United States President Barack Obama and CIA Director Leon Panetta at the George Bush Center for Intelligence (CIA Headquarters). (File/UPI Photo/Ron Sachs/Pool) | License Photo
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has leaked a 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence Program, documenting the $52.6 billion scope of the "black budget" spent on the U.S. spy complex.
The report includes budgets and operations for the NSA, CIA and 14 other agencies which comprise the U.S. intelligence community, which has 107,035 employees.
Though the complete report has not been published, The Washington Post reviewed the documents and described a detailed list of objectives, technologies, and failures in unprecedented detail.
Though budget numbers are published each year in their totals, detailed programs and operations have never been subject to public scrutiny.
The leaked documents reveal CIA and NSA budgets have increased since 2004 by over 50 percent each, with the CIA -- our most expensive spy agency -- reaching $14.7 billion in 2013. Though budgets are down slightly from 2012, total funding is nearly double what it was in 2001.
The United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Despite recent concerns over widespread NSA surveillance, the CIA has only recently overtaken the agency in terms of spending.
In 2013 the NSA was set to receive $10.5 billion, and the National Reconnaissance Office was slated for $10.3 billion. The two agencies were intelligence heavyweights until long after the Cold War.
Even in 1994, the CIA only accounted for $4.8 billion of a budget that totaled $43.4 billion adjusted to 2012 dollars. Now, the CIA commands 28 percent of the total intelligence budget.
Indiana Democrat Lee Hamilton, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and co-chairman of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, says the black budget disclosures will be good for transparency.
“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,” Hamilton said.
“Nobody is arguing that we should be so transparent as to create dangers for the country,” he said. But, he said, “there is a mindset in the national security community -- leave it to us, we can handle it, the American people have to trust us."
Despite the ballooning budget, intelligence agencies remain unable to provide "critical information" on a range of security needs. Even on counterterrorism efforts, arguably the primary reason for spending increases over the last decade, the intelligence agencies admit they can only answer a fraction of questions.