is substantiated by at least two public records.
Because of the nature of this project, we allowed government officials to see the website several months ago and asked them to tell us of any specific concerns. They offered none at that time. As the project evolved, we shared the website's revised capabilities. Again, we asked for specific concerns. One government body objected to certain data points on the site and explained why; we removed those items. Another agency objected that the entire website could pose a national security risk but declined to offer specific comments.
We made other public safety judgments about how much information to show on the website. For instance, we used the addresses of company headquarters buildings, information which, in most cases, is available on companies' own websites, but we limited the degree to which readers can use the zoom function on maps to pinpoint those or other locations.
Our maps show the headquarters buildings of the largest government agencies involved in top-secret work. A user can also see the cities and towns where the government conducts top-secret work in the United States, but not the specific locations, companies or agencies involved.
Within a responsible framework, our objective is to provide as much information as possible, so readers gain a real, granular understanding of the scale and breadth of the top-secret world we are describing.
We look forward to your feedback and can be reached at topsecretamerica(at)washpost.com.