WASHINGTON – The CIA has mushroomed into the largest US spy agency with a nearly $15 billion budget as it expands intelligence, cyber sabotage and overseas covert operations, secret leaked documents showed Thursday.
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked the government’s “black budget” for fiscal year 2013 to The Washington Post, which published portions of the top-secret document online in the latest in a series of revelations that have put the US intelligence community under a spotlight.
The $52.6 billion budget request for the nation’s 16 spy agencies is not a startling revelation in itself — the White House has published overall intelligence spending since 2007.
But it shows a dramatic resurgence of the Central Intelligence Agency, once thought to be on the decline after it acknowledged intelligence failures prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It now is the dominant colossus within the national intelligence community, expanding its workforce by more than 25 percent from a decade ago, to 21,575 this year.
CIA has increased its budget request to $14.7 billion, nearly 50 percent more than the NSA this year, according to the Post’s review of the documents, even as government austerity has forced agencies to contend with shrinking budgets.
By comparison, in 1994 the CIA accounted for $4.8 billion of the total $43.4 billion intel budget in 2012 dollars, according to the Post.
In the budget’s introduction, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that the intelligence community faced “hard choices” as government is forced to rein in costs.
Spending is projected to remain level through 2017, but Clapper stressed that “never before has the IC (intelligence community) been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment.”
Snowden’s earlier disclosures to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper and the Post uncovered details of the NSA’s vast surveillance programs that scooped up data on nearly every American.
The NSA has long been considered the behemoth of the intelligence community, but according to the black budget, CIA’s resources are nearly 50 percent larger.
The funding pays for an array of spy satellites, high-tech equipment and employees including analysts, linguistic experts, cryptologists and an increasing number of cyber specialists.
But CIA resources have also been funding secret prisons, an enlarged counterterrorism center, a series of paramilitary operations, and some $2.3 billion in human intelligence operations, the Post said.
It is also spending $2.6 billion on “covert action programs,” which include deployment of lethal drones, payments to militias in places like Afghanistan, and efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.