A K-9 police officer and his partner, "Bart," patrol New York's Grand Central Terminal in 2003.
August 30, 2011 • Washington Post national security reporter Dana Priest's book Top Secret America looks at the top-secret intelligence and counterterrorism network created after Sept. Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.
Though she could barely walk anymore at age seventy-a€‹six, Joy Whiteman remained calm as she fumbled to remove her new white tennis shoes, lift herself out of her wheelchair, and grab the side of the X-ray machine. The project also seems to put the newspaper on the data-visualization-as-journalism map, still dominated by the New York Times infographics department. The "Top Secret Network of Government and its Contractors" explores the relationships between government organizations and the types of work being done in "Top Secret America".
The "Where is Top Secret America?" shows the locations of government organizations and companies that deal with security (although stops short explicitly naming them?).
Less visible are the clandestine security measures the government has implemented since 2001. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work. More than a dozen Washington Post journalists spent 2 years developing the database, which was put together by compiling hundreds of thousands of public records of government organizations and private-sector companies. A radial table can be rearranged according to 3 questions: "Who does the most types of work?", "Who works with the most companies?" and "Who does which types of work?" The data can be further filtered along several categories, such as Intelligence, Military or Weapons Technology. Airport security guards folded her wheelchair and rolled it through the scanner, keeping an eye on the frail woman in a bright flowered jacket.
From these records, The Washington Post identified 45 government organizations (for example, the FBI) engaged in top-secret work and determined that those 45 organizations could be broken down into 1,271 sub-units (for example, the Terrorist Screening Center of the FBI). At the private-sector level, The Post identified 1,931 companies engaged in top-secret work for the government, ranging from the "nuclear operations" by AT&T to the "cyber operations" of Abraxas.
Never mind that no terrorist had ever fit her profile or been foiled walking through a security scanner.


Never mind that the Department of Homeland Security, which was responsible for setting airport security policy, was ridiculed by people at every other intelligence agency because it hadn't learned to hone its focus and still saw threats everywhere. But in ten years, they have made vast strides in technical surveillance capabilities and intelligence analysis. Before publishing our initial series on Top Secret America in the Washington Post in July 2010, we showed the government a database of government organizations and private companies working at the top secret level, assembled over several years as part of our research. We described how the data had been culled from publicly available information, and asked to hear any national security concerns.
After detailed discussions with most of the sixteen agencies of the intelligence community, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is supposed to lead those agencies, returned with a surprising request: don't publish the database.
The office declined to offer specifics and issued a warning to contractors about the impending publication of the series. The Post, meanwhile, had already begun to identify possible national security issues, and executive editor Marcus Brauchli ordered appropriate changes.
On the contrary, much harm has been done to the counterterrorism effort itself, and to the American economy and U.S. Under President George Bush, journalists' efforts to figure out how the United States was waging this war against al-Qaeda were often criticized by senior administration leaders, members of Congress, cable television pundits, even the public. It is true the president and his cabinet members have not publicly disparaged the news media as much as his predecessor did. President Obama's Justice Department has taken a more aggressive tack against the unauthorized disclosure of classified information by pursuing more so-called leak investigations than the Bush administration. Recent indictments were issued against a former CIA employee who allegedly talked to book author James Risen, a New York Times reporter, about a botched attempt to slip faulty nuclear plans to Iran; and a former National Security Agency official, Thomas Drake, who helped a Baltimore Sun reporter detail the waste of billions of dollars at his agency. In early June 2011, the government was forced to offer Drake a deal because its lawyers said they did not want to reveal classified information related to the case in court.
Drake accepted the prosecution's offer to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor of misusing a government computer to provide information to an unauthorized person. In August 2007, eighteen FBI agents, some with their guns drawn, burst into his home with only his wife and children present, to raid his files during an investigation into his alleged role in helping the New York Times develop its seminal warrantless surveillance story in 2004.


The government dropped his case nearly four years later, in April 2011, after Tamm's career had been ruined and he faced financial peril.
In some cases those revelations even fueled brave public protests against undemocratic, corrupt regimes, developments the U.S. Maryland senator Benjamin Cardin a€” whose state is home to the National Security Agency, the nation's eavesdroppers a€” introduced a bill in 2011 making it a felony to disclose classified information to an unauthorized person. This legislation expands considerably the current law that makes it illegal to disclose information on nuclear codes, cryptography, electronic intercepts, nuclear weapons designs, and the identities of covert agents. But most important, it places even greater power into the hands of the executive branch to just declare something classified rather than to have to demonstrate that harm would be done if the information were to be made public.
That law may have made it illegal for newspapers to have published articles about Canadian citizen Maher Arar, whom U.S. Or the CIA's bungled operation in Macedonia, where case officers mistook German citizen Khalid al-Masri for someone else and disappeared him for months, something that has cost him his sanity. These records included government documents, contracts and task orders, corporate and government job descriptions, property and budget records, corporate and social networking websites, corporate databases, and other material. Our reporting cannot be more fully described without breaking the promises of confidentiality requested by the vast majority of current and former officials who agreed to answer our questions and offer their observations and assessments of this hidden universe. They spoke because they, too, were alarmed that one of the greatest secrets of Top Secret America is its disturbing dysfunction.
The point of describing this overgrown jungle of top secret organizations and corporations is to enhance national security and the public's understanding of it.



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