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Snowden reveals the US intelligence ‘black budget’

A summary of the 2013 classified budget of the U.S. intelligence community was revealed on Thursday through a Washington Post report on documents obtained from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The documents that The Washington Post chose to publish after consulting with U.S. intelligence officials reveal, for the first time to the American public and the enemies and allies of the United States, the spending priorities within the U.S. intelligence community.

The budget’s secrecy from the broader public serves a pragmatic security function of concealing the covert and clandestine intelligence activities of the U.S. government from those who wish to harm Americans.

Critics of the budget’s secrecy, however, have argued that the public should be able to scrutinize the community’s spending.

According to the documents, U.S. taxpayers spent $52 billion on the government’s 16 intelligence agencies during fiscal year 2013.

The largest amount of money was requested by the CIA, which commanded 28 percent, or $14.7 billion, of the budget. The agency’s budget has grown approximately 56 percent since 2004.

As publicly alluded to by Snowden, the documents also show that the CIA and the NSA have “launched aggressive new efforts to hack into foreign computer networks to steal information or sabotage enemy systems, embracing what the budget refers to as ‘offensive cyber operations,’” the Post reports.

Snowden, Russian news outlet Kommersant reported Monday, lived at the Russian consulate for several days during his time in Hong Kong.

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