Like everybody else in their right mind, I'm interested in the new Top Secret America project from the Washington Post. There's definitely much about this ballooning, labyrinthine fourth branch of the government to discuss. The project promises to explore the lack of accountability arising from all the secrecy and compartmentalization, the confusion and duplication of effort resulting from the creation of so much analysis material, and the private contractors being used to soak up all that excess cash thrown at these agencies. In particular, the phenomenon of agencies going after the low-hanging intelligence fruit, instead of looking into new, unexplored threats seems to reinforce the truth that intelligence professionals are no different than any other government employee: doing the least work for the most pay.
As you read the Post's stories on this topic, remember that the organization has had a cozy relationship with the intelligence community for decades. While it's not unique among the press in that regard (look into Operation Mockingbird, the CIA's media infiltration program), the question must be asked: why publish this now? That's the real story in my opinion, because as far as I can tell the investigation by the Post isn't treading on any important ground others haven't covered already.
I'll leave you with this quote from a speech the Post's former owner, Katherine Graham, gave at the CIA in 1988.
We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.
So, the question is: after seven years of investigation (a long time, indeed) what has the Post decided not to print?