Oops - Official Reveals Budget for U.S. Intelligence
bill.stewart at pobox.com
Tue Nov 8 11:35:34 PST 2005
$44B, up from $26.8 in 1998.
It's the usual NYTimes-registration-required article.
November 8, 2005
Official Reveals Budget for U.S. Intelligence
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - In an apparent slip, a top American intelligence
official has revealed at a public conference what has long been secret: the
amount of money the United States spends on its spy agencies.
At an intelligence conference in San Antonio last week, Mary Margaret
Graham, a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and now the
deputy director of national intelligence for collection, said the annual
intelligence budget was $44 billion.
The number was reported Monday in U.S. News and World Report, whose
national security reporter, Kevin Whitelaw, was among the hundreds of
people in attendance during Ms. Graham's talk.
"I thought, 'I can't believe she said that,' " Mr. Whitelaw said on Monday.
"The government has spent so much time and energy arguing that it needs to
The figure itself comes as no great shock; most news reports in the last
couple of years have estimated the budget at $40 billion. But the fact that
Ms. Graham would say it in public is a surprise, because the government has
repeatedly gone to court to keep the current intelligence budget and even
past budgets as far back as the 1940's from being disclosed.
Carl Kropf, a spokesman for the office of the director of national
intelligence, John D. Negroponte, said Ms. Graham would not comment. Mr.
Kropf declined to say whether the figure, which Ms. Graham gave last Monday
at an annual conference on intelligence gathered from satellite and other
photographs, was accurate, or whether her revelation was accidental.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the
Federation of American Scientists, expressed amused satisfaction that the
budget figure had slipped out.
"It is ironic," Mr. Aftergood said. "We sued the C.I.A. four times for this
kind of information and lost. You can't get it through legal channels."
Only for a few past years has the budget been disclosed. After Mr.
Aftergood's group first sued for the budget figure under the Freedom of
Information Act in 1997, George J. Tenet, then the director of central
intelligence, decided to make public that year's budget, $26.6 billion. The
next year Mr. Tenet did the same, revealing that the 1998 fiscal year
budget was $26.7 billion.
But in 1999, Mr. Tenet reversed that policy, and budgets since then have
remained classified with the support of the courts. Last year, a federal
judge refused to order the C.I.A. to release its budget totals for 1947 to
1970 - except for the 1963 budget, which Mr. Aftergood showed had already
been revealed elsewhere.
In court and in response to inquiries, intelligence officials have argued
that disclosing the total spying budget would create pressure to reveal
more spending details, and that such revelations could aid the nation's
That argument has been rejected by many members of Congress and outside
experts, who note that most of the Defense Department budget is published
in exhaustive detail without evident harm.
The national commission on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
recommended that both the overall intelligence budget and spending by
individual agencies be made public "in order to combat the secrecy and
complexity" it found was harming national security.
"The taxpayers deserve to know what they're spending for intelligence,"
said Lee H. Hamilton, the former congressman who was vice chairman of the
Even more important, Mr. Hamilton said, public discussion of the total
budgets of intelligence agencies would encourage Congress to exercise
The debate over whether the intelligence budget should be secret dates to
at least the 1970's, said Loch K. Johnson, an intelligence historian who
worked for the Church Committee investigation of the intelligence agencies
by the Senate in the mid-1970's. Mr. Johnson said the real reason for
secrecy might have less to do with protecting intelligence sources and
methods than with protecting the bureaucracy.
"Maybe there's a fear that if the American people knew what was being spent
on intelligence, they'd be even more upset at intelligence failures," Mr.
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