TIME’s Most Popular Political Stories of 2011

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Clockwise from top left: Michele Asselin / Contor / Getty Images for TIME; Andrew Burton / Getty Images; Muslim.net / AP; Pete Souza / White House; Alex Brandon / AP; and Mark Wilson / Getty Images

As the year winds down, many media organizations are offering their readers a look back at the best of what they’ve produced in 2011 or ranked lists of their most-read stories. The following is technically the latter–in ascending order, these are the headlines that readers clicked the most in 2011–but I think it speaks volumes about the work of our staff and contributors, and to the quality of our valued readers, that both labels apply in this case.

1. CIA Chief: Pakistan Would Have Jeopardized bin Laden Operation
2. Stay Classy, TSA
3. Moment of Triumph: ‘Visual on Geronimo’
4. Ensign Ethics Charges Referred to Justice Department and FEC, Lurid Details Emerge
5. S&P’s Political Miscalculation
6. Republicans’ Debt Ceiling Charade Is Downright Dangerous
7. Boehner’s Choice
8. Has Nancy Pelosi Been Marginalized in the Debt Debate?
9. Ex-CIA Counterterror Chief: ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ Led U.S. to bin Laden
10. The Looming GOP Split
11. Still True Today: Frequently Forgotten Facts of the Debt Debate
12. The Overhyped, Underwhelming Iowa GOP Straw Poll
13. The Controversial Willingham Case: What Rick Perry Knew and When
14. As GOP Debt Plan Faces House Vote, Compromise Brews Behind the Scenes
15. Q&A: Rick Perry Is Ready to Run
16. Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand Problem
17. Rick Perry’s Retreat From Federalism
18. With Debt Deal Reached, Can Congress Swallow Its Own Bitter Medicine?
19. Don’t Be Distracted: The Top Four Red Herrings of the Debt Debate
20. I Hate SOTU

Happy New Year and thank you to everyone’s who’s been a part of Swampland in 2011.