August 29, 2013 11:46 pm

Size of CIA’s budget slice revealed in Edward Snowden leak

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A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters©AFP

The Central Intelligence Agency has grown rapidly in recent years to devour the largest share of the $52.6bn annual US intelligence budget, according to an unprecedented breakdown of funding for the country’s array of spy agencies.

Details were published by the Washington Post newspaper – the latest disclosure about US intelligence based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former spy agency contractor-turned-whistleblower, now residing in Russia.

The total amount of US spending on intelligence has been published since 2007, after Congress overcame lengthy opposition from the agencies for any level of disclosure. The spending is contained in the Pentagon budget.

However, the US has never published a breakdown of each agency’s budget, and how each spends the money allocated to it by Congress.

“They must be pulling their hair out at all the 16 agencies about this – this is the family jewels,” said Gordon Adams of American University in Washington, who is a former US government budget official.

The “black budget” document for 2013 details everything from the agencies’ own assessments of their strengths and weaknesses to the countries they find to be the most difficult adversaries and targets.

The document names five countries, China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel, as “priority” counter-intelligence targets: the countries the US worries is spying on it.

The country the intelligence agencies name as the most difficult target is North Korea. They admit they have virtually no knowledge of the top leaders’ intentions and thinking – instead resorting to surrounding the secretive nation with all manner of surveillance platforms and sensors.

Although total spending has fallen by just over 2 per cent since last year, the intelligence budget has doubled in real terms since the 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, with the CIA being the largest beneficiary.

The CIA, which has been transformed into a paramilitary organisation since 9/11 and oversees its own drone programme, takes about 28 per cent of the overall budget, or $14.7bn.

The next largest is the electronics eavesdropping body, the National Security Agency, which Mr Snowden worked for this year at its Hawaii listening post. The NSA was allocated $10.8bn in 2013.

In depth

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The $52.6bn overall budget figure, contained in the top-secret Congressional Budget Justification, understates total spending on intelligence, as it does not include the Federal Bureau of Investigation and another $23bn spent by the military on spying.

In a statement to the Washington Post, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, who oversees all the agencies, said the US “has made a considerable investment in the intelligence community since the terror attacks of 9/11, a time which includes wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab spring, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology, and asymmetric threats in such areas as cyber warfare.

“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.”

The newspaper said it had not published some parts of the leaked document after discussions with the government.

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