“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.”

See all publications
Nuclear Weapons
New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship: Creative Perspectives on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence 

To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.

11.28.23 | 3 min read
read more
Science Policy
Expected Utility Forecasting for Science Funding

Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.

11.20.23 | 11 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons Sharing, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]

11.17.23 | 1 min read
read more
Social Innovation
Community School Approach Reaches High of 60%, Reports Latest Pulse Panel

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.

11.17.23 | 4 min read
read more