The Washington Post has unveiled a project two years in the making. The new website made its debut this week amid much controversy. It is called Top Secret America: A Washington Post Investigation. The maps, photos and stories divulge a number of top secret facilities and programs dedicated to intelligence, homeland security and counterterrorism in the United States under a “Fourth Branch” of the federal government. It reveals the existence of an underground web of 2,100 facilities coast to coast handling what is deemed top secret information. The locations of many of these buildings are shown on a map. Although an editor’s note on the website explains that the zoom level for anyone looking at them is limited, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out their general vicinities. Some of the buildings are even named.
According to the website, the existence of what they have dubbed a “Top Secret America” was very limited until the events of 9/11. Since then, the number of projects and programs has escalated. The buildings involved combined take up about 17 million square feet of space and host 850,000 people with top secret security clearance. The Post reporters believe the underworld has grown out of control with little knowledge among government officials as to who is really doing what and how much it is costing the taxpayers; hence, the website all about their investigation. From what they state in an opening video, the reporters apparently believe everyone should know everything. This is their attempt at full disclosure.
Is this too much information? The Internet has become a place where everything is revealed whether you like it or not. This is eerily similar to the recent controversies on Facebook and Google Buzz, where all of your personal information is shared with people you know and people you don’t without your permission. They were later given security filters and opt-out buttons to quell the outcry from unsuspecting users. Evidently, the subjects of Top Secret America did not get the opportunity to check an opt-out button on this investigation, either. It fills up an entire sub-domain of The Washington Post.
The amazing thing is that the website made quite a splash in the national news this morning and is still up for all to see. Judging from comments on a variety of sites today, some people feel it is too revealing; others think the public has a right to know everything. In comparison, it didn’t take long for Facebook and Google Buzz to put filters on their websites at the request of their unsuspecting users. Now that the information is out there and the controversy has begun, you have to wonder whether The Post will leave it untouched in all its transparent glory, or put in some filters and share a little less information.
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