Gustavo Ballvé on June 24th, 2011
Food for thought, Home, Mental models

From the “better late than never series”, a July 2010 special series (links inside) by the Washington Post is way too enlightening to ignore even now. It’s about the huge inefficiencies brought by uncontrolled – and unaccountable – spending in the Intelligence/Military complex after the 9/11 attacks. Some will point out that, since then, a certain high-profile terrorist has been found and dealt with, but it doesn’t change the main arguments of the articles. In fact, there’s still a world of lessons to be learned and mental models to be taken from these pieces.

Here’s the first article in the series: A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control. Before we even link to the rest of it, here are a few useful models/ frameworks with which to “process” this article and then apply elsewhere:

It’s about taking a problem and defining a clear goal/ objective, the best strategy to address it, a sharp action plan to execute it, the metrics and KPIs to be tracked to measure progress and the right incentive systems;

It’s about data gathering, processing, analysis, synthesis, visualization and, of course, information and knowledge management and sharing;

It’s about ultra-fast growth and the lack of evidence that it can be decently managed, if at all;

It’s about governance, accountability, transparency, waste of resources – public, private and “human” in the case of military blunders;

It’s about freedom of speech, a vibrant and independent press, access to information – and also very much about relentless investigative work;

It’s clearly about incentive systems – in this case to grow, expand and defend one’s “turf”, appear to “produce work” while little was actually accomplished.

Ultimately, of course, it has everything to do with investing.

Finally (whew!), it’s about bias: the authors have it, we may have the same or others, and the reader may have his own. So, as with everything you read here or anywhere, keep this in mind: do your own research, form your own opinion. One of our “jobs” is to help the reader build, over time, a set of useful mental models, and independent thinking is probably the most valuable of all.

Here are Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 and accompanying links:

“Home page” for the project: we recommend watching the 1:46 video but then jumping to the articles before delving into the rest of the material.

Part 1: A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control – July 19th, 2010

Part 2: National Security Inc. – July 20th, 2010

Part 3: The Secrets Next Door – July 21st, 2010

Part 4: Monitoring America – December 20th, 2010

Finally, each part had a Q&A chat that was stored. Some of it is very interesting, but it’s way too long, so it’s here for completeness’ sake. Here are links to the Q&As of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Accompanying links:

Great video: the “making of” Top Secret America. The lead reporter, Dana Priest, already has two Pulitzer Prizes for investigative journalism.

The editor’s note about the project. Quick and to the point. And there’s also a quick explanation on methodology and credits where credits are due.

Video showing the “job-searching” for this industry, or industries.

The 23 types of top-secret work, according to the Washington Post.

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One Comment to “Top-Secret America”

  1. […] Top-Secret America – via Buysiders.com- From the “better late than never series”, a July 2010 special series (links inside) by the Washington Post is way too enlightening to ignore even now. It’s about the huge inefficiencies brought by uncontrolled – and unaccountable – spending in the Intelligence/Military complex after the 9/11 attacks. Some will point out that, since then, a certain high-profile terrorist has been found and dealt with, but it doesn’t change the main arguments of the articles. In fact, there’s still a world of lessons to be learned and mental models to be taken from these pieces. […]


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