July 29, 2004


White House Debates Recommendation to Disclose Intelligence Budgets: DOUGLAS JEHL
In implementing the 9/11 panel's recommendation, the White House would have to contend with resistance from the intelligence agencies.

Of the 40 main recommendations spelled out in the Sept. 11 report, one of the few that the White House could carry out immediately would be to lift the veil of secrecy on how much the government spends on intelligence.

But as the White House debates whether to embrace that idea, it must contend with years of resistance by intelligence agencies that have long warned that making that budget public could aid American foes. Only twice before, in 1997 and 1998, has the top-line budget number been declassified.

Advocates of greater disclosure now nevertheless have begun to hope that the commission report might turn the tide.

"This will give cover to a lot of timid people, and there's nothing like cover in Washington,'' said Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who long ago broke ranks with other members of his party to call for making the overall budget public.

The current level of secrecy, the commission wrote, "practically defies public comprehension'' in that "even the most basic information about how much money is actually allocated to or within the intelligence community and most of its key components is actually shrouded from public view.''

To help "judge priorities and foster accountability'' among intelligence agencies, the commission argued that the White House should make public not only the overall budget number, but the top-line figure for each of the 15 intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Agency. The overall number is now widely understood to be about $40 billion, and even a more detailed agency-by-agency breakdown, the commission argued, could be achieved without providing details that could aid American foes.

Their budgets? They should be forced to open up almost completely and reveal everything they know--or think they know--except the identity of sources who might be endangered and can't be retrieved.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 29, 2004 9:40 AM

Besides, what are America's enemies really going to deduce from revealed budgets ?

A)We spend more on intelligence than they thought, or
B)We spend less on intelligence than they thought, and
C)We spend most of it on analysts and non-human intelligence gathering equipment.

Any nation (or individual) that cares to know, should have already figured out the answers to the above, through open sources.

Posted by: Michael "007" Herdegen at July 29, 2004 11:46 AM