U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats, according to the government’s top-secret budget. ...WaPo
Edward Snowden has handed over part of his findings to the Washington Post. Result: we finally get a close look into the "black budget."
The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress. ...WaPo
The Post is withholding much of the data because of the damage it could do. But we do get a slap in the face and some hard truths about our agencies' activities and failings -- and spending.
And we do find out that American cyber-intelligence is deep into foreign computer networks not just in a search for intelligence but as destroyers/hackers. And not just with respect to China, Cuba, and Russia, but also our "ally" Israel, a nation that has "a history of espionage attempts against the United States." The US now has an "espionage empire with resources and a reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels at the height of the Cold War."
I don't feel safer. But there does seem to be a common reaction of gratitude to Snowden for releasing information that we should have had access to all along. It's as though we've escaped from a Hollywood sound studio and are having the real world -- and our vote -- restored.
Experts said that access to such details about U.S. spy programs is without precedent.
“It was a titanic struggle just to get the top-line budget number disclosed, and that has only been done consistently since 2007,” said Steven Aftergood, an expert at the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington-based organization that provides analyses of national security issues. “But a real grasp of the structure and operations of the intelligence bureaucracy has been totally beyond public reach. This kind of material, even on a historical basis, has simply not been available.”...WaPo
The CIA gets the lion's share of the full budget. Look at their capacity and be worried.
The CIA’s dominant position is likely to stun outside experts. It represents a remarkable recovery for an agency that seemed poised to lose power and prestige after acknowledging intelligence failures leading up to the 2001 attacks and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The surge in resources for the agency funded secret prisons, a controversial interrogation program, the deployment of lethal drones and a huge expansion of its counterterrorism center. The agency was transformed from a spy service struggling to emerge from the Cold War into a paramilitary force. ...WaPo
The spending is huge, some would say out of control. But in spite of the huge investment we're making in intelligence, you couldn't call it a particularly successful effort.
Despite the vast outlays, the budget blueprint catalogues persistent and in some cases critical blind spots. ...WaPo
There are substantial gaps in our intelligence.
Other blank spots include questions about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear components when they are being transported, the capabilities of China’s next-generation fighter aircraft, and how Russia’s government leaders are likely to respond to “potentially destabilizing events in Moscow, such as large protests and terrorist attacks.”...WaPo
Lots of games and tech and drones and stuff, not a whole lot of research and footwork.
A chart outlining efforts to address key questions on biological and chemical weapons is particularly bleak. U.S. agencies set annual goals for at least five categories of intelligence collection related to these weapons. In 2011, the agencies made headway on just two gaps; a year earlier, the mark was zero. ...WaPo
But still, some real achievements... and a certain amount of shutting the barn door after the horse has run off.
For this year, the budget promised a renewed “focus . . . on safeguarding classified networks” and a strict “review of high-risk, high-gain applicants and contractors” — the young, nontraditional computer coders with the skills the NSA needed.
Among them was Snowden, then a 29-year-old contract computer specialist whom the NSA trained to circumvent computer network security. He was copying thousands of highly classified documents at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and preparing to leak them, as the agency embarked on the new security sweep. ...WaPo