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Infographic BROKEN

The Washington Post’s two-year investigation into America’s secret intelligence networks is encapsulated in a color-coded interactive graphic.

The Washington Post has released a stunning set of interactive infographics on the shadowy machine of the War on Terror, culminating an exhaustive, nearly two-year investigation.

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The infographic supports a three-part series by crack reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, in which they argue that the American government has built a top-secret security and intelligence network — a sort of fourth branch of government — so vast and labyrinthine since 9/11, it’s become impossible to manage, casting doubt on whether it’s actually doing what it’s supposed to do: protect Americans from terrorism.

The infographic starts out as a color wheel of 45 government organizations. From there, you can sort by who does the most work, who works with the most companies, and what type of work they do. Color codes tell us the nature of the work (intelligence, homeland security, weapons technology, etc.)

Here, we’ve sorted by which organizations are the busiest. Pacific Command http://www.pacom.mil/ assumes the top spot, followed by European Command http://www.eucom.mil/english/index.asp, then Special Ops http://www.socom.mil/SOCOMHome/Pages/default.aspx.
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And here, we’ve sorted by who does what. After administrative work, the government is involved in analyzing intelligence (unsurprisingly) more than any other top-secret activity. Counter intel takes a close second.
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You can hone in on a individual agencies, too. These are the top-secret activities of the Department of Energy. Weapons tech? Cyber ops? This from the eco-nerds behind Energy Star?

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The most fascinating aspect of the infographic — and of the investigative package overall, so far — is its spotlight on the private sector. Sept. 11 opened a spigot of funding for the national security and intel, attracting almost 2,000 contractors. They were meant to be a temporary fix, but now, Priest and Arkin write, the government depends on them, calling into question, “whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest — and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities.”

A tab on “Featured Companies” profiles some of the key corporations profiting off the War on Terror. Remember ol’ Blackwater? They’re still at it! Only now, as you might’ve heard, they like to be called Xe Services — because changing your name makes everyone forget all the crazy crap you did http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-us-war-pakistan! Right.
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An accompanying map exposes the physical infrastructure of top-secret America. The map will tell you who’s doing what where, and how many companies and agencies are operating in a given area. Here, we’ve honed in on the D.C./ Northern Virginia area.

You could spend hours trolling the site, and that’s precisely the point. The Post has a rich history of investigative journalism, but it’s been slow to spice up its storytelling through digital tools. This is by far the most detailed, comprehensive online data visualization we’ve seen from a newspaper. Hat’s off to the Post for finally figuring out how to exploit, instead of be exploited by, the Internet.

[Via the Washington Post]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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