from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 51
June 7, 2004


The Central Intelligence Agency budget for fiscal year 1955 was $335 million, according to newly disclosed classified budget documents from half a century ago.

The 1955 CIA budget included $225 million for normal operations "and a contingency reserve of $110 million for unforeseen emergencies and/or projects which were not planned."

CIA funds are not appropriated directly. The 1955 CIA budget was concealed within eleven separate line items in the Department of Defense budget, from which it was transferred to the Agency.

This budget information is still considered "classified" by the CIA, which adheres to a Cold War information security policy.

The 1955 CIA budget information was described in a May 11, 1954 letter from the CIA to the Senate Appropriations Committee, with various attachments.

The budget documents were located by Prof. David Barrett of Villanova University in the course of his archival research for a forthcoming book on the history of intelligence oversight.

Prof. Barrett generously provided a copy of this material to Secrecy News. See:

For several years, the Federation of American Scientists has been seeking the declassification of historical intelligence budget information from 1947 to 1970 in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA. Last week, coincidentally, the judge in that proceeding ordered the parties to propose a schedule for the filing of dispositive motions.


The leadership of the House of Representatives has declined to conduct an investigation into the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison and related questions about prisoner interrogation, calling it a distraction from the war on terrorism.

But even some Republicans are dismayed by what they consider a dereliction of their duty to conduct oversight.

"We should be doing this directly and bluntly, and in the House we are not," Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) told the New York Times (06/06/04). "It's been very disappointing to me."

Now House Democratic leaders are moving to fill the oversight void and they are seeking the cooperation of the White House to acquire 35 specified categories of documents concerning prisoner interrogation that they said are needed to conduct a meaningful investigation.

"We are writing to inform you of our determination to investigate the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere and to request your assistance in obtaining key documents," wrote six senior Democrats in a June 3 letter to President Bush.

The authors, all ranking members of their respective committees, were Reps. Henry Waxman, John Conyers, David Obey, Ike Skelton, Tom Lantos and Jane Harman.

See their June 3 letter here:


The term "weapons of mass destruction," like "terrorism," is often used as a rhetorical blunderbuss rather than to achieve strategic clarity. There are so many qualitatively distinct technologies and substances that qualify as WMD that basic differences between threats of global apocalypse and minor hazards which may result in few or no casualties are obscured.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service attempts to unpack this loaded term and to evaluate some of its diverse components, focusing on the potential for small-scale terrorist attacks involving the use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW).

The CRS report proposes an analytical framework that considers the difficulty of manufacturing or acquiring various CBW agents, the feasibility of using them as weapons, their public health impact, the availability of medical treatment, and various other factors.

It promptly becomes clear that not all CBW threats are equal or equally urgent. The ranking of threats logically implies a prioritization of needed countermeasures and defenses, and the beginning of a sensible policy approach.

See "Small-scale Terrorist Attacks Using Chemical and Biological Agents: An Assessment Framework and Preliminary Comparisons" by Dana A. Shea and Frank Gottron, Congressional Research Service, May 20, 2004 (89 pages, 750 KB PDF file):


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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