The U.S. intelligence community’s infamous “black budget,” which outlines specifics on government spending on intelligence and security programs, was recently obtained by the Washington Post from Edward Snowden.
The budget has traditionally only been on the government’s books as a budget number, but no reports are ever declassified regarding specifics due to the risk that the leaks could reveal intelligence sources, methods, and intentions to U.S. enemies. The 178-page budget summary outlines the National Intelligence Program’s successes, failures, and objectives over the 16 spy agencies in the community, which employs 107,035 people.
Here are the top 10 facts you need to know about the U.S. intelligence community’s $52.6 billion 2013 black budget.
1. The CIA’s Budget Has Expanded Massively, to More Than 50 Percent Above The NSA
Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has invested massive amounts of money into its Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA has requested a whopping $14.7 billion of the $52.6 billion black budget. That budget request, according to the leaked report, is far more than the budget for the domestic National Security Agency. The only received $10.5 billion in 2013.
2. The Intelligence Agencies Have Launched Massive International Hacking Efforts
Hacking is becoming an increasingly alarming threat to our domestic infrastructure. This was only echoed earlier this week in former Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano’s farewell speech, where she warned the public that “at some point” the United States will be hit by a major cyberattack that could not just harm the economy, but also disrupt everyday life in America.
“While we have built systems, protections, and a framework to identify attacks and intrusions … to mitigate the damage, more must be done and must be done quickly,” said Napolitano.
To combat this, the United States is currently involved in what the budget calls “offensive cyber operations.” These operations likely focus on states like China, who we know have hacked U.S. infrastructure and agencies already. We also know that the U.S. has conducted extensive hacking of the quasi-communist state.
3. We Know ‘Virtually Nothing’ About North Korea
Well, one of our worst suspicions appears to be true — the U.S. intelligence community really doesn’t know what’s going on in North Korea. The black budget report on North Korea intelligence indicates multiple “critical gaps” in our information on the isolated state. The Washington Post report goes as far as paraphrasing that the intelligence community “know virtually nothing” about their nuclear program, missile program, composition of the state’s leadership, and the intentions of Kim Jong Un.
Here is what The Post had to say regarding the report’s section on North Korea:
A section on North Korea indicates that the United States has all but surrounded the nuclear-armed country with surveillance platforms. There are distant ground sensors to monitor seismic activity and platforms to 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.”
Other intelligence gaps include key information regarding Russian government protocol and Chinese air force capabilities.
4. There Is a Lack of Intelligence on Hezbollah
The U.S. “War on Terror” has been the primary justification for the increase in the black budget over the years. But the leaked black budget report indicates multiple gaps in information that seem vital to the counterterrorism mission. Some of these gaps could be detrimental to U.S. allies overseas. The black budget report expressed a lack of information on the Lebanese-based terror group Hezbollah. The C.I.A. had agents stationed in the nation’s capital of Beirut until 2011, where they were compromised after being identified by Hezbollah forces after meeting with informants at a local Pizza Hut. The station was a high-value outpost for the agency, providing the U.S. with intelligence on regional governments and terror groups.
Since then, there has been a severe lack of new information about the group, which continues to threaten Israeli security.
Hezbollah has not attacked U.S. interests directly since the 1990s.
5. Homegrown Terror Is a Major Concern
The U.S. government is trying its best to combat homegrown terrorism, and have been actively attempting to curb those attempts since before the Boston Marathon bombing. The report calls this effort one of “the more challenging intelligence gaps.” Domestically sprouted terrorism is particularly hard because it often has no connection with worldwide terror networks and is usually self-radicalized. There is little the intelligence community can do unless they receive a tip about a possible plot or intercept some sort of communication.
6. The CIA Drone Program’s Budget Might Be $2.6 Billion
The black budget doesn’t specifically outline the budget set aside for the CIA’s drone program, but as the Washing Post points out, it would fall under what is labelled as “covert action programs.” Since details about the drone program are currently classified, it would fall within the confines of covert action. This label in the CIA’s budget accounts for a projected $2.6 billion.
7. U.S. Spy Agencies Rely Heavily on Technology Over Human Operators
In a somewhat obvious development, the leaked black budget report indicates the U.S. Intelligence Community’s ongoing and long-lasting dependence on cutting-edge technologies to monitor people, places and countries. These technologies including new surveillance techniques being used on Iran to analyze and identify suspected nuclear sites that were not picked up by satellites.
8. The Report Contains a Lengthy Section on Counter-Intelligence Programs
Where there’s intelligence, there’s counter-intelligence. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. intelligence agency does a boatload of the latter. These programs are designed to protect the U.S. from foreign and domestic threats. These include intelligence services from other states or domestic “betrayals,” which the government would consider to be like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.
This year’s budget will “focus … on safeguarding classified networks” and a strict “review of high-risk, high-gain applicants and contractors.”
“NSA will initiate a minimum of 4,000 periodic reinvestigations of potential insider compromise of sensitive information,” according to the leaked document. They plan to scan its systems for “anomalies and alerts.”
9. The CIA, NSA and NRO Receive the Biggest Annual Budgets
According to the leaked document reported by the Washington Post, the CIA will be receiving the biggest budget at $14.7 billion, the NSA with the second biggest at $10.8 billion, and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) sitting in the third position with $10.3 billion. These budgets respectively represent an increase of 56 percent, 53 percent and 12 percent as compared with last year’s assumed spending.
This year’s budget proposal shows that spending will remain roughly the same until 2017, but it is 25 percent bigger than it was in 2006 and twice the size of the 2001 budget.
Additionally, the four main spending categories are data collection, data processing and exploitation, data analysis, and management, facilities and support.
10. The Black Budget Outlines 5 Main Objectives
The U.S. Intelligence Community’s black budget outlines five mission objectives, each receiving its own amount of funding.
The biggest, sitting with $20.1 billion, is the mission of “Warning U.S. leaders about critical events,” which involves “warn[ing] policymakers, military and civilian authorities of threats, such as economic instability, state failure, societal unrest and emergence of regional powers.”
The second biggest is combating terrorism, which involves “monitor[ing] and disrupt[ing] violent extremists and suspected terrorist groups that plot to inflict harm to the U.S., its interests and allies,” which is dedicated a sum of $17.2 billion.
Next is the goal of stopping the spread of illicit weapons, described as an effort to “prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” which receives a modest $6.7 billion.
Our fourth mission involves cyber operations. The goal is to “prevent cyber intrusions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” This increasingly important mission is funded with $4.3 billion in funding.
Last but not least is defending the United States against foreign espionage effort by “detect[ing] attempts by adversaries to penetrate U.S. government.” The government shells out $3.8 billion annually for this.