The Congressional Progressive Caucus Seeks To Shine Light On The U.S. Intelligence Budget

CREDIT: AP Photo - Francisco Seco

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is calling on the executive branch to disclose the federal government’s budget for U.S. intelligence operations and agencies — the so-called “black budget” — in an effort to shine light on details that had remained secret until last summer when intelligence funding specifics were revealed from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The 73 member CPC unveiled its “Better Off Budget” on Wednesday — which pledges to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years and create nearly 9 million jobs by 2017 — to serve as a counter proposal to the Republican one that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will offer next month.

The CPC — which is co-charied by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) — says it “believes that taxpayer-funded government surveillance programs must not infringe on American taxpayers’ constitutionally-protected rights to privacy and free expression” and that its budget proposal “seeks to provide accountability for these vast, highly technical, and often unwieldy programs by requiring that the President disclose in his annual budget submissions to the Congress the total dollar amount requested for intelligence activities at each intelligence agency.”

The CPC is modeling its proposal on a bill introduced in January by Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Peter Welch (D-NC) which seeks to “require that the annual budget submissions of the Presidents include the total dollar amount requested for intelligence or intelligence related activities of each element of the Government engaged in such activities.”

Last August, the Washington Post revealed — based on the documents Snowden leaked — that for fiscal year 2013, the federal government had set aside nearly $53 billion for U.S. intelligence agencies and operations, including $14.7 billion for the CIA, the most requested for any agency. “Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007,” the Post reported, “it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.”

The CPC wants this information made public in the federal government’s annual budget. “By shining sunlight on our nation’s intelligence budget,” they say, “Congress will be better equipped to adopt meaningful reforms that ensure our intelligence programs strike the proper balance between national security and individual liberty.”