- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The annual budget figure for U.S. intelligence programs was released for the first time in almost a decade yesterday, the result of one of the recommendations of the September 11 commission.

According to Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, the fiscal 2007 budget figure for nonmilitary intelligence programs over the 16 agencies he oversees added up to $43.5 billion. Military intelligence spending remains classified, as nonmilitary spending had been since 1999, but is widely believed to total roughly $10 billion.

Acting in accordance with the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, the National Intelligence Program (NIP) budget resembles recent outside estimates placing the figure between $40 billion and $45 billion.

The last time such information was disclosed publicly was in 1998, when former CIA Director George Tenet announced that the intelligence budget for the fiscal year was $26.7 billion, just more than the $26.6 billion for 1997. In 1996 and previously, this information was classified.

“We believe this action is appropriate because it does not jeopardize the ability of our intelligence agencies to carry out their missions and serves to inform the American people,” Mr. Tenet said in 1997.

Using nearly the same language as Mr. Tenet a decade ago, Mr. McConnell added that “beyond the disclosure of a top-line figure, there will be no other disclosures of currently classified budget information because such disclosures could harm national security.”

In his statement, Mr. McConnell said explicitly that he was providing the information to meet the legal obligations of Section 601 of the law, which calls for “availability to public of certain intelligence funding information,” an obligation he said is met by releasing the top-line budget figure.

The law was passed in July by convincing votes of 85-8 and 371-40 in the Senate and House, respectively.

The 1997 disclosure of intelligence funding numbers was in response to a Federation of American Scientists lawsuit seeking the information under the Freedom of Information Act. After releasing the figure again in 1998, FAS was denied in a lawsuit seeking similar disclosure for 1999.

James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the information doesn’t do much damage to U.S. intelligence but, if more details are demanded, classified intelligence efforts could be exposed.

“The top line doesn’t do much harm, but the further down you go, the more people can deduce from the information,” he said.

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