It’s ridiculous that it has come to this, but…
“A federal judge yesterday ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to disclose its 1963 budget, marking the first time that a court has compelled the CIA to surrender intelligence budget information,” Defense Tech pal Steven Aftergood writes in today’s Secrecy News.
It is “ORDERED that the defendant [CIA] shall disclose the CIA budget figure for 1963 by May 6, 2005,” rules Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit filed by Aftergood.
In fact, the 1963 CIA budget figure — $550 million — is already known. Although CIA said it could not be disclosed, FAS [the Federation of American Scientists] showed (with the assistance of Prof. David Barrett of Villanova University) that it had been quietly declassified and released years ago. As a result, Judge Urbina determined that it was no longer exempt from disclosure under the FOIA.
Meanwhile, the 1962 CIA budget and the 1964 CIA budget, like most other intelligence budget figures since 1947, continue to be withheld.
It is CIA’s contention that disclosure of such budget figures could lead to the compromise of an intelligence method, namely the method by which Agency funding is hidden in the published budget. The court accepted this argument, based on the sworn declaration of Acting Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin in September 2004.
But as it happens, CIA’s argument is false. It is methodologically impossible to deduce or infer the clandestine funding mechanism from the total Agency budget figure, since there are too many variables involved. First of all, the number and identity of budget line items used to channel CIA funds is not constant. But even if those were somehow known, which they generally are not, there is no way to determine how the budget total is allocated among them.
Judge Urbina rejected this critique of ours, concluding that it is a subjective opinion that is not legally compelling. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the disclosure of the CIA 1963 budget figure has not compromised the funding mechanism for that year. (Whether it would matter if it had been compromised is a separate question.)
THERE’S MORE: The government’s resident keepers of all things classified, the Information Security Oversight Office, released its annual report yesterday. All told, there were 15,645,237 classification actions last year, up from 14.2 million in 2003.