In a blow to open government, the House of Representatives has rejected a move by the Clinton Administration to -- for the first time -- make public the overall national intelligence budget, The Washington Post reported on May 23.
The rejection came on a vote of 248 to 176 on an amendment to a bill that would fund the CIA and 11 other, mostly Pentagon-based, intelligence agencies.
The ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] had supported the amendment, saying that "taxpayers have a right to know what their tax dollars support."
But the Post said that House Intelligence Chairman Larry Combest, R-TX, opposed disclosure in committee and led the opposition on the floor yesterday. He said making the overall figure public inevitably would lead to disclosure of individual intelligence accounts, which, he said, could harm clandestine sources and methods.
ACLU Legislative Counsel Gregory T. Nojeim disagreed. "Disclosure of the bottom-line figure is the absolute minimum that Congress should do to make the intelligence agencies accountable to the American public," he said. "All of these intelligence agencies have acknowledged that any Cold War justification for keeping the total budget secret has passed."
[CNI News comments: The Clinton Administration is to be commended for trying to bring this information into the open, even if unsuccessfully. However, it is deplorable that the House voted to maintain blanket secrecy over the entire intelligence budget. In the recent past, massive abuse of secret funds by several agencies, including the NSA and NRO, have been disclosed, and these abuses are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. Until public accountability is brought back into balance with the demands of national security, democracy in America is in serious jeopardy.]
Original file name: .CNI - Intel Budget Secret 5.30
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