DNI Discloses National Intelligence Program Budget

As required by law, the Director of National Intelligence today disclosed (pdf) that the budget for the National Intelligence Program in Fiscal Year 2007 was $43.5 billion.

The disclosure was strongly resisted by the intelligence bureaucracy, and for that very reason it may have significant repercussions for national security classification policy.

Although the aggregate intelligence budget figures for 1997 and 1998 ($26.6 and $26.7 billion respectively) had previously been disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists, intelligence officials literally swore under oath that any further disclosures would damage national security.

“Information about the intelligence budget is of great interest to nations and non-state groups (e.g., terrorists and drug traffickers) wishing to calculate the strengths and weaknesses of the United States and their own points of vulnerability to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” then-DCI George J. Tenet told a federal court in April 2003, explaining his position that disclosure of the intelligence budget total would cause “serious damage” to the United States.

Even historical budget information from half a century ago “must be withheld from public disclosure… because its release would tend to reveal intelligence methods,” declared then-acting DCI John E. McLaughlin (pdf) in a 2004 lawsuit, also filed by FAS.

Deferring to executive authority, federal judges including Judge Thomas F. Hogan and Judge Ricardo M. Urbina (pdf) accepted these statements at face value and ruled in favor of continued secrecy.

But now it appears that such information may safely be disclosed after all.

Because the new disclosure is so sharply at odds with past practice, it may introduce some positive instability into a recalcitrant classification system. The question implicitly arises, if intelligence officials were wrong to classify this information, what other data are they wrongly withholding?

Some historical background on U.S. intelligence spending may be found here.

And see “2007 Spying Said to Cost $50 Billion” by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, October 30.

No Responses to “DNI Discloses National Intelligence Program Budget”

  1. smintheus October 30, 2007 at 12:02 PM #

    Steven,

    Kudos for all your work over the years in trying to pry this information free from the Secrecy Czars in DC. Your sustained campaign to check government secrecy must have contributed to the Congress’ willingness to force the issue, finally. A well deserved victory for you and for democracy.

  2. matt October 31, 2007 at 9:29 AM #

    Steven,

    Thanks for the info. I actually have a question: is it more likely NSA & their wiretapping programs fit into this $43.5 billion figure, or in the undisclosed military intelligence figure. Thanks for all you and your organization has done to promote sensible oversight.

    [Thank you. I believe there is some signals intelligence-related activity within the Military Intelligence Program, but the NSA budget falls within the $43.5 billion of the National Intelligence Program. --SA]

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