Tuesday, November 08, 2005

They used to say in the USSR, this did not happen by accident. Another accident?

The New York Times reports that a top American intelligence official has publicly revealed the US intelligence budget: $44 billion.

At an intelligence conference in San Antonio last week, Mary Margaret Graham, a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and now the deputy director of national intelligence for collection, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.

The number was reported Monday in U.S. News and World Report, whose national security reporter, Kevin Whitelaw, was among the hundreds of people in attendance during Ms. Graham's talk.

"I thought, 'I can't believe she said that,' " Mr. Whitelaw said on Monday. "The government has spent so much time and energy arguing that it needs to remain classified."

The figure itself comes as no great shock; most news reports in the last couple of years have estimated the budget at $40 billion. But the fact that Ms. Graham would say it in public is a surprise, because the government has repeatedly gone to court to keep the current intelligence budget and even past budgets as far back as the 1940's from being disclosed.

Carl Kropf, a spokesman for the office of the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, said Ms. Graham would not comment...

Negroponte, eh?

Forgive my cynycism, but he's the guy from all the shadowy stuff in Honduras. Would it -could it- be possible that he's making it seem like "secrets slip out all the time?"

I mean, this is the most secretive administration in history. Bush is trying to keep -by executive order- his secrets secret after he's left the White House. Like he's going to let this pass?

Only for a few past years has the budget been disclosed. After Mr. Aftergood's group first sued for the budget figure under the Freedom of Information Act in 1997, George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, decided to make public that year's budget, $26.6 billion. The next year Mr. Tenet did the same, revealing that the 1998 fiscal year budget was $26.7 billion.

But in 1999, Mr. Tenet reversed that policy, and budgets since then have remained classified with the support of the courts. Last year, a federal judge refused to order the C.I.A. to release its budget totals for 1947 to 1970 - except for the 1963 budget, which Mr. Aftergood showed had already been revealed elsewhere.

Yeah, last time I had a security clearance this was a classifed number - and that was the early 90s.

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