A bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require President Obama to reveal details about the so-called black budget used to fund espionage across 16 different agencies.
In a letter to the president announcing the bill, two lawmakers said that the law represents “a simple step toward much-needed transparency.” It comes in the wake of leaks from Edward Snowden that showed the government spent $53 billion last year on clandestine activities without publicly accounting for the money.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) introduced the bill, called the Intelligence Budget Transparency Act of 2014. It also has the backing of some conservatives, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
If the bill passes, agencies across the federal government would have to disclose publicly how they spend money to spy. Right now, these agencies have the ability to spend this money without disclosing where the money goes.
The bill would have sweeping impact across the federal government. The CIA and FBI would be affected, as would the Treasury and State Departments.
"The biggest threat to the successful implementation of a vital national program is the combination of unlimited money with non-existent oversight. That's the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering,” Welch said in a statement announcing the bill.
“The top-line budgets of America's 16 intelligence agencies are unknown to the American taxpayer and largely unknown to the Members of Congress who represent them. It's led to dubious policies, wasted money and questionable effectiveness.”
It remains to be seen whether the bill can garner more widespread support. But critics of Snowden’s leaks have said that revealing details like how the United States spends money on intelligence puts American lives at risk.
“Though Mr. Snowden and his defenders claim he is only ‘defending civil liberties’, the truth is that most of the documents Snowden stole concern vital operations of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mi.) said in a statement last week. “Snowden handed over great insight to our adversaries, endangering each and every American.”
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