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Top Secret America: Washington Post’s Intelligence Investigation Goes Live

Photo courtesy of
‘Census #4′
courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Late last week, we had heard that the Washington Post would be planning a series on the intelligence contracting industry. As expected, the first articles of the feature launched this morning on WashingtonPost.com, and the biggest component is an interactive feature detailing just how broad a base of companies have a hand in the national security of the United States. The tool highlights some of the best results from its investigation into “Top Secret America” as it discussed the world behind the thousands of organizations involved in the field.

Spend some time with the feature if it interests you, but for a Cliff Notes version, Yahoo!’s new political and news blog, Upshot, has highlighted what it feels are the five biggest revelations (and be sure to click through so you can see Upshot’s justifications for the points):

  1. The U.S. intelligence system has exploded in size since the Sept. 11 attacks.
  2. Only a few officials in the Department of Defense have access to all of the top-secret activities and information.
  3. Agencies are collecting so much data that they don’t have enough translators or researchers to analyze it.
  4. Turf wars among agencies can prevent the sharing of information.
  5. This confusion has had real consequences.

Beyond these revelations, there are many reasons to take a look at everything compiled by the Washington Post team, which included more than a dozen different journalists. The innovative presentation of the data, taking full advantage of the interactive nature of the Web and allowing readers to search through it all, is very encouraging to see at a time that many print organizations are running the other direction from their consumers by putting up paywalls. If this is the future of journalism, I no longer fear for traditional media organizations like the Post.