We know how much money the Central Intelligence Agency spent last year and the year before, but we don't know how much the CIA is spending this year or next, because that, according to the government, would compromise national security. Even if we didn't know how much of the money was being spent where. The Clinton administration says even if just the grand total were to be revealed, it would be harmful. The public, in other words, only gets to know ex post facto how the CIA is spending its money, when it's too late to do anything about it.
This is one of the things the Federation of American Scientists is concerned about, and their lawsuit is now being heard in federal court. More after this for the Remington Microscreen 3.
President Clinton said in 1997 that he was in favor of releasing to the public the total amount of CIA spending, since it was their money, after all. And, indeed, it was released for 1997 and the following year, too. But now the Clinton administration has gone back to the CIA's old position, which was and once again is that it is none of the taxpayers' business how much of their money the CIA spends. All for their own good, of course, because, Justice Department trial lawyer Andrea Cohen told the court yesterday, Mr. Clinton's statement was a general policy statement, and that was then and this is now.
The world, she said, is very different today than what it was in 1997. A major change in overall spending could be a very useful clue, she says, to what our intelligence operation is up to. Not that there's been a major change or hasn't been one. But either way, they don't want our enemies to find out. And if the public finds out, the enemy is bound to find out, too.
There is a law, however, the Freedom of Information Act, under which the Federation of Scientists has filed its suit. The CIA uses the taxpayers' money carrying out its task, but if we inquire how much it is spending, the answer is back to 'Don't ask.'