James Clapper is the director of national intelligence. / Susan Walsh, AP
WASHINGTON - The U.S. government will spend $52 billion on intelligence programs this year, but it often fails to provide the president with information needed to protect national security, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The Post's story is based on the intelligence community's secret budget, which it obtained from Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who has leaked information on the nation's most secretive spy agencies and their programs.
The disclosures could cause "significant" damage to U.S. national security interests, said Paul Pillar, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and former top official at the CIA.
U.S. adversaries now know they need to "erect fences" to protect against cyberattacks, they may help the "insider threats" escape the United States before they can be captured, and countries such as Iran and North Korea have a "roadmap" on how to avoid U.S. spying, he said.
"I see significant potential for damage in what the Post decided to publish," said Pillar, who also teaches at Georgetown University. "No doubt they withheld much else that would have been damaging."
The Post reported that it withheld details from the 178-page budget at the request of the government, which said it could expose key sources. Overall spending on intelligence budgets has been made public for years, but the details of the spending plan have been a closely held secret.
The budget discloses "blind spots" for the spy agencies that include some of the top national security concerns, including the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons components, the capability of China's warplanes and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
Among the highlights of the budget, according to the Post:
â?¢ The CIA and NSA have launched offensive cyberoperations to hack into foreign computer networks to steal secrets and commit sabotage. USA TODAY has reported on the military's efforts to develop offensive cyber abilities, including the capability to knock off an adversary's computer networks.
â?¢ The CIA is the intelligence community's top dog, spending $14 billion, half again as much as the NSA, the top eavesdropping agency.
â?¢ The NSA planned to investigate 4,000 "insider threats" in which one of the agency's own, like Snowden, divulged secrets.
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Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Report: U.S. spying is costly but often ineffective