The most detailed public disclosure of U.S. intelligence spending in history shows a surprisingly dominant role for the Central Intelligence Agency, a growing emphasis on both defensive and offensive cyberoperations and significant gaps in knowledge about targeted countries despite the sharp increase in spending after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The top secret budget request for the current fiscal year was obtained by The Washington Post from the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden and published in part on its website Thursday. The newspaper said it was withholding most of the 178-page document at the request of government officials because ?sensitive details are so pervasive? in its description of spying programs.
The document shows that the agencies? budget request for the year ending Sept. 30 was $52.6 billion, a small decrease since the 2011 peak of $54.6 billion after a decade of rapid spending growth. Of that, the biggest share was taken by the CIA, which carries out traditional human spying and intelligence analysis but also now conducts drone strikes against terrorism suspects in Pakistan and Yemen.
The CIA asked for $14.7 billion, significantly outpacing the two big technological spy agencies, the eavesdropping NSA, which sought $10.8 billion, and the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates surveillance satellites, at $10.3 billion. Although the document reflects dollars requested for fiscal year 2013 and not those actually received, the record of past expenditures suggests that real spending this year is probably very close to the amount requested.
The 16 U.S. spy agencies employed about 107,000 people, including some 21,800 working on contract, the document shows. The number does not include tens of thousands of contractors who work in support of the intelligence agencies, in some cases outnumbering actual employees, said Jeffrey T. Richelson, a prolific author on intelligence.
Richelson said he thought the NSA budget figure understated the real cost of its electronic surveillance, because it omits much of the support it receives from military personnel who carry out eavesdropping on its behalf.
The latest disclosure underscores the extraordinary impact of the leaks by Snowden, 30, who has accepted temporary asylum in Russia as he tries to avoid prosecution in the United States on espionage charges.
The documents he took from his job as an NSA contractor and provided to The Guardian, The Post and other publications have set off the most significant public debate in decades about surveillance and data collection by the government.