The Washington Post‘s blockbuster story (7/19/10) by reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin on the bloated, secretive and largely privatized national security apparatus established after the September 11, 2001, attacks is making a lot of noise, and for good reason. The Post describes a “top-secret world” that has become “so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”
But the story of how many “national security” functions of the U.S. government have been privatized, from fighting wars to collecting intelligence to interrogating prisoners, is not a new one, as readers of the alternative press would know. The Post, however, does not credit the independent journalists who have been doing the legwork on this issue–like Tim Shorrock (Democracy Now!, 7/19/10) and Jeremy Scahill of the Nation–continuing a pattern (Salon.com, 10/31/08) of corporate media picking up important stories first reported in the independent press without giving credit where it’s due. As Shorrock pointed out in a Twitter posting today, he first wrote about the vast privatization of the collection of intelligence back in 2005 (Mother Jones, 01-02/05), with a major follow-up in Salon (6/1/07) and a 2008 book, Spies for Hire.
This is also not the first time that Post reporter Priest pushed a big story into the spotlight without mentioning independent journalists who had earlier investigated the same terrain. Priest’s story (Washington Post, 10/07) on the sub-par conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center led to a number of government-appointed commissions to investigate the quality of care for returning veterans. But it was Mark Benjamin in Salon that first reported on the conditions at Walter Reed (1/27/05) more than two years earlier. There was no mention of Benjamin’s piece in Priest’s story (CounterSpin, 3/2/07).