August 29, 2013
made possible by Edward Snowden
unprecedented view of
how taxpayer funds are use
In the latest revelation made possible by NSA whistleblower Edward
the Washington Post on Thursday published an investigative
analysis and interactive map of America's so-called "Black Budget" which
details the $52.6 billion allotment of taxpayer money that funds the
government's "intelligence-gathering colossus" that has previously remained
insulated from the eyes of the American public.
Though a series of revelations have flowed from the Snowden leaks over
recent months, this is the first detailed financial picture of how public
monies are used to fund programs that Americans still know very little
Critiqued as a "collect it all" strategy by
those concerned about Constitutional and privacy violations, the vast
surveillance network has been slammed at home and abroad.
According to the Post, the "Black Budget,"
...maps a bureaucratic and operational
landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny.
Although the government has annually
released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has
not divulged how it uses those funds or how it performs against the
goals set by the president and Congress.
The 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence Program
details the successes, failures and objectives of the 16 spy agencies
that make up the U.S. intelligence community, which has 107,035
The summary describes cutting-edge technologies, agent recruiting and
ongoing operations. The Washington Post is withholding some information
after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the
risk to intelligence sources and methods.
Sensitive details are so pervasive in the
documents that The Post is publishing only summary tables and charts
A view into what the newspaper terms the US
"espionage empire," the blueprint and summary documents obtained by the
"provides a detailed look at how the U.S.
intelligence community has been reconfigured by the massive infusion of
resources that followed the Sept. 11 attacks" in 2001.
According to the reporting, the $52.6 billion
far-exceeded estimates about the amount of money being spent on clandestine
spying and surveillance operations and that figure does not even include an
additional $23 billion specifically geared to
NSA operations done in
direct support of the U.S. military.
In addition to providing what is repeatedly referred to as an
"unprecedented" look inside the financial operations of the both the CIA and
the NSA, the summary report
leaked by Snowden also shows the enormous rate
of operational growth at the CIA in the last decade, including a,
"surge in resources for the agency funded,
a controversial interrogation program
the deployment of
a huge expansion of its counterterrorism center."
In an additional and ironic twist, the documents
trace the development of internal counterterrorism efforts at the NSA and
how to prevent sensitive leaks from occurring "from within" the US
As the Post reports:
The document describes programs to "mitigate
insider threats by trusted insiders who seek to exploit their authorized
access to sensitive information to harm U.S. interests."
The agencies had budgeted for a major counterintelligence initiative in
fiscal 2012, but most of those resources were diverted to an all-hands,
emergency response to successive floods of classified data released by
anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
For this year, the budget promised a renewed "focus... on safeguarding
classified networks" and a strict "review of high-risk, high-gain
applicants and contractors" - the young, nontraditional computer coders
with the skills the NSA needed.
Among them was Snowden, then a 29-year-old contract computer specialist
who had been trained by the NSA to circumvent computer network security.
He was copying thousands of highly classified documents at an NSA
facility in Hawaii, and preparing to leak them, as the agency embarked
on a security sweep.
U.S. Spy Network’s Successes, Failures and Objectives Detailed in...
by Barton Gellman and Greg Miller
August 29, 2013
U.S. spy agencies have built
an intelligence-gathering colossus since
the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but
remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of
national security threats, according to the government’s top-secret budget.
The $52.6 billion "black budget" for fiscal
2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor
Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has
never been subject to public scrutiny.
Although the government has annually
released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not
divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by
the president and Congress.
The 178-page budget summary for the National
Intelligence Program details the successes, failures and objectives of the
16 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, which has
The summary describes cutting-edge technologies,
agent recruiting and ongoing operations. The Post is withholding some
information after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns
about the risk to intelligence sources and methods.
Sensitive details are so
pervasive in the documents that The Post is publishing only summary tables
and charts online.
"The United States 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
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology
threats in such areas as cyber-warfare,"
...Director of National Intelligence James
R. Clapper Jr.
wrote in response to inquiries from The Post.
"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," he said.
Among the notable revelations in the budget
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 the NSA have begun
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
Long before Snowden’s leaks, the
U.S. intelligence community worried about "anomalous
behavior" by employees and contractors with access to
classified material. The NSA planned to ward off a
"potential insider compromise of sensitive information" by
re-investigating at least 4,000 people this year who hold
high-level security clearances.
U.S. intelligence officials take
an active interest in friends as well as foes. 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." The latter is a U.S. ally but has a history of
espionage attempts against the United States.
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 the intelligence program’s
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.
Formally known as the Congressional
Budget Justification for the National Intelligence Program, the
"top-secret" blueprint represents spending levels proposed to the
House and Senate intelligence committees in February 2012.
may have made changes before the fiscal year began on Oct 1.
is expected to release the actual total spending figure after the
fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
The document describes a constellation
of spy agencies that track millions of surveillance targets and
carry out operations that include hundreds of lethal strikes. They
are organized around five priorities: combating terrorism, stopping
the spread of nuclear and other unconventional weapons, warning U.S.
leaders about critical events overseas, defending against foreign
espionage, and conducting cyber-operations.
an introduction, Clapper said the threats facing the United
States "virtually defy rank-ordering." He warned of "hard choices"
as the intelligence community - sometimes referred to as the "IC" -
seeks to rein in spending after a decade of often double-digit
The current budget proposal envisions
that spending will remain roughly level through 2017 and amounts to
a case against substantial cuts.
"Never before has the IC been called
upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a
resource-constrained environment," Clapper wrote.
The summary provides a detailed look at
how the U.S. intelligence community has been reconfigured by the
massive infusion of resources that followed the 2001 attacks.
United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence
during that period, an outlay that U.S. officials say has succeeded
in its main objective: preventing another catastrophic terrorist
attack in the United States.
The result is an espionage empire with
resources and a reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even
now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels at the height of
the Cold War.
The current total budget request was
2.4 percent below that of fiscal 2012.
In constant dollars, it was about twice the estimated size of the
2001 budget and 25 percent above that of 2006, five years into what
was then known as the "global war on terror."
Historical data on U.S. intelligence
spending is largely nonexistent. Through extrapolation, experts have
estimated that Cold War spending probably peaked in the late 1980s
at an amount that would be the equivalent of $71 billion today.
Spending in the most recent cycle
surpassed that amount, based on the $52.6 billion detailed in
documents obtained by The Post plus a separate $23 billion devoted
to intelligence programs that more directly support the U.S.
Lee H. Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who
chaired the House Intelligence Committee and co-chaired the
commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, said that access
to budget details will enable an informed public debate on
intelligence spending for the first time, much as Snowden’s
disclosures of NSA surveillance programs brought attention to
operations that had assembled data on nearly every U.S. citizen.
"Much of the work that the intelligence
community does has a profound impact on the life of ordinary
Americans, and they ought not to be excluded from the process,"
"Nobody is arguing that we should be so
transparent as to create dangers for the country," he said. But, he
added, "there is a mind-set in the national security community:
‘Leave it to us, we can handle it, the American people have to trust
They carry it to quite an extraordinary length so that they
have resisted over a period of decades transparency... The burden
of persuasion as to keeping something secret should be on the
intelligence community, the burden should not be on the American
Experts said that access to such details
about U.S. spy programs is without precedent.
"It was a titanic struggle just to get
the top-line budget number disclosed, and that has only been done
consistently since 2007," said
Steven Aftergood, an expert at the Federation of American
Scientists, a Washington-based organization that provides analyses
of national security issues.
"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."
The only meaningful frame of reference
came in 1994, when a congressional subcommittee inadvertently
published a partial breakdown of the National Intelligence Program.
At the time, the CIA accounted for just $4.8 billion of a budget
that totaled $43.4 billion in 2012 dollars. The NSA and the National
Reconnaissance Office, which operates satellites and other sensors,
commanded far larger shares of U.S. intelligence budgets until years
after the Cold War ended.
During the past decade, they have taken
a back seat to the CIA.
The NSA was in line to receive
$10.5 billion in 2013, and the NRO was to get $10.3 billion - both
far below the CIA, whose share had surged to 28 percent of the total
Overall, the U.S. government spends 10
times as much on the Defense Department as it does on spy agencies.
"Today’s world is as fluid and unstable
as it has been in the past half century," Clapper said in his
statement to The Post.
"Even with stepped up spending on
the IC over the past decade, the United States currently spends
less than one percent of GDP on the Intelligence Community."
The CIA’s dominant position is likely to
stun outside experts. It represents a remarkable recovery for an
agency that seemed poised to lose power and prestige after
acknowledging intelligence failures leading up to the 2001 attacks
and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The surge in resources for the agency
funded secret prisons, a controversial interrogation program, the
deployment of lethal drones and a huge expansion of
its counterterrorism center. The agency was transformed from a spy
service struggling to emerge from the Cold War into a paramilitary
The CIA has devoted billions of dollars
to recruiting and training a new generation of case officers, with
the workforce growing from about 17,000 a decade ago to 21,575 this
The agency’s budget allocates
$2.3 billion for human intelligence operations and $2.5 billion to
cover the cost of supporting the security, logistics and other needs
of those missions around the world. A relatively small amount of
that total, $68.6 million, was earmarked for creating and
maintaining "cover," the false identities employed by operatives
There is no specific entry for the CIA’s
fleet of armed drones in the budget summary, but a broad line item
hints at the dimensions of the agency’s expanded paramilitary role,
providing more than $2.6 billion for "covert action programs" that
drone operations in Pakistan and Yemen
militias in Afghanistan and Africa
attempts to sabotage Iran’s
The black budget illuminates for the
first time the intelligence burden of the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq. For 2013, U.S. spy agencies were projected to spend
$4.9 billion on "overseas contingency operations."
The CIA accounted
for about half of that figure, a sum factored into its overall
$14.7 billion budget.
Those war expenditures are projected to
shrink as the United States withdraws forces from Afghanistan. The
budget also indicates that the intelligence community has cut the
number of contractors it hires over the past five years by about
Despite the vast outlays, the budget
blueprint catalogues persistent and in some cases critical blind
Throughout the document, U.S. spy
agencies attempt to rate their efforts in tables akin to report
cards, generally citing progress but often acknowledging that only a
fraction of their questions could be answered - even on the
community’s foremost priority, counterterrorism.
In 2011, the budget assessment says
intelligence agencies made at least "moderate progress" on 38
of their 50 top counterterrorism gaps, the term used to describe
blind spots. Several concern Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, an enemy
of Israel that has not attacked U.S. interests directly since the
Other blank spots include questions
about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear components when they are
being transported, the capabilities of China’s next-generation
fighter aircraft, and how Russia’s government leaders are likely to
"potentially destabilizing events in
Moscow, such as large protests and terrorist attacks."
A chart outlining efforts to address key
questions on biological and chemical weapons is particularly bleak.
U.S. agencies set annual goals for at least five categories of
intelligence collection related to these weapons. In 2011, the
agencies made headway on just two gaps; a year earlier, the mark was
The documents describe expanded efforts
to "collect on Russian chemical warfare countermeasures" and assess
the security of biological and chemical laboratories in Pakistan.
A table of "critical" gaps listed five
for North Korea, more than for any other country that has pursued or
is pursuing a nuclear bomb.
The intelligence community seems
particularly daunted by the emergence of "homegrown" terrorists who
plan attacks in the United States without direct support or
instruction from abroad, a threat realized this year, after the
budget was submitted, in
twin bombings at the Boston Marathon.
The National Counterterrorism Center has
convened dozens of analysts from other agencies in attempts to
identify "indicators" that could help law enforcement officials
understand the path from religious extremism to violence. The FBI
was in line for funding to increase the number of agents who
surreptitiously track activity on jihadist Web sites.
But a year before the bombings in
Boston, the search for meaningful insight into the stages of
radicalization was described as one of the "more challenging
The documents make clear that U.S. spy
agencies’ long-standing reliance on technology remains intact.
anything, their dependence on high-tech surveillance systems to fill
gaps in human intelligence has intensified.
A section on North Korea indicates that
the United States has all but surrounded the nuclear-armed country
with surveillance platforms. Distant ground sensors monitor seismic
activity and scan the country for signs that might point to
construction of new nuclear sites. U.S. agencies seek to capture
photos, air-samples and infrared imagery "around the clock."
In Iran, new surveillance techniques and
technologies have enabled analysts to identify suspected nuclear
sites that had not been detected in satellite images, according to
In Syria, NSA listening posts were able
to monitor unencrypted communications among senior military
officials at the outset of the civil war there, a vulnerability that
President Bashar al-Assad’s forces apparently later recognized. One
of the NRO’s functions is to extract data from sensors placed on the
ground near suspected illicit weapons sites in Syria and other
Across this catalogue of technical
prowess, one category is depicted as particularly indispensable:
signals intelligence, or SIGINT.
The NSA’s ability to monitor e-mails,
phone calls and Internet traffic has come under new scrutiny in
recent months as a result of disclosures by Snowden, who
worked as a contract computer specialist for
the agency before stockpiling secret documents and then
fleeing, first to Hong Kong and then Moscow.
The NSA was projected to spend
$48.6 million on research projects to assist in "coping with
information overload," an occupational hazard as the volumes
of intake have increased sharply from fiber-optic cables and Silicon
Valley Internet providers.
The agency’s ability to monitor the
communications of al-Qaeda operatives is described in the documents
"often the best and only means to
compromise seemingly intractable targets."
Signals intercepts also have been used
to direct the flight paths of drones, gather clues to the
composition of North Korea’s leadership and evaluate the response
plans of Russia’s government in the event of a terrorist attack in
The resources devoted to signals
intercepts are extraordinary.
Nearly 35,000 employees are listed under
a category called the Consolidated Cryptologic Program, which
includes the NSA as well as the surveillance and code-breaking
components of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines.
The NSA is planning high-risk covert
missions, a lesser-known part of its work, to plant what it calls
"tailored radio frequency solutions" - close-in sensors to intercept
communications that do not pass through global networks.
Even the CIA devotes $1.7 billion, or
nearly 12 percent of its budget, to technical collection efforts,
including a joint program with the NSA called "CLANSIG," a covert
program to intercept radio and telephone communications from hostile
The agency also is pursuing tracking
"that minimize or eliminate the need
for physical access and enable deep concealment operations
against hard targets."
The CIA has deployed new biometric
sensors to confirm the identities and locations of al-Qaeda
The system has been used in the CIA’s drone campaign. Spending on satellite systems and almost
every other category of collection is projected to shrink or remain
stagnant in coming years, as Washington grapples with budget cuts
across the government.
But the 2013 intelligence budget called for
increased investment in SIGINT.
The budget includes a lengthy section on
funding for counterintelligence programs designed to protect against
the danger posed by foreign intelligence services as well as
betrayals from within the U.S. spy ranks.
The document describes programs to,
"mitigate insider threats by trusted
insiders who seek to exploit their authorized access to
sensitive information to harm U.S. interests."
The agencies had budgeted for a major
counterintelligence initiative in fiscal 2012, but most of those
resources were diverted to an all-hands emergency response to
successive floods of classified data released by
For this year, the budget promised a
renewed "focus... on safeguarding classified networks" and a strict
"review of high-risk, high-gain applicants and contractors" - the
young, nontraditional computer coders with the skills the NSA
Among them was Snowden, then a
29-year-old contract computer specialist whom the NSA trained to
circumvent computer network security.
He was copying thousands of highly
classified documents at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and preparing to
leak them, as the agency embarked on the new security sweep.
"NSA will initiate a minimum of
4,000 periodic reinvestigations of potential insider compromise
of sensitive information," according to the budget, scanning its
systems for "anomalies and alerts."
The Black Budget