Snowden exposes ‘unprecedented’ US intelligence budget details

Report coverBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In what experts call an unprecedented move, The Washington Post has published excerpts from the classified United States intelligence budget, obtained from American defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former technical expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), is currently in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum. He gave The Washington Post a top-secret document containing the 2012 budget summary for the US National Intelligence Program. A new version of this document is produced each year by the United States Intelligence Community (IC). It provides Congressional intelligence committees with a detailed justification for the funds requested by the IC, while highlighting the objectives, priorities, successes and failures of American intelligence agencies. The Post published several charts and tables from the document, which show that the US intelligence complex is currently sustained at a financial level that exceeds that reached at any point during the Cold War. Moreover, funding for the IC appears to have doubled since 2001 and is up by a quarter since 2006. Perhaps the most unexpected feature in the leaked document centers on the revelation that funding for the CIA is 50 percent higher than that of the NSA, which had long been seen by outsiders as the best-funded American intelligence agency. It appears, however, that the NSA, which specializes in communications interception, and is by far the largest American intelligence agency, received just over $10 billion last year, way below the $15 billion given to the CIA. The latter’s budget also exceeded that of the National Reconnaissance Office, a highly technical and very expensive government agency that maintains America’s spy satellites. In the words of The Post, the CIA’s requested budget “vastly exceeds outside estimates” and represents in excess of a quarter of the entire US intelligence budget. Another interesting revelation is that the US IC places Israel alongside Cuba, China, Russia and Iran, as a “priority target” when it comes to counterintelligence —meaning efforts to prevent these countries from spying on the US. Moreover, The Post’s information identifies North Korea as the least penetrated national target for the US IC. The document plainly admits that US intelligence knows “virtually nothing” about the intentions of the North Korean leadership. Last but not least, the budget proposal devotes considerable attention to “offensive cyber operations”, that is, aggressive hacking by the CIA and NSA aimed at compromising or sabotaging adversary computer networks. The paper said that it decided to withhold much of the information contained in the leaked document, following “consultation with US officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods”. Government officials told the paper that public insight into the American intelligence budget could give foreign intelligence services “insight […] to our top national priorities, capabilities and sources and methods”.

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