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Snowden reveals US intelligence’s black budget: $52.6 billion on secret programs

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Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has leaked a new top-secret document that for the first time ever publically discloses how the United States spends tens of billions of dollars annually on clandestine spy programs.

The Washington Post revealed the so-called “black budget” on Thursday and reports that $52.6 billion was set aside for operations in fiscal year 2013.

Among the biggest priorities for the intelligence community, the Post reported, are “offensive cyber operations” and research devoted to decoding encrypted communications.

The Post’s Barton Gellman, Greg Miller and Julie Tate wrote Thursday that Mr. Snowden, the 30-year-old former Booz Allen Hamilton staffer who started leaking classified national security documents earlier this year, provided the paper with the never-before published summary of this year’s budget.

But although the Post reported that the document is 178 pages in length, they have at the same time elected to only make available one-tenth of the content, citing “concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods” brought up by US officials who were notified ahead of publication.

“Sensitive details are so pervasive in the documents that the Post is publishing only summary tables and charts online,” the paper wrote in the article that accompanies the 17-page selection. The document is labeled “top secret” and warns that it is only to be accessed by US citizens with the proper security clearance.

Shrouded in secrecy, the amount that Uncle Sam sets aside for sensitive operations each year is not allowed to be published for eyes outside of the intelligence community and only for a portion of those briefed on its operations. The latest Snowden leak reveals that at $52.6 billion, the government is actually handing out 2.3 percent fewer than it did in fiscal year 2012 and, additionally, sequestration has caused the agencies to shed 1,241 positions, or around one percent of its workforce. Despite these setbacks, though, the budget, described by the Post as “a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny,” includes billions of dollars towards operations that may not be funded if debated in the press.

In comparison, the Department of Homeland Security was allocated $55.4 billion in FY2013. The black budget comes in at a figure larger than the sums received by the Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce and NASA this year combined.

Yet despite the hefty cost of operating the secret operations amid sequestration, excerpts from the summary leaked by Snowden show that the US still has significant setbacks keeping it from achieving its intelligence goals.

For one, the disclosure in and of itself demonstrates the intelligence community’s inability to prevent sensitive information from being leaked.

In FY2013, the budget summary says the government invested in ramping-up its counterintelligence operations at a time when budget cuts led to reductions in the community’s workforce, operations, long-term investments, infrastructure and information technology sectors.

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