Revelations From Snowden White House "Black Budget" Leak
Another day, another way Edward Snowden is still causing havoc.
On Thursday afternoon, The Washington Post leaked the Obama administration's "black budget" of 2013, and a sprinkling of intelligence revelations with it, all courtesy of now-fugitive Edward Snowden. The report details exactly where intelligence spending goes and how successful each area is, and points to some alarming "blind spots" that the nation's finest antiterrorism experts still haven't cracked.
Before we kick off, exactly what is an ominous-sounding "black budget?" Well, it's essentially a record of the Department of Defense's distribution of funds, and it's kept far away from the public for the sake of national security. (Somewhere, Snowden sits cackling: "Not any more!") It's labelled "black" because it outlines projects the government prefers to keep secret. Before you ask: There is no mention of Area 51.
The Post has combed through the entire document and highlighted the important bits, alongside a five-page explainer. The leak is unprecedented, and the Post certainly won't have made any friends in the White House by leaking it: like every WikiLeak-esque disclosure of private intelligence, it will invite criticism that giving terrorists knowledge of antiterrorism policies will potentially aid terrorism. (Al Qaeda even reportedly changed their communication tactics to evade authorities after Snowden's first big reveal.)
We now know that that Department of Defense has spent a colossal $500 billion on antiterrorism since 9/11, and spending has steadily increased since 2001. This last year, spending was a couple of percentage points down on the year before, but twice that of 2001. The administration says that the project has been largely successful in its main goal, which is to prevent, you know, terrorist attacks. Since 9/11, there has only been one terrorism attack on U.S. soil (the Boston Marathon) and so the project is largely deemed a success.
There are still, however, many "blind spots," which are defined as gaps in intelligence — details about which the top analysts still don't know as much as they would like. There's even a list of the "top 50 blind spots" (we can totally see the People magazine spread) and counterterrorism officials say that they've made at least some progress on 38 of them. As for the others: little is known about Lebanon's anti-Israel Hezbollah group; transportation of Pakistan's nuclear components; the capabilities of China's fighter aircrafts; and Russia's set-in-stone response to terrorism in Moscow.
More worrying are the "blind spots" related to chemical and nuclear weapons, where there remain many gaps. There are at least five "critical" gaps relating to North Korea and its nuclear weapons, and more gaps in the chemical weapons of Russia and Pakistan. This is particularly worrying considering the unpredicted chemical-weapon use by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week.
The Department of Defense is trying to dampen down the funding for intelligence — the biggest share of which goes overwhelmingly to the CIA — but in the report's introduction, the Director of National Intelligence warns against it. "Never before has the IC [U.S. Intelligence Community] been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment," he wrote.
The threats facing the U.S. at present, he noted, "virtually defy rank-ordering." He's hoping that the Department will be awarded the same level of funding until 2017, and not be subject to cuts.
photo credit: AP