How much do the spies of the US government spend on their spying? Over $47 billion a year, according to budget numbers released on Tuesday by the Director of National Intelligence. And if you count the military intelligence program, the total amount is closer to $60 billion. This is only the fourth time in U.S. history that the government has publicly disclosed the intelligence budget. Secrecy News explains:
The aggregate intelligence budget figure (including national, joint military and tactical intelligence spending) was first released in 1997 ($26.6 billion) in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Federation of American Scientists. It was voluntarily released in 1998 ($26.7 billion). The National Intelligence Program budget was next disclosed in 2007 ($43.5 billion), in response to a Congressional mandate, based on a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. And then there was today’s release for 2008.
In recent years, the most passionate opponent of intelligence budget disclosure has been none other than Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), whose own financial non-disclosure practices have recently earned him multiple felony convictions.
In an October 4, 2004 Senate floor debate, Senator Stevens usefully marshaled all of the traditional arguments against disclosure. Most of them were false at the time. Others have since been disproven.
“No other nation, friend, or ally, reveals the amount that it spends on intelligence,” Sen. Stevens said then.
In fact, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and other countries have published their intelligence budgets for many years without adverse effect.
“Determining classification is the responsibility and duty of the chief executive of the United States, the President, who is also Commander in Chief,” said Sen. Stevens. “Presidents Truman through Bush has determined that the overall intelligence budget top-line figure is, and shall remain, classified, and I believe we should not overrule that judgment.”
But Congress shares responsibility for defining the terms of the classification system. And as a factual historical matter, President Clinton approved disclosure of the intelligence budget total.
To read more about Stevens–regarding a matter not involving a high-priced massage chair–click here.