[In late August the Washington Post published several very interesting articles about the Obama Administration’s intelligence activities. The stories were based on a relatively current document, i.e. the Budget Justification submitted to Congress in February, 2012, to explain what the Intelligence Community intended to do in FY 2013. (For the Government the current fiscal year,2013, ends on September 30. FY 2014 starts on October 1) The Budget Justification covered the 16 agencies of the Intelligence Community, and was authored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was highly classified. No doubt a similar justification was submitted in February, 2013 to support activities proposed for the next fiscal year.

The documents now held by The Post were provided by Edward Snowden. In view of their classification, it’s no surprise that The Post decided to do a due diligence review of what it had before it released anything. Ultimately it published[1] about 25% of what was available.[2] It’s possible Snowden gave the same documents to other media outlets as well. If so some of them may be less conservative than The Post about what to release. Only time will tell.]

Nevertheless, let’s work with what’s available. In many ways the most interesting thing in the pile is the forwarding memo from the Director of National Intelligence (the “DNI”) to his Congressional overseers. It’s 5 pages and The Post published the whole thing.[3]

Last week we noted that the DNI, for FY 2013, proposed to beef up counterintelligence activities against some of our known adversaries. And what is “counterintelligence,” or, as it’s more affectionately known, “CI?” Your handy internet dictionary probably will define it as “efforts made by intelligence organizations to prevent hostile or enemy intelligence organizations from successfully gathering and collecting intelligence against them.” Thank you, Wikipedia.[4] Others call it counter espionage.[5]

Why do we need CI? Well, last year the DNI told us. He said:

Counterintelligence (CI). To further safeguard our classified networks, we continue to strengthen insider threat detection capabilities across the Community. In addition, we are investing in target surveillance and offensive CI against key targets, such as China, Russia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Cuba.[6]

So how much of the budget would be devoted to that kind of thing? Well, we do have a rough idea. The total intelligence budget was supposed to be $52.6 billion, and counterintelligence was estimated as 7% of that.[7] So that comes out to be about $3.7 billion[8]. And, we can break that out a little further by agency. But when we do, and sum up the totals, they don’t come anywhere near $3.7 billion. Take a look:

Agency/Program

CIAP

DHS

DOD/FCIP

DOJ

DOE

Total Known

Total Unknown

CI Budget (as shown)

$158.198 million[9]

$  22 .625 million[10]

$445.517 million[11]

$489.821 million[12]

$188.619 million[13]

$1.305 billion[14]

$2.395 billion[15]

Based on this can we really say we understand the scope and reach of the FY 2013 CI budget? Obviously not. Of course, The Post released only 25% of the pages available to it. Would we know more if the rest of the document became available? Possibly, but who knows? All we can say for sure is that, right now, the Government’s numbers don’t add up. What a surprise.

While The Post severely restricted the documents it released, that didn’t stop its reporters from writing about and discussing the ones it’s holding close. It’s as though The Post has become its own confidential source.

Not too long ago, for example, The Post said that four thousand employees of the intelligence community are under suspicion of “anomalous behavior.” That number appears nowhere in the pages released to the public. So, apparently it came from the super sensitive pages that The Post withheld from the rest of us. Why is The Post disclosing the contents piecemeal?

Today’s revelation is that our Government doesn’t trust Pakistan any more.[16] Well, duh! Our Government already listed them as a key target for counterintelligence. Does anybody need to say more?

But if The Post wants to substantiate its new allegations about the U.S./Pakistan relationship, perhaps it ought to release whatever additional documents it’s relying on. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair for them to blab about things they won’t show us. Especially if the underlying documents are in The Post’s possession and are being held back on the pretext of security.

After all, The Guardian regularly publishes the documents it relies on. If Guardian reporters did otherwise, they’d be accused of cherry-picking the evidence and publishing only the parts that fit The Guardian’s agenda. That is, of carefully selecting the facts and spoon-feeding them to a supposedly gullible public.

Most people don’t like to be treated this way. After all, everybody’s heard the old adage, “He who will sup with the devil should bring a long spoon.”[17] Why? Because if the devil gets too close he might drag you off to you-know-where. But even if it isn’t the devil brandishing that spoon, or writing an article, readers don’t want to end up in the wrong place simply because they’re being misled by bad information. They want good information and evidence that substantiates it.


[1] For reasons I won’t get into here, The Post’s website was not particularly useful for anyone who wanted to take a serious look at the documents The Post was willing to release. Luckily there was another source for the same thing, i.e., the site maintained by the Federation of American Scientists. There are lots of documents there, not just the few pages of the Government’s February, 2012 budget submission that the Post elected to release. You can find the FAS website  at: http://www.fas.org/irp/budget/index.html

[2] The Post has Volume I of the budget submission, which is supposed to be 170+ pages. Of that The Post released the document cover, a unnumbered page dealing with classification, and pages 1-5, 9, 67-70, 74, 80, 84, 100, 133-138, 144-146, 151, & 154-169. In this discussion we’ll cite what’s out as FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at __).

[3] See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at p. 1-5.

[4] Wikipedia says its article on the subject has “numerous issues.” Nevertheless, it’s fine for out purposes. To find it, just go to the Wikipedia website and search “counterintelligence,” or click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-intelligence

[5] The Brits seem to prefer the term “counter espionage,” which they define as “activities designed to prevent or thwart spying by an enemy.” See The Compact Oxford English Dictionary (3rd Edition) (OUP, 2005) at counter espionage. Sounds like CI to me.

[6] See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at p 3.

[7] See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at FY 2013 Mission Objective Funding, p.9.

[8] Actually, 7% of 52.6 billion is $3.682 billion.

[9]  See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at Resource Exhibit No. 13, p. 160

[10]  See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at Resource Exhibit No. 13, p. 162

[11]  See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at Resource Exhibit No. 13, p. 163

[12] See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at Resource Exhibit No. 13, p. 163

[13] See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at Resource Exhibit No. 13, p. 164

[14] Actually, the sum of the 5 numbers is $1,304,780,000. I rounded up to $1.305 billion.

[15] Interestingly, this is close to but not identical with the total budget for covert action. Any significance to that? See FY 2013 Intelligence Budget at Resource Exhibit No. 13, p. 160

[16] See The Washington Post, National Security, Miller, Whitlock & Gellman, Top-secret U.S. intelligence files show new levels of distrust of Pakistan (September 2, 2013) at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/top-secret-us-intelligence-files-show-new-levels-of-distrust-of-pakistan/2013/09/02/e19d03c2-11bf-11e3-b630-36617ca6640f_story.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

[17] See Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (6th edition) (OUP, 2004) at Proverbs, p. 622, n. 15.