CIA is largest US spy agency, according to black budget leaked by Edward Snowden

The Central Intelligence Agency‘s budget has increased dramatically in the last ten years, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

As Barton Gellman and Greg Miller reported on Thursday, the CIA has become, perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. spy agency with the largest budget:

The CIA’s dominant position will likely stun outside experts. It represents a remarkable recovery for an agency that seemed poised to lose power and prestige after acknowledging intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The surge in resources for the agency funded secret prisons, a controversial interrogation program, the deployment of lethal drones and a huge expansion of its counterterrorism center. The agency was transformed from a spy service struggling to emerge from the Cold War into a paramilitary force.

The CIA has devoted billions of dollars to recruiting and training a new generation of case officers, with the workforce growing from about 17,000 a decade ago to 21,575 this year.

The agency’s budget allocates $2.3 billion for human intelligence operations, and another $2.5 billion to cover the cost of supporting the security, logistics and other needs of those missions around the world. A relatively small amount of that total, $68.6 million, was earmarked for creating and maintaining “cover,” the false identities employed by operatives overseas.

There is no specific entry for the CIA’s fleet of armed drones in the budget summary, but a broad line item hints at the dimensions of the agency’s expanded paramilitary role, providing more than $2.6 billion for “covert action programs” that would include drone operations in Pakistan and Yemen, payments to militias in Afghanistan and Africa, and attempts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.

Barton Gellman and Greg Miller

The charts below show how levels of funding have changed over the past decade at the three largest intelligence agencies by budget.


Changes in funding levels for the three largest U.S. spy agencies, according to a top-secret budget document obtained by The Washington Post (Wilson Andrews and Todd Lindeman / The Washington Post)

The document Snowden provided to The Post was a summary of the so-called “black budget,” which is the secret portion of the federal budget dedicated to intelligence gathering and analysis. Read Gellman and Miller’s full article on the budget here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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