Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked the United States intelligence budget for the 2013 fiscal year to The Washington Post Thursday, revealing that U.S. spy agencies are unable to uncover what The Post calls "blind spots," where information on questions of national security remains sparse.
Despite massive spending and a broad network of surveillance and international espionage facilities, the budget reportedly explains that many key national security questions continue to elude the U.S. intelligence community. Intel on biological and chemical weapons is thin, more than a week after an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus may have killed as many as 1,300 people.
North Korea and its nuclear program -- despite the U.S.'s efforts to "all but (surround) the nuclear-armed country with surveillance platforms" -- also continues to bewilder intelligence authorities.
"Analysts know virtually nothing about the intentions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un," The Post reported.
The Russian, Iranian and Chinese governments are also reportedly "difficult to penetrate," and the U.S. has directed intelligence efforts at its international allies, including Israel and Pakistan, as well.
The Post reports that the highly classified 178-page "black budget" itemized $52.6 billion in spending for the nation's 16 spy agencies.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s reported request for $14.7 billion in public funds far surpassed any other agency, including the National Security Agency, which is at the center of a public scandal after Snowden revealed it had kept tabs on U.S. citizens and various international parties in a series of leaks to the British newspaper The Guardian.
Here are some of the details of intelligence spending revealed in the report:
- $11.5 billion of the proposed CIA budget -- which overall, was up 56 percent since 2004 -- was allocated to "data collection expenses" alone.
- Of the NSA's $10.8 billion budget, $5.2 billion were marked for "management, facilities and support."
- Of the National Reconaissance Office's $10.3 billion, $6 billion were allocated to data collection.
- The requested budget for the National Geospatial Intelligence Program, which supplies "imagery and map-based intelligence" was up 108 percent since 2004.
- $4.4 billion went to the General Defense Intelligence Program, which assesses foreign military activity for policymakers and U.S. military chiefs.
By contrast, the 2013 federal budget allocates $44.8 billion to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which works to provide affordable housing to low-income Americans.
Not adjusted for inflation, this year's intelligence budget is roughly double the 2001 budget -- a sign, The Post says, that Washington began to build an "espionage empire" after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
The Post only revealed select portions of the U.S. intelligence budget to prevent opposing intelligence agencies from apprehending Washington's priorities and modes of operation.
Although the government releases its overall intelligence spending figures annually, The Post noted that previously itemized budget figures were "largely nonexistent." Thursday's revelations may provoke a necessary discourse on public spending.
The report also offered insight into the raid that took down 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in April 2011. National Reconnaissance Office-operated satellites reportedly took high-resolution and infrared images that were "critical to prepare for the mission."