GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- "The Washington Compost" is mercifully less than ubiquitous down here in the Carolina Lowcountry. That's why I was a bit surprised by the comments of a fellow customer at the Independent Seafood pier when I went to fetch some fresh catch for dinner. "I'm outraged by the classified information on our intelligence operations in that paper," he said. I quickly surmised he was referring to the much-hyped "Top Secret America" series in The Washington Post. Very upset by what he had read in the WaPo, he didn't hesitate to tell me why.
"I'm calling my congressman and senators about this," he volunteered. "That map they have shows there are more than 2,200 federal government facilities and another 7,000 locations where contractors do classified intelligence work here in the United States. There are only 65 of 'em here in South Carolina? That's an insult!"
Probably not the reaction the writers, editors and publishers at the Post expected when they set out -- two years ago, if their hyperbolic self-promotion is true -- on a mission to expose "an enterprise so massive that nobody in government has a full understanding of it." In breathless movie-promo prose, the flagging paper's editors claim they have discovered that America's "top-secret intelligence complex" is "bloated," "redundant," "unaccountable" and "often inefficient and mostly invisible." And this is "news" to The Washington Post? Those adjectives describe most of our federal government.
The three-part series -- and a ponderously inefficient, frequently offline website -- purports to offer readers "a real, granular ("granular," as in grainy or coarse?) understanding of the scale and breadth of the top-secret world" of U.S. intelligence operations. For those unfamiliar with the geography of America the Beautiful, "a user can also see the cities and towns where the government conducts top-secret work in the United States." If you're looking for an Abu Ghraib in Augusta, a biological weapons lab in Bangor or super-spy sites in Sioux City, think again.
Most of the WaPo's "Alternative Geography" of "top-secret clusters" and "contractor concentrations" are precisely where any thinking person would expect them to be. Now, thanks to this "groundbreaking investigative reporting," hostile intelligence services, criminal networks and drug cartels can spare themselves the long hard drive to do harm or recruit a new sleeper cell in Casper, Wyo. Everyone in town knows who works at the city's sole "government organization performing top-secret work" -- and they all pack heat.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.