Top Secret America

September 6, 2011

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Dana Priest traces the journey from 9/11 to the Marathon bombings and investigates the secret history of the 12-year battle against terrorism.

Original Report (Sept. 2011)
9/11 to the Boston Bombings (Apr. 2013)



Big Brother Is Watching You Drive

Law enforcement agencies nationwide increasingly rely on automatic license-plate readers to track and store information on American drivers, a new report found, in the latest revelation on how the government gathers data on its citizens.

Is “Top Secret America” Making Us Safer? Live Chat Wed. 2 pm ET

Join us for a live chat about “Top Secret America: 9/11 to the Boston Bombings” with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, FRONTLINE producer Mike Wiser and Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen.

The Boston Bombers: Who Knew What When

The FBI and the CIA had been tipped off about one of the bombers two years ago. Could the attacks have been prevented?

The Magazine that “Inspired” the Boston Bombers

As investigators uncover details about what motivated the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, an early report suggests the two brothers learned their violent tactics online from an English-language Al Qaeda propaganda magazine.

“Top Secret America” After the Boston Bombings

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Americans are asking why the country’s intelligence agencies failed to prevent the devastating attack.

Six Reasons the “Dark Side” Still Exists Under Obama

Obama banned torture, but hasn’t taken steps to keep it from happening again, according to a recently released report.

Senate Report: Massive Post-9/11 Surveillance Apparatus A “Waste”

Today a Senate committee published the searing results of a two-year investigation concluding that fusion centers have “not produced useful intelligence to support Federal counterterrorism efforts” and have “too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties.”

“Top Secret America” Price Tag at Record High

It cost at least $11.36 billion to guard America’s secrets last year, according to a new report.

Docs Reveal FBI Used Muslim Outreach As Guise to Collect Intel

For at least four years, federal agents used Muslim community outreach meetings at mosques in Northern California as a guise to collect intelligence and catalog the identities, personal information, religious views and travel of religious leaders and congregants, FBI documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed yesterday.

New Counterterrorism Guidelines Allow U.S. to Hold Americans’ Data Longer

Signed yesterday, the new rules will allow the government to hold data on U.S. citizens who are not suspected of terrorist activity for 10 times longer than before.

NYPD Eyed Shia Muslims Based on Religion

News that the NYPD recommended increasing the surveillance of thousands of Shiite Muslims and their mosques, based solely on religion, is the latest report in the AP’s ongoing investigation into the department’s controversial intelligence unit and its questionable tactics.

FBI Criticized for Collecting Racial and Ethnic Data

Arab-Americans in Michigan, African-Americans in Georgia and “broad swaths” of Latino-Americans communities across multiple states are some of the groups … Continue reading

NYPD Secretly Monitored City’s Muslim “Partners”

“Imams like [Sheik Reda] Shata — men who embrace American freedom and condemn the radicals they feel have tainted their … Continue reading

New Details of FBI Terrorism Watch List Revealed

According to documents obtained by The New York Times, the FBI’s terrorism “watch” list contains 420,000 names. About 8,000 of … Continue reading

FBI Training Materials: Mainstream Muslims Are Violent, Radical

As part of her investigation into Top Secret America back in December, Dana Priest reported that some of the trainers hired by local … Continue reading

The Essential 9/11 Bibliography

Our staff has been reminiscing on some of the best pieces of reporting and investigative journalism that came out in … Continue reading

How JSOC Became a Force of “Networked Ninjas”

Spencer Ackerman has a new piece today in Wired that offers a fascinating look at how Gen. Stanley McChrystal built … Continue reading

Mall of America Shoppers Find Themselves Ensnared in the War on Terror

Don’t let your elderly father forget his phone at a food court at the Mall of America. This was a … Continue reading

Has the Balance Tipped?

FRONTLINE Managing Editor Philip Bennett reflects on this week’s film.

Live Chat with “Top Secret America” Reporter Dana Priest and Producer Michael Kirk

Read a full transcript of the conversation.

John Rizzo: The Lawyer Who Approved CIA’s Most Controversial Programs

In this rare interview, John Rizzo, described as “the most influential career lawyer in CIA history” describes his role in many of the “unprecedented” actions the CIA undertook after 9/11, including the “enhanced interrogation program” that critics described as torture and the CIA’s secret prison system.

Fran Townsend: “In a Post-9/11 World We Weren’t Going to Be So Prissy”

“We were going to do what we needed to do to get the information we needed to protect the American people,” says former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend. But now she questions what kind of return we’re getting on the investment we’ve made in homeland security over the last 10 years.

Dig Deeper: FRONTINE’s Archive on Top Secret America

In the 10 years since 9/11, FRONTLINE has produced more than 45 hours of award-winning films documenting the attacks and … Continue reading

Reporting the Story

How do you investigate a world the government doesn’t want you to see? We spoke to Dana Priest back in January about her investigation.

“It’s Just Too Big and It’s Just Too Secret”

This from FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk, who appeared on “The Takeaway” this morning with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest to … Continue reading

“The Force That Orders The Universe But Can’t Be Seen”

The Washington Post has an excerpt today from Dana Priest and William Arkin’s upcoming book Top Secret America: The Rise … Continue reading

Documents Reveal Secrets of CIA Rendition Program

A billing dispute between contractors in an upstate New York courthouse has revealed documents detailing sensitive information about the CIA’s … Continue reading

Top CIA Official: Obama Changed Virtually None of Bush’s Controversial Programs

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged “a top to bottom review of the threats we face and our abilities … Continue reading

New Evidence of NYPD’s Controversial Spy Unit

In a follow up to its investigation we wrote about last week, the Associated Press published documents today that give … Continue reading

AP Documents Expansion of NYPD into “Domestic CIA”

Today the Associated Press published a months-long investigation into secret efforts by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and … Continue reading

ACLU Pushes for Info on Digital Tracking

Ever wonder how police might be collecting information from your Facebook profile? If recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests [PDF] … Continue reading


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