'Black budget' shows CIA swells in size - Snowden leak
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked the government's "black budget" for fiscal year 2013 to The Washington Post, which published portions of the top-secret document online in the latest in a series of revelations that have put the US intelligence community under a spotlight.
The $52.6 billion budget request for the nation's 16 spy agencies is not a startling revelation in itself - the White House has published overall intelligence spending since 2007.
But it shows a dramatic resurgence of the Central Intelligence Agency, once thought to be on the decline after it acknowledged intelligence failures prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It now is the dominant colossus within the national intelligence community, expanding its workforce by more than 25 percent from a decade ago, to 21,575 this year.
CIA has increased its budget request to $14.7 billion, nearly 50 percent more than the NSA this year, according to the Post's review of the documents, even as government austerity has forced agencies to contend with shrinking budgets.
By comparison, in 1994 the CIA accounted for $4.8 billion of the total $43.4 billion intel budget in 2012 dollars, according to the Post.
In the budget's introduction, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that the intelligence community faced "hard choices" as government is forced to rein in costs.
Spending is projected to remain level through 2017, but Clapper stressed that "never before has the IC (intelligence community) been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment."
Snowden's earlier disclosures to Britain's The Guardian newspaper and the Post uncovered details of the NSA's vast surveillance programs that scooped up data on nearly every American.
The NSA has long been considered the behemoth of the intelligence community, but according to the black budget, CIA's resources are nearly 50 percent larger.
The funding pays for an array of spy satellites, high-tech equipment and employees including analysts, linguistic experts, cryptologists and an increasing number of cyber specialists.
But CIA resources have also been funding secret prisons, an enlarged counterterrorism center, a series of paramilitary operations, and some $2.3 billion in human intelligence operations, the Post said.
It is also spending $2.6 billion on "covert action programs," which include deployment of lethal drones, payments to militias in places like Afghanistan, and efforts to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.
Paris prosecutors have launched an investigation into alleged US spying under the Prism programme following complaints by two human rights groups, sources close to the case said Wednesday.
An investigation was launched on July 16 into fraudulent access to personal data and personal correspondence following complaints by the International Federation of Human Rights and the League of Human Rights, they said.
Documents leaked by former CIA worker Edward Snowden suggest that the data-gathering centre GCHQ has had access to a US Internet-monitoring programme since at least June 2010.
Prism is said to give the National Security Agency and FBI easy access to the systems of nine of the world's top Internet companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.
The complaint in France also seeks more light on the role played by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Paltak, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple in the scandal.
American police and intelligence agencies are after Facebook users, the company has revealed in its first report on such requests. The social network is the latest technology company to release figures on how often governments seek information about its users. Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have done this earlier in the wake of revelations about data surveillance by the National Security Agency through the PRISM program.
Facebook and other technology companies have been criticized for helping the National Security Agency secretly collect data on customers. Federal law gives government the authority to demand data without specific warrants.
The report said government agents in 74 countries demanded information on some 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, with about half the requests coming from authorities in the United States, Facebook said Tuesday.
It’s not clear from the data how many of some 26,000 government requests were for law-enforcement purposes and how many were for intelligence gathering.
Social networks, mainly Facebook and Twitter, have recently become organizing platforms for activists and opposition playing a big part in the Arab Spring uprisings and, thus, are targeted by the governments. During anti-government protests in Turkey in May and June, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called social media "the worst menace to society."
The Facebook report showed that authorities in Turkey submitted 96 requests about 173 users. Facebook said it provided some information in about 45 of those cases, but there’s no information on what was turned over and why.
"We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests," Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, said. "When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name."
"The data included in the report related to Turkey is about child endangerment and emergency law enforcement requests," Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said.
Technology and government officials have said criminal investigations are far more common than national security matters as a justification for demanding information from companies.
Britain filed the second-most requests for data from Facebook: 1,975 requests from 2,337 user accounts. Facebook said it complied 68 percent of the time. France, Germany, India and Italy also made more than 1,000 requests during the first half of 2013.
Facebook said on its Web site that it plans to release the data reports regularly. The Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based nonprofit group, said in a statement that while it congratulates Facebook for releasing the data request report, it wants the Obama administration to allow technology firms to be more specific about the number and scope of requests issued by the US government.
"[We] hope that the Obama administration and Congress will work together to ensure that companies like Facebook can soon engage in meaningful transparency reporting about the full range of government surveillance of Internet users," said Kevin Bankston, the group’s free expression director.
Voice of Russia, AFP