Using documents leaked to it by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Washington Post yesterday published an eye-opening report on U.S. spy agencies that describes how an “espionage empire” has vastly expanded in the 12 years since the 9/11 attacks.
According to the report, the CIA is now by far the nation’s largest spy agency, with a 2013 budget of $14.7 billion, almost double that of the National Security Agency, which Snowden’s leaks revealed conducts a mammoth domestic surveillance program.
The top-secret $52.6 billion budget obtained by the Post offers the public a never-before-seen glimpse into the clandestine world of the 16 U.S. spy agencies and their priorities. The Post consulted with U.S. officials before publishing the sensitive report, holding back reams of key information so as not to endanger U.S. spy initiatives or any of the agencies’ 107,035 employees.
“The United States has made a considerable investment in the Intelligence Community since the terror attacks of 9/11, a time which includes wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology, and asymmetric threats in such areas as cyber-warfare,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. wrote in response to inquiries from The Post.
“Our budgets are classified as they could provide insight for foreign intelligence services to discern our top national priorities, capabilities and sources and methods that allow us to obtain information to counter threats.”
According to the Post, the U.S. has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence since 9/11, mainly focused on one objective: preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack in the United States. This level of funding far exceeds the outlay at the height of the Cold War in the late 1980s, which the Post estimates would be equivalent to about $71 billion today.
These were some of the key findings of the Post story:●The CIA and the NSA have begun aggressively hacking into foreign computer networks to steal information or sabotage enemy systems, which the budget calls “offensive cyber operations”—and which U.S. officials have harshly condemned nations like China for engaging in.
●Fighting against terrorism is the primary objective of 1 in 4 members of the intelligence workforce and account for one-third of the intelligence program’s spending. In the introduction to the budget, Clapper said the threats facing the United States “virtually defy rank-ordering.”
●Even before Snowden became a media sensation with his leaks, the spy agencies worried about “anomalous behavior” by employees and contractors with access to classified material and planned to stop any potential leaks by re-investigating this year at least 4,000 people who hold high-level security clearances.
●U.S. intelligence officials conduct counterintelligence operations against not only potential enemies like Pakistan, China, Russia and Cuba, but also against allies like Israel, which the Post says has a history of espionage attempts against the United States.
“Never before has the IC [intelligence community] been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment,” Clapper wrote.