Methodology and credits

The Top Secret America database was put together by compiling hundreds of thousands of public records of government organizations and private-sector companies over the past two years.

From these records, The Washington Post identified 45 government organizations (for example, the FBI) engaged in top-secret work and determined that those 45 organizations could be broken down into 1,271 sub-units (for example, the Terrorist Screening Center of the FBI). One of the 45 organizations is represented as “unknown”; this category was created as a catchall for companies doing work for a government organization that could not be determined.

At the private-sector level, The Post identified 1,931 companies engaged in top-secret work for the government. Private-sector companies were grouped together and listed by a parent company's name (for example, General Dynamics), even though one company might contain multiple sub-units (for example, General Dynamics Information Technology).

In a case where a large corporation (for example, Boeing) has a distinctly named sub-unit engaged in top-secret work (for example, Boeing's Digital Receiver Technology), the name of the sub-unit was used. In the case of large corporations not primarily in the defense industry (for example, AT&T) that have similarly named sub-units that focus on top-secret work (for example, AT&T Government Solutions), the name of the parent company is used and the name of the sub-unit is noted. For every company listed, revenue and employee data and the date of establishment were drawn from public filings, Dun & Bradstreet data and original reporting.

State and local government organizations generally do not work at the top-secret level; that type of clearance is rarely granted to state officials. But the organizations are all part of a secretive domestic intelligence and homeland security world. The Post examined nearly 1,000 threat documents marked "For Official Use Only" and collected information from government Web sites, reports and other documents to identify 4,058 government organizations involved in domestic counterterrorism and homeland security. Of the total, 2,880 are federal organizations that work at the state level, such as the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs). There are also 818 state and 360 local organizations. Many of these listed themselves in documents as participants in either Joint Terrorism Task Forces, fusion centers or Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils in 2009 or 2010.

More than 20 journalists worked on the investigation, including investigative reporters, cartography experts, database reporters, video journalists, researchers, interactive graphic designers, digital designers, graphic designers, and graphics editors at The Washington Post:

Stephanie Clark, Ben de la Cruz, Kat Downs, Dan Drinkard, Anne Ferguson-Rohrer, Justin Ferrell, David Finkel, Jennifer Jenkins, Robert Kaiser, Laris Karklis, Jacqueline Kazil, Lauren Keane, Todd Lindeman, Greg Manifold, Jennifer Morehead, Bonnie Jo Mount, Larry Nista, Ryan O’Neil, Sarah Sampsel, Whitney Shefte, Laura Stanton, Julie Tate, Doris Truong, Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Michael Williamson, Karen Yourish, Amanda Zamora

One researcher was funded in part by the Center on Law and Security at New York University Law School.

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This project was last updated in September 2010. Data is accurate as of that date.
"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. | Read More »



More than a dozen Washington Post journalists spent two years developing Top Secret America. | See the details »


Video

Top Secret America on Frontline

A short video from PBS’s FRONTLINE on The Post’s two-year investigation. An hour-long documentary film is forthcoming. Watch the trailer »

The reporters

Dana Priest

Investigative reporter Dana Priest has been The Washington Post's intelligence, Pentagon and health-care reporter. She has won numerous awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for public service for "The Other Walter Reed" and the 2006 Pulitzer for beat reporting for her work on CIA secret prisons and counterterrorism operations overseas. She is author of the 2003 book, "The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace With America's Military, (W.W. Norton).

William M. Arkin

William M. Arkin has been a columnist and reporter with The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com since 1998. He has worked on the subject of government secrecy and national security affairs for more than 30 years. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books about the U.S. military and national security.

Project Credits

Stephanie Clark, Ben de la Cruz, Kat Downs, Dan Drinkard, Anne Ferguson-Rohrer, Justin Ferrell, David Finkel, Jennifer Jenkins, Robert Kaiser, Laris Karklis, Jacqueline Kazil, Lauren Keane, Todd Lindeman, Greg Manifold, Jennifer Morehead, Bonnie Jo Mount, Larry Nista, Ryan O’Neil, Sarah Sampsel, Whitney Shefte, Laura Stanton, Julie Tate, Doris Truong, Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Michael Williamson, Karen Yourish, Amanda Zamora.

Contact Us

Phone: 202-334-9300
E-mail: topsecretamerica@washpost.com


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