“Secret” 1970 Intelligence Budget Revealed

04.27.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In 1970, the U.S. spent $6 billion on intelligence, according to a newly published account of a meeting that President Richard M. Nixon held with his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in July 1970.

“The President stated that the US is spending $6 billion per year on intelligence and deserves to receive a lot more for its money than it has been getting,” stated the record of the meeting, which was published in the latest volume of the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States series.

What makes this observation startling rather than banal is that the Central Intelligence Agency has gone to great lengths to try to keep such historical intelligence budget data out of the public domain.

In response to a 2001 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for aggregate and individual intelligence agency budget figures from 1947 through 1970, the CIA fought for five years to block disclosure of such information. Last year, D.C. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled in favor of the CIA (Aftergood v. CIA, Case No. 01-2524).

John E. McLaughlin, then-Acting Director of Central Intelligence, swore under oath that such disclosures could not be tolerated.

“Disclosure of [historical] intelligence budget information could assist in finding the locations of secret intelligence appropriations and thus defeat… congressionally approved clandestine funding mechanisms,” argued Mr. McLaughlin in a September 14, 2004 declaration (pdf).

Now some of the historical intelligence budget information that the CIA refused to disclose has been published by the U.S. State Department.

See “Record of President’s Meeting with the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board,” July 18, 1970.

President Nixon “could not put up with people lying to him about intelligence or giving warped evaluations,” the 1970 document continued.

“He believed that those responsible for deliberate slanting of reports should be fired. The time may be coming when he would have to read the riot act to the entire intelligence community.”