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September 24, 2021

US intelligence agencies’ ‘black budget’ detailed

The CIA’s budget has grown more than 50 percent since 2004.
In the latest bit of information to come from documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Germany’s Der Spiegel reports that the NSA spied on Al Jazeera, slate.com reports. The NSA hacked into the Qatar-based channel’s “internal communications system,” reports Der Spiegel, a feat it seemed to be particularly proud of because the agency listed it as a “notable success.” But while the documents reviewed by Der Spiegel make it clear the channel’s communications system was hacked, they do not specify “to what extent the intelligence agency spied on journalists or managers of the media company, or whether the surveillance is ongoing.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post also publishes a scoop based on Snowden documents, revealing the United States carried out 231 “offensive cyber-operations” in 2011. It marks the latest evidence that intelligence officials “infiltrate and disrupt foreign computer networks” to a degree that is “far broader and more aggressive than previously understood,” write Barton Gellman and Ellen Nakashima. The Snowden documents broadly illustrate how the United States has shifted its cyberwar efforts away from solely defensive efforts to prevent attacks and has moved quickly into offensive operations. Under one effort that goes by the code name GENIE, experts attempt to break into foreign machines to plant malware and put them under the surreptitious control of U.S. officials. Officials insist these efforts are solely related to security threats and that U.S. employees are expressly forbidden from carrying out any kind of economic espionage.
A breakdown of US intelligence’s multi-billion dollar “black budget” has also been revealed in files disclosed by Snowden. The CIA’s budget is the most expensive, USD 14.7bn out of USD 52.6bn in total for 16 intelligence agencies, according to the files. The US has not made public a breakdown of the total intelligence budget.
The Washington Post published charts detailing the budget, but did not post all the documents, citing “sensitive details” after US officials expressed concerns about risks to methods and sources. According to the Washington Post, the CIA’s budget has grown more than 50 percent since 2004.
The CIA and the NSA have also launched “offensive cyber operations” to hack into or sabotage enemy computer networks, according to the files.
The documents reportedly refer to China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel as “priority” counterintelligence targets. Israel is an American ally, though it has previously conducted espionage against the US.
Microsoft, Google sue US for right to reveal nature of surveillance requests
Microsoft and Google announced Friday they are going forward with a lawsuit against the US government for the right to reveal more information about official requests for customer data by American intelligence, Russia Today reports.The companies originally filed suits in June following revelations provided by Edward Snowden of their relationship with the National Security Agency and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the government’s requests of the companies’ systems.
Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith announced the companies were following through with a suit, saying negotiations with the government since June have not yielded significant progress. The companies maintain they should be allowed to disclose the nature of their relationship with government spying — via the program known as PRISM — in the face of public criticism after the NSA stories were reported by The Guardian and The Washington Post.

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