Monday, July 19, 2010
The Washington Post has launched its feature "Top Secret America." The project consists of three days of investigative reporting articles, the first one today entitled "A hidden world, growing beyond control."
The project also includes a searchable online database detailing private contractors and specific locations. The Editorial explanation is worth reading; here is a bit of 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.
The feature should be of interest to anyone working on state secrets doctrine and theory. The extent of private involvement also implicates the state action doctrine and the problems with holding actors constitutionally accountable. The Washington Post explanation above also implicates First Amendment concerns.