Top Secret Edge Cities

Here's three items from the Washington Post's "Top Secret America" series:

The Series: We've long known that high-security businesses warp the statistics describing Edge Cities. No matter how sophisticated the data source you go to, you find anomalies in which the numbers just wildly do not match the office buildings, retail locations and expensive homes you can plainly see. You know you're in this territory when the GPS in your car starts giving you screwy results -- because it's being jammed. Now my former Washington Post colleagues Dana Priest and William H. Arkin and a platoon of their associates have done an astounding job of lifting the veil. In their two-year investigation, "Top Secret America" -- sure to win a Pulitzer -- they've put together an authoritative data base of government and private job locations where 854,000 people with high-level clearances work. (That's one and a half times the population of the District of Columbia.) They call it "an alternative geography" of the United States, and they're right. Here's the home page for the sprawling report.

Some Numbers: Howard County, Md., has the largest secret Edge City in the United States and the numbers are eye-popping. The headquarters of the National Security Agency -- the communications intercept spooks -- is 6.3 million square feet - about the size of the Pentagon - and is surrounded by 112 acres of parking. It's on its way to 14 million square feet. (Downtown Memphis is 5 million square feet.) And that doesn't count the miles and miles of super-secure commercial office buildings housing the corporations in the NSA orbit. Finally we get more than rumors about why this is one of the richest counties in the U.S. We're talking a $20 billion payroll much of which doesn't show up in other data. In fact, most of the wealthiest counties in America turn out to have Top Secret Edge Cities.

The Map: Check out the interactive U.S. map of where the Top Secret Edge Cities are. Zoom around. These are the Edge Cities where "the extrovert is the one looking at somebody else's shoes."

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