10 Things to Know About the Black Budget
Policy + Politics

10 Things to Know About the Black Budget

REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

Edward Snowden strikes again.

A highly classified summary of the government’s $52.6 billion “black budget” was revealed Thursday for the first time, published by The Washington Post after it was leaked to the paper by Snowden – the  former NSA contractor who has since received temporary asylum in Russia.

​The document details massive spending by the U.S. intelligence community since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Here are ten key takeaways about this top-secret document:

1. The 2013 budget requested by intelligence and national security agencies was 2.4 percent below 2012 levels.Even so, the black budget remains twice the estimated size of its 2001 request, and 25 percent higher than in 2006.

2. Off the 16 spy agencies included, the CIA dominates funding, at$14.7 billion for 2013, or 28 percent of the total budget.

3. The intelligence community has cut the number of private contractors over the past five years by roughly 30 percent.

4. Terrorism is listed as the gravest threat to national security. Counterterrorism programs employ one in four members of the intelligence workforce and account for one-third of all spending.

5. There are five “critical” gaps in North Korea intelligence, more than any other country that has or is pursuing a nuclear bomb. Analysts also claim to know little about the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

6. In 2011, the intelligence community reported further insights into 38 so-called “blind spots,” including knowledge of the workings of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the capabilities of China's next-generation fighter jet, and how the Russian government would react “to potentially destabilizing events in Moscow,” such as large protests and terrorist attacks.

​7. In 2013, the NSA planned to investigate 4,000 potential “insider” threats, or cases in which the agency suspected it own employees may have compromised sensitive information.

8. Counterintelligence operations are “strategically focused on the priority targets” of China Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel. The document describes Pakistan as an “intractable target.”

9. The documents describe expanded efforts to “collect on Russian chemical warfare countermeasures” and assess the security of biological and chemical laboratories in Pakistan.

10. Thereisn’t a specific entry for the cost of the CIA’s drone program in the budget summary, The Post reports, “but a broad line item hints at the dimensions of the agency’s expanded paramilitary role, providing more than $2.5 billion for ‘covert action programs’ would include drone operations in Pakistan and Yemen, payments to militias in Afghanistan and Africa, and attempts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.”