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Holding the Government Accountable

Budget Secrecy Preventing Oversight

The 9/11 Discourse Project, a private venture by the all of the former 9/11 Commissioners to educate and push for their recommendations, released it's Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations yesterday. The grades are not pretty.

One easy place for Congress to score an 'A' on is in unclassifying the top-line intelligence budget number for which Congress is currently given an 'F'. There's no risk to national security: if the public knows that the we spend $40 billion or $50 billion on the intelligence community that doesn't reveal any secret that makes us more vulnerable. For example, disclosure that Los Alamos National Laboratory has a total budget of around $2 billion doesn't reveal the secrets of nuclear weapons.

While there's no imaginable damage to national security that could result from top-line buget disclosure, there's a great advantage to it. The 9/11 Discourse Project report says:

The Congress cannot do robust intelligence oversight when funding for intelligence programs is buried within the defense budget. Declassifying the overall intelligence budget would allow for a separate annual intelligence appropriations bill, so that the Congress can judge better how intelligence funds are being spent.

Congress should especially take interest in how intelligence money is spent now because the Cunningham-Wilkes-Wade scandal involves the secretive world of defense and intelligence contracting.