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Revealed: The 'Black Budget' for 16 U.S. Spy Agencies

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"...a real grasp of the structure and operations of the intelligence bureaucracy has been totally beyond public reach."

The cover of the "black budget" leaked to the Post by Edward Snowden. (Image via Washington Post)

Although the government has been transparent for the last few years about how much is spends on its intelligence programs, just how much money is allocated to what agency and to do what was unknown -- until now.

The Washington Post obtained the top-secret, so-called "Black Budget" that details the justification for funding 16 U.S. intelligence gathering agencies.

The document leaked to the Post by whistleblower Edward Snowden, shows a $52.6 billion budget being allocated to the National Intelligence Program for FY 2013. For more details on who got how much money and what it was used for, the Post has a nice interactive graphic detailing spending but among the top spenders are the CIA ($14.7 billion), NSA ($10.8 billion) and the National Reconnaissance Office ($10.3 billion). A secondary budget in addition to this one for $23 billion funded intelligence programs run through the military.

spy agency spending A breakdown of the top agency's spending from this budget. (Image via Washington Post)

The 178-page budget summary shows not only spending but the goals, success and failures of these programs, according to the Post, justifying the budget to Congress.

The Washington Post decided not to publish some information from the budget, after consulting with some officials who expressed concerns about its sensitive information.

“Our budgets are classified as they could provide insight for foreign intelligence services to discern our top national priorities, capabilities and sources and methods that allow us to obtain information to counter threats,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told The Post.

Steven Aftergood with the Federation of American Scientists noted that it was a "titanic struggle" just to get the overall budget number released -- a disclosure which began in 2007.

national inteliigence program summary cover The cover of the "black budget" leaked to the Post by Edward Snowden. (Image via Washington Post)

“But a real grasp of the structure and operations of the intelligence bureaucracy has been totally beyond public reach. This kind of material, even on a historical basis, has simply not been available," Aftergood said.

Even though the Post was choosy with what it disclosed from the document, it did summarize some key points that it found interesting:

  • 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, 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 [the] 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.

Read more details in the Post's lengthy analysis of the "black budget."

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