ACTION ALERT: Congress Wants to End 'Black Budget' Secrecy for 16 US Spy Agencies
March 4, 2014
AntiWar.com & Hon. Peter Welch / US Congress
Getting information on the US intelligence spending habits has been virtually impossible. Over the years, only a single dollar figure of all spending everywhere is released publicly, usually in the $70-$75 billion range. There are 16 different US civilian spy agencies (and military intelligence spending on top of that) yet when Congress is asked to approve the spending, it just gets the one number lumping everything together. The only look they've ever really gotten is via a leak from Edward Snowden.
Congress Wants 'Black Budget' Info
On Spy Agency Spending
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 13, 2014) -- Getting information on the intelligence spending habits of the United States has been virtually impossible over the years, with only a single dollar figure of all spending everywhere released publicly, usually in the $70-$75 billion range. [See next story.]
But there are 16 distinct civilian spy agencies in the United States, and then there's military intelligence spending on top of that. Yet when Congress gets the bill and is asked to approve the spending, it just gets the one number lumping everything together.
In fact, the only look they've ever really gotten at how that money is divvied up is a leak from Edward Snowden, which showed a handful of the top-line figures for individual agencies. Many in Congress say that's not good enough.
A group in the House of Representatives led by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) are pushing a new bill that would require individual dollar values for each of the 16 civilian spy agencies. The White House has yet to comment on the matter, but the fact that they have refused to provide such data when asked suggests they'll also be opposed to being forced to hand it over.
US Intelligence Budgets Totaled $75 Billion in 2012
John Glaser / AntiWar.com
(October 30, 2012) -- The United States spent $75.4 billion on its military and civilian spy agencies in the last fiscal year, according to officially released and incomplete budget records. The US intelligence budget includes the Military Intelligence Program, which cost $21.5 billion in 2012, and the National Intelligence Program (NIP), which includes agencies like the CIA and NSA and which cost $53.9 billion.
The NIP budget started being publicly disclosed only in 2007, and every year since the budget has risen. But for 2012, the budget was $700 million lower than 2011.
The government only agrees to release the "top-line" or totals of the budgets, claiming that releasing any more details would provide potential adversaries (namely, American citizens) with too much information.
"Beyond the disclosure of the NIP top-line figure, there will be no other disclosures of currently classified NIP budget information because such disclosures could harm national security," said the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
In fact, the intelligence community had for years said disclosing even the "top-line" numbers would be harmful to national security. And now that they have been forced to disclose that -- without any harm to national security -- they claim any more would be dangerous.
The real danger for them is to have their budgets talked about too publicly, especially in a political environment of cutting budgets and deficits. If the public know too much about America's overly interventionist, abusive, extra-legal, and increasingly paramilitary spy agencies, they might demand cuts. Therefore, goes the thinking, as much information as possible has to be kept from them.
62 Lawmakers Call on President to Reveal
Top Line Intelligence Spending Levels in FY2015 Budget
Office of Hon. Peter Welch / US Congress
(February 12, 2014) -- Led by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), a bipartisan group of 62 House lawmakers sent a letter today to President Obama calling on him to disclose in his fiscal year 2015 budget the top line spending levels at the 16 federal agencies known to conduct intelligence activities. The President is expected to deliver his budget to Congress on March 4.
According to the lawmakers, "The current practice of providing no specificity whatsoever regarding the overall budget requests for each intelligence agency falls woefully short of basic accountability requirements. . . .
"As you develop your fiscal year 2015 budget, we strongly urge you to take a simple step toward much needed transparency by including the total amount requested for each of the sixteen intelligence agencies. We believe the top line number for each agency should be made public, with no risk to national security, for comparative purposes across all federal government agencies."
On August 19, 2013, The Washington Post reported on documents leaked by Edward Snowden that provide taxpayers a first ever look at intelligence spending levels. The documents revealed, among other things, that the NSA had received a 54 percent increase in its budget over the past 10 years.
The lawmakers' letter embodies a recommendation made by the 9/11 Commission. Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, the Commission's vice chairman and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, endorsed their effort.
According to Hamilton, "America needs competent and effective intelligence gathering agencies. And Congress must exercise prudent and diligent oversight to assure the American taxpayer is getting what it's paying for. The first step toward accountability and oversight is public disclosure of the top-line budget numbers of all our intelligence gathering agencies."
Reps. Lummis and Welch have also introduced bipartisan legislation, The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act (H.R.3855), which would require the disclosure of top line intelligence agency budget numbers. The legislation has 60 cosponsors.
Letter to the President: February 12th, 2014
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Ensuring America's national security requires professional and competent intelligence agencies to perform this vital mission. But the urgency of the mission assigned to the sixteen agencies charged with this responsibility should not shield them from budget accountability and transparency. In fact, the urgency of their mission makes the need for transparency greater in order to assure Congress and the American people of the quality and effectiveness of their work.
As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission Report) states, "when even aggregate categorical numbers remain hidden, it is hard to judge priorities and foster accountability." The current practice of providing no specificity whatsoever regarding the overall budget requests for each intelligence agency falls woefully short of basic accountability requirements.
In August, the Washington Post reported for the first time on the spending levels of individual intelligence agencies. This report provided a small but important window into the previously secret intelligence budget. For example, it revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency received a 56 percent increase in its budget over the past 10 years while the National Security Agency received a 54 percent increase.
As you develop your fiscal year 2015 budget, we strongly urge you to take a simple step toward much needed transparency by including the total amount requested for each of the sixteen intelligence agencies.
We believe the top line number for each agency should be made public, with no risk to national security, for comparative purposes across all federal government agencies. Congress and the American people will be better served by knowing this basic information.
Mr. President, we understand you will soon implement a series of reforms regarding intelligence gathering, reporting and judicial review. Providing basic information about the intelligence budget in your fiscal year 2015 budget request would be a further step in the right direction and is wholly consistent with the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission Report.
Peter Welch (D-VT)
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
David Price (D-NC)
Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL)
Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Adam Smith (D-WA)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Julia Brownley (D-CA)
Justin Amash (R-MI)
Louis Gohmert (R-TX)
Andy Harris (R-MD)
Tim Huelskamp (R-KS)
Thomas Massie (R-KY)
Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)
Todd Rokita (R-IN)
Ted Yoho (R-FL)
John Carney (D-DE)
Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO)
Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Ted Poe (R-TX)
Michael Burgess (R-TX)
Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)
Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
Rick Nolan (D-MN)
Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Rick Larsen (D-WA)
Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI)
Beto O'Rourke (D-TX)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Walter Jones (R-NC)
Mike Honda (D-CA)
Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Reid Ribble (R-WI)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Kathy Castor (D-FL)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
David Cicilline (D-RI)
John Yarmuth (D-KY)
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
Lee Terry (R-NE)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
Don Young (R-AK)
John Garamendi (D-CA)
Sam Farr (D-CA)
Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
Richard Neal (D-MA)
Chris Gibson (R-NY)
Steve Daines (R-MT)
Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
The bill would apply to at least the following 16 agencies known to receive taxpayer funding for intelligence activities:
Air Force Intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency
Coast Guard Intelligence
Defense Intelligence Agency
Department of Energy
Department of Homeland Security
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Drug Enforcement Administration
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Marine Corps Intelligence
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
National Reconnaissance Office
National Security Agency
Welch, Lummis, D. Price Unveil Bipartisan Bill
Requiring Transparency in Intelligence Budget
Office of Hon. Peter Welch / US Congress
WASHINGTON, DC (January13, 2014) -- Washington, DC (January 14th, 2014)- Today, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Rep. David Price (D-NC) announced bipartisan legislation that would require disclosure of intelligence spending levels at each of the 16 federal agencies responsible for intelligence activities.
They also released a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him to begin disclosing these numbers when he submits his fiscal year 2015 budget to Congress next month.
Spending levels on intelligence activities are currently treated as classified information. H.R. 3855, The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act, would require the President to include in his annual budget submission to Congress the total dollar amount requested for intelligence activities at each intelligence agency.
The bill is sponsored by:
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Vice Chair of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
Rep. David Price (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), senior Member (and former Chairman) of the House Judiciary Committee
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), senior Member of the House Intelligence Committee
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a senior Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and former Chair of the Republican Study Committee
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
"The biggest threat to the successful implementation of a vital national program is the combination of unlimited money with non-existent oversight. That's the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering," said Rep. Welch.
"The top-line intelligence budgets for America's 16 intelligence agencies are unknown to the American taxpayer and largely unknown to the Members of Congress who represent them. It's led to dubious policies, wasted money and questionable effectiveness. Requiring the public disclosure of top-line intelligence spending is an essential first step in assuring that our taxpayers and our national security interests are well served."
"Providing for our national security and safeguarding Americans' freedoms are fundamental roles of the federal government and ensuring effective intelligence is critical to that work," said Rep. Lummis. "However, writing checks without any idea of where the money is going is bad policy.
"Disclosing the top-line budgets of each of our intelligence agencies promotes basic accountability among the agencies charged with protecting Americans without compromising our national security interests."
"I believe this legislation will enhance our intelligence capabilities by providing Congress better insight into a sprawling bureaucracy," said Rep. Price. "We know from reporting in the Washington Post, and by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's own testimony, that the budget of the Intelligence Community is shrinking.
Like all other federal agencies, these agencies are being asked to do more with less. By breaking down top-line figures by agency, all Member of Congress, especially appropriators will be better equipped to conduct oversight and analysis and ensure the brave men and women in the Intelligence Community have precisely the tools necessary to keep us safe."
The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act embodies a recommendation made by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) and has been endorsed by Lee Hamilton, the 9/11 Commission's Vice Chair and a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
"America needs competent and effective intelligence gathering agencies. And Congress must exercise prudent and diligent oversight to assure the American taxpayer is getting what it's paying for," said Hamilton. "The first step toward accountability and oversight is public disclosure of the top-line budget numbers of all our intelligence gathering agencies."
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