WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. government's annual intelligence budget, long a tightly held and long-defended secret, is out of the bag -- $44 billion.
Mary Margaret Graham, a 27-year veteran of the CIA, accidentally let the figure slip last week while speaking at a conference in Texas on satellite and photographic intelligence at which a reporter for U.S. News and World Report was in attendance.
The figure is in line with most guesstimates, but the government has always closely guarded knowledge about how much it spends on its intelligence gathering and analysis operations.
The New York Times Tuesday said a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte would neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of the figure Graham blabbed. Neither would Graham give a statement about the incident.
"It is ironic," Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists told the newspaper. "We sued the CIA four times for this kind of information and lost. You can't get it through legal channels."