Rare Glimpse into the National Intelligence Program’s ‘Black Budget’

By: Matt McBride

Earlier today, The Washington Post released an article detailing the $52.5 billion “black budget” for fiscal year 2013, reopening the Pandora’s Box that is the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). While the U.S. government has regularly released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, how those funds are distributed has not been available to the general public. Thanks to former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, details from a 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence program are now readily available for Americans to peruse. Finally, people without high-level security clearance are able to take a glimpse into what their tax dollars are funding in the IC.

Barton Gellman and Greg Miller provided the following highlights of the report:

  • Spending by the CIA has surged past that of every other spy agency, with $14.7 billion in requested funding for 2013. The figure vastly exceeds outside estimates and is nearly 50 percent above that of the National Security Agency (NSA), which conducts eavesdropping operations and has long been considered the behemoth of the community.
  • The CIA and NSA have launched aggressive new efforts to hack into foreign computer networks to steal information or sabotage enemy systems, embracing what the budget refers to as “offensive cyber operations.”
  • The NSA planned to investigate at least 4,000 possible insider threats in 2013, cases in which the agency suspected sensitive information may have been compromised by one of its own. The budget documents show that the U.S. intelligence community has sought to strengthen its ability to detect what it calls “anomalous behavior” by personnel with access to highly classified material.
  • U.S. intelligence officials take an active interest in foes as well as friends. Pakistan is described in detail as an “intractable target,” and counterintelligence operations “are strategically focused against priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel.”
  • In words, deeds and dollars, intelligence agencies remain fixed on terrorism as the gravest threat to national security, which is listed first among five “mission objectives.” Counterterrorism programs employ one in four members of the intelligence workforce and account for one-third of all spending.
  • The governments of Iran, China and Russia are difficult to penetrate, but North Korea’s may be the most opaque. There are five “critical” gaps in U.S. intelligence about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and analysts know virtually nothing about the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Whether history remembers Edward Snowden as a traitor or a patriot, one thing is for certain: the information released by him has led to more Americans losing trust in an extremely bloated federal government. Over half a million people have signed a petition demanding the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs, and Snowden’s most recent release detailing the “black budget” will likely result in more public disapproval.

If the United States is a human body, the never-ending expansion of the size and scope of the federal government is polio. Campaign for Liberty will always advocate for a reduction in the size and scope of the federal government. We believe in the humane alternative of local self-government, as called for in our Constitution.

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