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WP: Top Secret America


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http://www.topsecretamerica.com/

The Editors Note:

"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 Web site is substantiated by at least two public records.

Because of the nature of this project, we allowed government officials to see the Web site 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 Web site'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 Web site 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 Web site. For instance, we used the addresses of company headquarters buildings, information which, in most cases, is available on companies' own Web sites, 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@washpost.com.

- The Editors

This could be VERY interesting :read:
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If they're reporting on it, it's not really Top Secret, is it?

We do not have a Official Secrets act ect like Britain,the press can indeed(and do) release classified info.

This is a bad idea .

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I tried to read this article today after seeing a feature about it on the Today Show. It made a decent point I guess, but it was pretty boring and went on and on about the same, simple point.

I had higher expectations when I heard about it on TV.

I saw it while I was surfing through Washington Post Online. I watched the video and was like wow I think this may knock my sox's off but it failed to live up to the hype.

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There are plenty of other documentaries out there already that have detailed the same kind of information.

A lot of them make the case that the war in Iraq was a huge cash grab by defense contractors, because they were basically allowed to cash checks with little to no oversight, and most were awarded no bid contracts. Also, that the goal of the neo-cons for awhile had been to set up our military/country for an "endless war" situation, and that was why the term "War on Terrorism" was coined in the first place.

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We do not have a Official Secrets act ect like Britain,the press can indeed(and do) release classified info.

This is a bad idea .

Which is why most in the community have been notified of the article and reminded everyone that they should not comment about the article. In most briefings, it is made clear that sometimes Top Secret information gets published in the press and that when asked you should neither confirm nor deny the information.

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There are plenty of other documentaries out there already that have detailed the same kind of information.

A lot of them make the case that the war in Iraq was a huge cash grab by defense contractors, because they were basically allowed to cash checks with little to no oversight, and most were awarded no bid contracts. Also, that the goal of the neo-cons for awhile had been to set up our military/country for an "endless war" situation, and that was why the term "War on Terrorism" was coined in the first place.

War in Iraq - Cash grab, yes. Endless war scenario, by the "neo-cons" HELL NO. The orignal gameplan for Iraq that was prepared by Rumsfeld was one that had no such "endless" war possibilities. The dems took their red pens to it and wanted us to take a more "Diplomatic" approach. The years of insurgency following the fall of Baghdad, was due to beurocratic red tape, which was a tactic used by the dems to regain power as it sunk the Bush administration, and the Republican party. If the US would have gone into Iraq as Rumsfeld proposed, Iraq would have had a different outcome.

The "War on Terrorism" was a way to ensure tax-money is allocated, much like the "War on Drugs".

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The entire article seems to be about 2 points:

A) We have no coherent, searchable database of incoming information which would allow us to prioritize the information as it comes in. This is a structural problem, but it's not a physical structural problem. It's an instituional one.

B) Because we have no way of categorizing all the data coming in, we have no idea how much of it is duplicaiton. We don't know just how many $800 hammers we have bought, and we don't know whether we were supposed to be buying hammers or screw drivers. Our second problem is one of redundancy. There is a great line in contact about in the government everything worth doing once is worth having a second program doing the exact same thing to use in case of emergency...but we've gone a bit beyond twice. lol.

From an outsiders perspective, it would seem the primary goal should be to come up with a system and a database for classifying all incoming reports. The system would have to be taken up by all agencies responcible for producing the data. I know getting standards accepted by everyone is a pain because everyone wants their system to be the one used, but libraries have managed for centuries (even with switches in categorization systems).

Maybe an insider could say why such a system would not work. For example a series of codes (thinking of games like charades for how it could work):

first code: is it place, organization, or person

second code: drill down if place the second code would be continent then region then country with as long a code as possible just zero filled for unknown

thrid code: national security risk/utility of information - time sensitive level?

Of course each of these codes would have various levels with in them, but it would seem it could be standardized such that every organization would put out information in a manner that would be searchable so if I were in charge and I needed information on Yemen nad it's leaders, I could search for all current information from all of our data sources. If a rating system were installed too? I'm just not sure why administrations have allowed the program to continue without such a system.

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B) Because we have no way of categorizing all the data coming in, we have no idea how much of it is duplicaiton. We don't know just how many $800 hammers we have bought, and we don't know whether we were supposed to be buying hammers or screw drivers. Our second problem is one of redundancy. There is a great line in contact about in the government everything worth doing once is worth having a second program doing the exact same thing to use in case of emergency...but we've gone a bit beyond twice. lol.

From an outsiders perspective, it would seem the primary goal should be to come up with a system and a database for classifying all incoming reports. The system would have to be taken up by all agencies responcible for producing the data. I know getting standards accepted by everyone is a pain because everyone wants their system to be the one used, but libraries have managed for centuries (even with switches in categorization systems).

Maybe an insider could say why such a system would not work. For example a series of codes (thinking of games like charades for how it could work):

first code: is it place, organization, or person

second code: drill down if place the second code would be continent then region then country with as long a code as possible just zero filled for unknown

thrid code: national security risk/utility of information - time sensitive level?

Of course each of these codes would have various levels with in them, but it would seem it could be standardized such that every organization would put out information in a manner that would be searchable so if I were in charge and I needed information on Yemen nad it's leaders, I could search for all current information from all of our data sources. If a rating system were installed too? I'm just not sure why administrations have allowed the program to continue without such a system.

Maybe they already have a system in place that funnels the information in.;)

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If they're reporting on it, it's not really Top Secret, is it?

No, you'd probably be amazed at the top secret information is available with just a little research (not even using questionable techniques). Also, a lot of government officials who have access to such info are criminally negligent with such info (whether because they are stupid, lazy or some sort of criminal, I don't know). Finally, there's always misinformation and for your bad info to be credible, you got to release some good inside info.

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The article is full of half truths and tries to paint a negative picture of things in the IC.

The problem is not that every agency wants other agencies to use their database, the problem is that other agencies DON'T want other agencies to use their database. Plus their is the little problem of need to know. Everyone does not need to know everything.

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The problem is not that every agency wants other agencies to use their database, the problem is that other agencies DON'T want other agencies to use their database. Plus their is the little problem of need to know. Everyone does not need to know everything.
True on both points, but turf wars :doh:
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The orignal gameplan for Iraq that was prepared by Rumsfeld was one that had no such "endless" war possibilities. The dems took their red pens to it and wanted us to take a more "Diplomatic" approach. The years of insurgency following the fall of Baghdad, was due to beurocratic red tape, which was a tactic used by the dems to regain power as it sunk the Bush administration, and the Republican party. If the US would have gone into Iraq as Rumsfeld proposed, Iraq would have had a different outcome.

I was under the impression that we invaded Iraq under a plan concocted by the neo-cons, pushed incredibly hard by the White House, approved by two GOP-led houses of Congress, and executed largely according to the plan approved by Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief George W Bush. And further, as evidenced by the White House's start-to-finish cost estimate which was too small by a factor of roughly 4,000 percent, that the plan lacked much appreciation for the realities of occupying a formerly hostile, culturally bitter country of mutual tripartite loathing roughly the size of California, in the event that we were not actually "welcomed as liberators" 6,000+ miles from home.

But your version is interesting too. A credible source link backing up the claims in your post would make for compelling reading. Clearly my version of events must be wrong, so I'll let you do the linking. ;)

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