WASHINGTON – The CIA has mushroomed into the largest U.S. spy agency, with a budget of nearly $15 billion, as it expands its intelligence, cybersabotage and overseas covert operations, secret leaked documents revealed Thursday.
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked the government’s “black budget” for fiscal 2013 to The Washington Post, which published portions of the top-secret document in the latest in a series of revelations that have put the U.S. 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 the dramatic resurgence of the Central Intelligence Agency, which once was thought to be in decline after acknowledging intelligence failures related to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It now is the dominant colossus within the national intelligence community and has expanded its workforce by more than 25 percent from a decade ago, to 21,575 this year.
The 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.
The NSA was long considered the behemoth of the intelligence community, but according to the black budget, the CIA’s resources are now nearly 50 percent larger than the NSA’s.
In 1994, the CIA accounted for only $4.8 billion of the total $43.4 billion intel budget, in $2012, according to the Post.
In the budget’s introduction, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that the intelligence community faced “hard choices” because government is being 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 while trying to track international terrorism.
The funding pays for an array of spy satellites, high-tech equipment and employees including analysts, linguistic experts, cryptologists and an increasing number of cyberspecialists.
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.