The federal government has revealed it spent $80 billion on intelligence gathering during last year, marking the first time the U.S. has disclosed the total amount spent by civilian spy agencies and the military. This is more than the rest of the world spent on intelligence. Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), noting that the intelligence budget had doubled since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has vowed to cut out waste. Are we spending too much on spying?
This spending is out of control, considering we're in a recession: There is no way to justify such a skyrocketing intelligence budget, say the editors of the Emptywheel blog at Firedoglake. "That's $258 a year for every man, woman, and child in this country." With the economy in tatters, "people losing their homes and relying on food stamps," we simply can't afford to spend that much on spying.
"The $258 of intelligence you bought this year"
Spying isn't cheap, and what would you cut? Gathering intelligence is expensive, says Thomas E. Ricks at Foreign Policy. For example, a large chunk of that $80 billion (a budget that's bigger than the economies of Panama or Jordan) probably went towards our satellite network. Yes, we could probably half our spending on intelligence without becoming less safe. "The question is: Which half?"
"U.S. spying: The 61st largest country"
Throwing money at the problem hasn't helped: If Washington's failure to "connect the dots" before 9/11 revealed anything, says Bernd Debusmann at Reuters, it's that our intelligence network was already "drowning in its own information." Doubling the budget is unlikely to have made Americans twice as safe. In fact, it may have made it even harder for analysts to spot danger in a "tsunami of data."
"US intelligence spending — value for money?"