"This decision deprives the public of the most basic form of accountability," said Steven Aftergood of the FAS, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. "It allows the CIA and Congress once again to spend taxpayer money in violation of the Constitutional requirement for budget disclosure."
"It's a huge chunk of money....The intelligence community has extraordinary power and therefore requires extraordinary oversight, which it hasn't always received," Aftergood said.
Every year since 1991 the FAS has sued the intelligence agency in an attempt to force it to reveal the intelligence topline, which is actually a compendium of a compendium parts of budgets from 13 agencies.
CIA Director George Tenet voluntarily released the number in 1997 and 1998 $26.6 billion and $26.7 billion respectively but resisted releasing the fiscal year 1999 topline, citing concerns about revealing trends in spending to potential adversaries. His stand was upheld Nov. 12, when D.C. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan federal district judge dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice.
Aftergood contended in his lawsuit that Tenet's refusal to release the budget topline this year directly contradicted a 1996 statement from President Clinton's spokesman indicating the president believed "that disclosure of the annual amount appropriated for intelligence purposes will not, in itself, harm intelligence activities."
Hogan rejected this statement represents a presidential determination as to the declassification of the intelligence budget, and said until the president explicitly orders the release of the number, whether to do so should remain the decision of the CIA director.