'Black budget' shows massive bureaucracy, misplaced priorities, expert says

Sep 02, 2013
'Black budget' shows massive bureaucracy, misplaced priorities, expert says
Fred H. Cate

Classified budget figures and successes and failures by American intelligence agencies, exposed for the first time this week by The Washington Post, show a massive bureaucracy with misplaced priorities, according to an Indiana University cybersecurity and privacy expert.

Through documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the Post was able to reveal details of how the U.S.'s $52.6 billion "black budget" is divvied up among the nation's 16 and how some of those agencies are using the money. According to IU Maurer School of Law Distinguished Professor Fred H. Cate, it appears, at least on the surface, that the government is creating barriers against its own interests.

"The major failure identified in all of the post-9/11 assessments was a 'failure to connect the dots,'" Cate said. "Nevertheless, the vast majority of the black budget is being spent on —collecting more dots—rather than analysis. It suggests we didn't learn much from the tragic attacks the 12th anniversary of which we are about to commemorate."

The secrecy of the numbers is also problematic, Cate argued. The Post agreed to withhold many sensitive details contained in their report, but publishing the budgetary summary—voluntarily—could provide significant benefits to the public, he said. Since 2007, the government has released the total level of on intelligence efforts, but never before has the public seen where that money goes.

"Why are the numbers secret in the first place?" Cate asked. "The high-level summary is informative without in any way compromising security, suggesting that the is designed to reduce public oversight, rather than advance any legitimate national interest. This suggests many Americans might think the money could be better spent elsewhere."

Another issue raised by the black budget is the significant investment in offensive cyberattacks. The Post's documents show that the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency have begun launching "offensive cyberoperations" against designated foes. This, Cate said, is problematic because there is no legal framework to regulate such activities, and it is inconsistent with outspoken U.S. opposition to cyberattacks by other countries, particularly China.

"When taken in context with earlier documents from Mr. Snowden, which suggest the U.S. is actively engaged in cyberespionage against China, Russia and others, this new report shows what a difficult position the U.S. is in," Cate said. "It is hard to publicly chastise other nations for engaging in activities that we appear to be conducting in secret and without a legal framework to control."

Perhaps the most challenging question facing Congress and the American public is the value of national security, Cate said.

"Is spending $52.6 billion a year worth what we are getting for it?" he asked. With cities going bankrupt, federal programs being decimated by budget cuts and hundreds of thousands of defense employees forced to stay home over sequestration, are these taxpayer dollars being well spent?

"The federal government spends about $5 billion a year on cancer research, despite the fact that over a half-million Americans die from various cancers annually," Cate said. "Is investing 10 times as much in the black budget yielding 10 times as much benefit as saving those half million lives every year? The secret allotment of tens of billions of dollars for efforts that no one can successfully say are working raises serious issues that Congress and the public should be addressing."

Explore further: US conducted 231 'offensive cyberoperations': report

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User comments : 17

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RichManJoe
5 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2013
"The federal government spends about $5 billion a year on cancer research, despite the fact that over a half-million Americans die from various cancers annually," Cate said. "Is investing 10 times as much in the black budget yielding 10 times as much benefit as saving those half million lives every year?" In this simple comparison, Cate forgot to add the amount of treating the cancers. Instead of 10 to 1, it is probably 3 to 1.

Guy_Underbridge
1.5 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2013
In this simple comparison, Cate forgot to add the amount of treating the cancers
Then I guess we should also include what we spend on DOD and HLS.. Instead of 10 to 1 it's probably 100 to 1.
CrisJ8
5 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2013
"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them." - Albert Einstein
John1948
not rated yet Sep 02, 2013
Good question - would the money be better spent on cancer research? Quite possibly. Even worse, does this huge black budget do the USA more harm than good? The rest of the world is getting increasingly infuriated at being spied and droned upon whilst the list of enemies and sceptics is ever growing (as the recent vote by the British parliament demonstrates - any war in Syria was deemed probably utterly futile and harmful, probably not for the stated reason and undoubtedly expensive).
rwinners
1 / 5 (2) Sep 02, 2013
I'm waiting for the next shoe....
julianpenrod
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 07, 2013
Take a lesson where a lesson is offered.
Only a week after September 11, there were pictures in the newspaper of happy and smiling diplomats and officials at a dinner dance in New York. Slightly later, at a "benefit" for those impacted by September 11, bands and singers displayed less solidarity in the face of a common foe and more greed in refusing to perform unless certain prices were met.
Then there is the claim that "American ports are porous to 'terrorist' infiltration", but no "terrorists" tried to take advantage of it.
And the overarching reality that there was no record of major, high profile "terrorist" events before September 11, but, after, they exploded in a rapid fire staccato.
And, now, those who supposedly know the "danger" are playing games and pilfering the money.
The "war on 'terror'" is all a lie, a contrived fabrication to allow the criminals in government to thieve wantonly.
Noumenon
1.2 / 5 (24) Sep 07, 2013
Take a lesson where a lesson is offered.
Only a week after September 11, there were pictures in the newspaper of happy and smiling diplomats and officials at a dinner dance in New York. [...].
Then there is the claim that "American ports are porous to 'terrorist' infiltration", but no "terrorists" tried to take advantage of it.
And the overarching reality that there was no record of major, high profile "terrorist" events before September 11, but, after, they exploded in a rapid fire staccato.
And, now, those who supposedly know the "danger" are playing games and pilfering the money.
The "war on 'terror'" is all a lie, a contrived fabrication to allow the criminals in government to thieve wantonly.


Government doesn't have the competence to pull that off.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2013
Throughout the history of criminality and espionage, which are basically one and the same, among the most successful have been those who convinced the gullible and shallow that they couldn't be responsible for the loss of important materials.
But it doesn't even need to be as involved as that. What does Noumenon mean when they say government isn't capable"? Namely, that they haven't shown the ability to provide for the welfare of the public. But that's precisely the purpose of a government that would lie about "terrorism" to set up mechanisms to steal from the public! That's not in the public's interest! That's why government "is not capable", not that they aren't capable of serving the interests of the public, but that they aren't at any time even trying to promote the welfare of the people! They seem enormously able to give out fat contracts to cronies, launch wars to steal other nations' resources, make themselves richs and convince the dullards they're legit.
Noumenon
1 / 5 (23) Sep 07, 2013
The unintended consequences of the incompetence of government reaps more havoc than anything they could conspire by design.

It is why gov should be limited in scope and power.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2013
As I said, government has never been incompetent in making the rich richer. It has always managed that. There is no "havoc" for the rich from the government's machinations, ever. What Noumenon is trying to suggest is that government is incompetent in promoting the welfare of the public. But, if you are not aiming for the welfare of the public, if you are working toward something else than the welfare of the public, you can be judged "incompetent" at that task. But, too, is must be recognized that, what you always succeed in, should be at least suggested to be what you are, in fact, aiming at, and proof that you are competent at it. Noumenon quite literally is working to prevent that fact from necessarily ever being acknowledged, and since Noumenon provides nothing but smug, arch remarks to "defend" their point, it cannot be declared necessarily legitimate or valid.
The "war on 'terror'" is a lie and Noumenon seems to have no qualms working to promote it.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2013
@Noumenon Government doesn't have the competence to pull that off.
Government and corporations are the same effective entity. Politicians and administration heads go through the revolving door into corporate life and back again into government. Collectively they have sufficient competence to accomplish 9/11 with Mossad leadership

The "war on 'terror'" is actually the war for BIG DATA so that corporations can expunge any free will from consumers by knowing every minute detail of their lives so as to blackmail them with terrabytes of compromat
Noumenon
1 / 5 (21) Sep 08, 2013
Wrt 'making the rich richer' and crony capitalism and corporations, ....while this is true, it is because corporations are GOOD at protecting their interests while government is BAD at protecting the interests of the people by preventing such corruption.

It is just another argument for limiting the power of government.

Its already a given and a necessity for which I have no problem, that corporations will seek their own interests. It is just the a-priori mechanics of capitalism in free society. But freedom of choice is where the power really lies, not in corporations.

antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 08, 2013
orporations are GOOD at protecting their interests while government is BAD at protecting the interests of the people by preventing such corruption.

It is just another argument for limiting the power of government.

I would have thought that that particular argument would be for more government control - not against it. The reason why corporations are good at protecting their interests is that they can invest in such practices (lobbying, buying politicians, emplying lawyers to find loopholes in tax codes, etc. ) which negate any kind of government actions to look out for the people's interests.

If you limit government control even more: how exactly is that going to become better for the people?
Noumenon
1 / 5 (21) Sep 08, 2013
The "war on 'terror'" is actually the war for BIG DATA so that corporations can expunge any free will from consumers by knowing every minute detail of their lives so as to blackmail them with terrabytes of compromat


A wild conspiracy linking corporations with the NSA is not necessary here, only an understanding of the natural conclusion of "progressive liberalism" vrs conservatism.

You profess to be anti-conservatism and borderline pro-socialist,... so you are disparate to blame corporations rather than government and your own ideology, here.

It is the nature and propensity of government to expand and subject more and more people to its dependency. This is what progressive liberalism IS.

Government will evolve to socialism unless constantly limited in power by conservative votes,.. which MEANS control over human behavior, social engineering, statistical data gathering, law writing, the NSA data mining. Its what people like you beg for by voting leftist.
Noumenon
1 / 5 (21) Sep 08, 2013
The "war on 'terror'" is actually the war for BIG DATA so that corporations can expunge any free will from consumers by knowing every minute detail of their lives so as to blackmail them with terrabytes of compromat


Gibberish conspiracy.

Corporations have no power except by the free choice of consumers.

Government has coercive power, while corporations have none, except only by making products and services freely desired by consumers.

If corporations can't supply DEMAND to free consumers they are nothing, while if government doesn't supply liberty to free citizens, they're everything.
Noumenon
0.9 / 5 (20) Sep 08, 2013
orporations are GOOD at protecting their interests while government is BAD at protecting the interests of the people by preventing such corruption.

It is just another argument for limiting the power of government.

I would have thought that that particular argument would be for more government control - not against it. [..].. corporations are good at protecting their interests [...by] lobbying, buying politicians, emplying lawyers to find loopholes in tax codes, etc. ) which negate any kind of government actions to look out for the people's interests.

If you limit government control even more: how exactly is that going to become better for the people?


Because crony capitalists are attracted by opportunity and self interest to gov incompetence like ants to honey. The larger the scope of gov the more spreading of honey for the ants.
Noumenon
1.6 / 5 (23) Sep 08, 2013
With the NSA the far leftists are in a ideological dilemma; they want big government control but are not happy when it they get it.