Monday, November 1, 2010

Sanity Act I: National Intelligence Budgets

General James Clapper, of the National Intelligence Program, has released the intelligence budget voluntarily for the first time in decades:
The National Intelligence Program (NIP) budget total has previously been disclosed each year since 2007, when Congress mandated its disclosure as part of the implementation of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. But despite its name, the NIP is only a part of the U.S. intelligence system, which also includes the Military Intelligence Program (MIP). Disclosure of the MIP budget, and thus of the total level of intelligence spending, was not required by Congress.

So why was it done? Amazingly, what happened is that the U.S. government essentially adopted the position advanced by critics of budget secrecy for the last four decades or so.

“I think the American people are entitled to know the totality of the investment we make each year in intelligence,” said Gen. James R. Clapper at his July 20 confirmation hearing to be Director of National Intelligence. He was echoing the views of generations of critics since the Church Committee of the 1970s and even before.

Mere disclosure of the NIP figure alone in the last few years was inadequate and misleading, Gen. Clapper said. “I thought, frankly, we were being a bit disingenuous by only releasing or revealing the national intelligence program, which is only part of the story.” Indeed.