The Washington Post‘s three-part series on the enormous scope of the top-secret network of the government and its contractors has worried some spooks as revealing too many secrets and helping potential terrorists know where to attack. But for me, as a former CNN Washington correspondent, the series looks like a candidate for a Pulitzer Prize.
While some rightwingers say the Post is blatantly trying to destroy national security, the series was carefully researched (nearly two years in the making) and every possible attempt was made to address any security concerns. Reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin went over every detail to achieve a good balance between letting the public know in general where the government agencies and contractors are located and what they are doing, on the one hand, and on the other hand avoiding the kind of detail that might not already be available to potential adversaries such as al-Qaida who are looking for targets to attack.
In recent interviews about the series, Priest and Arkin have made it clear that they bent over backwards to make sure they are not endangering national security, while at the same time breaking valuable new ground in telling us about the astonishing size and unwieldiness of the intelligence octopus. It is truly frightening to think how powerful and unaccountable this apparatus is, and how easily the gathering of secret information could be abused. Before policy makers can even begin to think in terms of sensible reforms to try to rein it in, we first need to know the facts, and this great investigative series is an important first step.