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United States Security The Almighty Buck

Classified US Intel Budget Revealed Via Powerpoint 364

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the woops-they-did-it-again dept.
Atario writes "In a holdover from the Cold War when the number really did matter to national security, the size of the US national intelligence budget remains one of the government's most closely guarded secrets. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the highest intelligence agency in the country that oversees all federal intelligence agencies, appears to have inadvertently released the keys to that number in an unclassified PowerPoint presentation now posted on the website of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). By reverse engineering the numbers in an underlying data element embedded in the presentation, it seems that the total budget of the 16 US intelligence agencies in fiscal year 2005 was $60 billion, almost 25% higher than previously believed."
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Classified US Intel Budget Revealed Via Powerpoint

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  • by ReidMaynard (161608) * on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:08AM (#19464845) Homepage
    These are not the budget numbers you are looking for..
  • by jeffs72 (711141) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:08AM (#19464849) Journal
    This is good proof that security through obscurity doesn't work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dave1791 (315728)
      From TFA, it soundly like somebody forgot to strip the hidden data.

      It's been taken down though, slashdotted before the first post even...
      • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:44AM (#19465329) Journal

        From TFA, it soundly like somebody forgot to strip the hidden data.

        This right here is proof as far as I'm concerned that anybody who seriously thinks that the US Government staged 9/11, shot down TWA 800, killed JFK or faked the Apollo landings really needs to have their head examined.

        Seriously. This seems like the third or forth story along these lines in as many weeks. Recall the Coalition Provisional Authority leaks because somebody couldn't disable the previous versions feature of word. And now this?

        I'm sorry, but our Government is too incompetent to manage any of the things above. I kinda wish they were in a way... then maybe Iraq wouldn't be such a mess, Katrina would have been handled correctly and 9/11 wouldn't have happened.

        • by mgblst (80109) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:11AM (#19465729) Homepage
          This right here is proof as far as I'm concerned that anybody who seriously thinks that the US Government staged 9/11, shot down TWA 800, killed JFK or faked the Apollo landings really needs to have their head examined.
           
          Except that the "mistakes" like these are done by the government, so that you would think exactly that. You have just fallen into their trap!

          Not really, but your logic makes about as much sense as the conspiracy theorists. Just because one idiot who works for the government screwed up, doesn't imply anything about other people, and other agencies? Why would it? Just like saying someone working for one company screwed up, so all companies must be incompetent, and have been for 40 years? Do you not think that sounds screwy as well?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            The point is that most conspiracies would require a huge amount of people spread amongst many agencies, yet somehow they all remained silent and no one made a mistake. The odds of any group of people that size pulling that off once is astronomical, numerous times it inconceivable. Hell, with the moon landing people all over the world cooperated, key monitoring stations were civilians were manned by Australian civilian scientists.

            Yet somehow the government is also incompetent and inept.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cyphercell (843398)

            Except that the "mistakes" like these are done by the government, so that you would think exactly that.

            I know you're joking, but it's really called misinformation and could easily be used to discourage from people estimating the real number. Maybe earlier estimates were dead on, and the DIA got a little sketched. Bottom line, intelligence like this is very weak because your main source is also your target, god only knows what they're lying and what kind of paranoid off the wall scheme they are going to come up with next.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Maxo-Texas (864189)
            I always feel like the CIA is the stupid cover agency for the "real" agency that is effective. To some extent, this is sort of true via the NSA vs CIA.

            I also think the real purpose of a lot of our financial aid is to keep nations in africa and other places balkanized and ineffectual.

            But I'm just paranoid.
        • by turing_m (1030530) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:17AM (#19465797)
          Obviously you've never heard of Operation Mincemeat then. You know, the one where the Allies put fake landing plans on a dead guy left to wash up on a Spanish beach.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mincemeat [wikipedia.org]

          If they can successfully go to those lengths, how hard is it to accidentally-on-purpose leave some bogus figures in a Powerpoint presentation?
        • by plague3106 (71849) on Monday June 11, 2007 @12:44PM (#19466945)
          This right here is proof as far as I'm concerned that anybody who seriously thinks that the US Government staged 9/11, shot down TWA 800, killed JFK or faked the Apollo landings really needs to have their head examined.

          Right... because some office worker is dumb (or simply didn't know the need to strip the data), it then follows that EVERYONE in the government is just as dumb / incompetent.

          Very good logic there.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by J'raxis (248192)

          Really faulty logic there. Just because a government is capable of making incredibly mind-boggling mistakes, does not mean the same government is not capable of conducting other activities extremely well. Let's remember that the US government:

          • has to track, in order to collect taxes, the incomes of over a million Americans down to the nearest dollar,
          • is responsible for running the biggest military system in the world,
          • is apparently able to wiretap many if not all Internet users in the country,
          • has the lar
      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday June 11, 2007 @12:03PM (#19466433) Homepage Journal
        I don't use PowerPoint so I wonder. Is there a command to "strip the hidden data"?
        Do you have to go into a binary editor and see the data?
        Seems to me that this shows the dangers of a proprietary file format.
        Will the US Government now have to comb through nasty binary formats to check what data is retained and what data isn't?
        It would be nice if these file formats where open and documented wouldn't? Sure would make doing security checks on the files a lot simpler.
        Just some food for thought.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by dattaway (3088)
      Yes sir! Their policy is their mission statement:

      Committed to Excellence in Defense of The Nation

      Notice its "The Nation" and not "Our Nation."
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        "The nation" and "our nation" is and can be the same thing. It really depend on who is speaking and what nation they are in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      This is good proof that security through obscurity doesn't work.

      No it isn't. The concept of "security through obscurity" has nothing to do with this, this was not an attempt to hide the actual figure in a haystack and hope no one would find it. What's going on here is called stupidity. Whoever put the slides together didn't think through what actual information was embedded in the PowerPoint, didn't understand how PowerPoint works. This has *nothing* to do with attempting to hide something, it has to do w

      • by sumdumass (711423)
        I'm left wondering if a flashy power point presentation was really needed or if the "I know how to use office" on the resume got someone looking to jazz things up and get a promotion.

        I'm also wondering it this would have been the same problem with any version of powerpoint or is something equivalent to MS power point could have avoided it all together.

        It seems to me that we have had quite a few leaks revolving around MS products, the insistence on using them, and under-qualified people using them to do the
    • Not really (Score:3, Informative)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      the good way to hide something that will be spotted s to purposely obscure it with all sorts of mis-information. Think about it. There is no way to encrypt a movie or a picture. But if you hide it in a bunch of mis-information, then it is possible to keep it hidden. Al Qaeda has long ago given up using human carriers or encrytion. They embed their information in various files all over. Then they use human carriers to say which set of files to look at. This is called Steganography.

      That is also how the DOD,
  • Stargate (Score:5, Funny)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:09AM (#19464863)
    Well, they have to fund the Stargate program SOMEHOW don't they? Why not take the money from an agency that nobody would suspect of being involved? :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aranykai (1053846)
      No no, your all wrong. They funded SG project with all the money they siphoned from NASA when they faked the moon landings. Any REAL nerd would know that...
    • Don't they fund the SG project through patents on alien technology held by shell companies?
    • Oh c'mon, don't you watch your MiB? They fund all those alien programs with patents gained from alien technology.

      Why the hell do you think they're so head over heels with the protection of intellectual property? Because of some industries? Oh c'mon...
    • Re:Stargate (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:35AM (#19465201) Homepage Journal
      I thought the Stargate program pays for itself (indeed, even turns a profit) by selling off all the technology they brought back.

      I've always been amused by the premise of this franchise. It comes from one a (supposedly) non-fiction book called The Stargate Conspiracy, which claims that a secret cabal is bringing back alien technology through a portal dug up in Egypt, and trading it for money and power. The amusing thing is that the TV show makes the same people who were the evil conspirators in the book into the good guys!
      • Re:Stargate (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Malakusen (961638) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:39AM (#19466065) Journal

        The amusing thing is that the TV show makes the same people who were the evil conspirators in the book into the good guys!


        Well, if you were behind the evil conspiracy revealed in that book, wouldn't something like this be the ideal way to defuse the book and its accusations?

        Duh
  • HA! HA!

    take that classified info!
    • Outdated link (Score:5, Informative)

      by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:13AM (#19464937)
      Yeah, that's no longer there.

      It's now been posted [fas.org] by the Federation of American Scientists.

      There are, however, a number of other contracting briefs and presentations posted here [dia.mil]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by d474 (695126)
        It took 110 hours to complete this PowerPoint presentation, according to the stats in properties. That's almost 14 days at 8 hours a day. No wonder their budget is so fucking high. I'd hate to see how long it takes for them to actually DO something.
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:10AM (#19464903)
    The intelligence community is so large and diverse, that it is literally quite possible that the government itself didn't know how much money was spent on "intelligence".

    Not because of incompetence, corruption, waste, or secrecy - though all those are certainly elements to varying degrees - but in reality because of the wide variety of agencies and activities that fall under the guise of "intelligence" [intelligence.gov].

    The article itself notes, correctly:

    This top line $60 billion figure is 25% above the estimated $48 billion budget for FY 08. It is quite probable that this total figure was not even known by the government until recently. Greater control and oversight of the Intelligence Community budget was a hallmark of the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 that created the position of the Director of National Intelligence and gave it the mandate to get an overview of the entire amount spent on intelligence government-wide. To this end, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has recently gathered all parts of the previously fragmented Intelligence Community budget together for the first time as part of its Intelligence Resource Information System (IRIS). In the report from the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence released last Thursday, the committee praised the Office of the Director of Intelligence for creating a "single budget system called the Intelligence Resource Information System." It also recognizes their efforts in helping create what "will be used for further inquiry by the Committee's budget and audit staffs and will be a baseline that allows the Congress and DNI to derive trend data from future reports."

    Earlier, lower estimates were most likely only included what fell directly under the Director of Central Intelligence and which would have omitted parts of NSA, NRO. A total Intelligence Community number, with the Intelligence Community as defined by 50 U.S.C. 401a(4), would also now include the various military intelligence services (e.g. Army Intel, Navy Intel, etc.), each with its respective weapon technology intelligence exploitation shop. A total budget would also include a large portion of the budget of the Department of Homeland Security which was previously fragment across multiple government agencies. A $60 billion government-wide Intelligence Community budget is not at all out of line with the post 9/11 organizational reality. It seems that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is just now getting a clear picture of the fragmented intelligence community budget.


    When you're dealing with sixteen separate agencies, including elements from the Department of Defense, to say something like "intelligence budget" is almost meaningless. What's pure intelligence? What's national defense? What is a mix? In fact, it often comes down to what some particular task or program is "anointed" by management. Different areas get reorganized and shuffled into different organizational structures. To say nothing of the fact that the addition of DHS to the Intelligence Community was the largest government reorganization in over a half-century, since the creation of the Department of Defense and CIA by the National Security Act of 1947.

    Shuffle more, and you can probably make the "intelligence" budget appear lower. But the truth is that "it seems that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is just now getting a clear picture of the fragmented intelligence community budget."

    And that should be a good thing.

    On a different note, revealing classified or sensitive information by improper handling of technology solutions is a perennial problem, and it still floors me that the vetting and release process doesn't properly capture things like this (though they've gotten MUCH better).
    • To follow up on this comment a bit, it's not like these aren't all elements that weren't already being paid for out of some budget. They were. It's just that a lot of the pieces in the past were probably considered part of the "defense" budget as opposed to the "intelligence" budget. It's a semantic distinction when it comes to the dollars, but I'll agree it is interesting for people to know from an organizational perspective, especially since the Intelligence Community budget has traditionally been officia
  • Compared to? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:11AM (#19464917) Homepage Journal
    60 billion huh?

    Does anyone know how much that budget was back in 2000?
    • by FredDC (1048502)
      Got any old powerpoint presentations lying around somewhere?
    • RTFA ! (Score:5, Informative)

      by alexhs (877055) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:50AM (#19465417) Homepage Journal
      70 % of the budget from FY95 to FY06 (up to August 31), in tens of millions of dollars,
      third column for 100% :

      95 1850 2643
      96 1950 2786
      97 1800 2571
      98 1775 2536
      99 2150 3071
      00 1754 2506
      01 2170 3100
      02 3140 4486
      03 4203 6004
      04 4049 5784
      05 4200 6000
      06 3964 5663

      So, from 1995 to 2005, an increase of 227%, correspondig to an annual increase of 8,5%.
      And, from 2000 to 2005, an increase of 239%, corresponding to an annual increase of 19,1%.
      • Re:RTFA ! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:08AM (#19465691) Homepage Journal

        70 % of the budget from FY95 to FY06 (up to August 31), in tens of millions of dollars,
        third column for 100% :
        So, between 25 to 30 before 9-11, and then between 55 and 60 after.

        Basically, their budget doubled as a result.
        Thanks for RTFA and giving me the bit I wanted :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by daveschroeder (516195) *
        The talk of massive "increases" is a bit deceptive. The reason there appears to be more "intelligence" spending is that a lot more things are considered "intelligence" activities now.

        TFA speaks to this exact point. The biggest increase didn't happen between "1995 and 2005" or "2000 and 2005", but between 2001-2003, when the largest government restructuring in nearly sixty years - since the creation of DOD and CIA with the National Security Act of 1947 - added a whole slew of capabilities and entities to the
  • by astrashe (7452) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:13AM (#19464931) Journal
    I sort of feel like this is telling us stuff we ought to know anyway.

    • Re:Quote from ID4 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:49AM (#19465407) Journal

      You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?

      Well, yeah, they actually probably do, but only in no-bid contracts awarded to whatever company the Director of the Federal agency requesting the contract worked for previously. ;)

      • Re:Quote from ID4 (Score:5, Informative)

        by u-bend (1095729) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:01AM (#19465589) Homepage Journal
        Couple of points on your post:
        1. How right you are about the no-bid, money-wasting thing--it's happening right now in Iraq, where millions have been wasted and in many cases, little reconstruction to show for it [coastalpost.com] (sorry about the Coastal Post link--it was in major news publications a couple of weeks ago, but this is the most relevant recent hit in a Google News "Bechtel Iraq" search).
        2. Isn't it sad that you have to say "probably," because in so many cases, it seems like these huge taxpayer decisions are made without anyone knowing about them?
        • by Miseph (979059)
          really, Bechtel wasting money? Who'd have thought that the company that did all the Big Dig work would turn out to be corrupt, wasteful, incompetent and outright fraudulent? I know I'm shocked.
  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by Silver Sloth (770927)
    And what's happened to their AMD budget?
  • I'd hardly call this reverse engineering. The unclassified document was made so by simply removing the scale from a graph.

    This is even worse than declassifying documents by putting a box on top of text in a PDF. How can people be so stupid?

    • by Himring (646324) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:37AM (#19465251) Homepage Journal
      Because government people are still people and they, and you and I -- and everyone -- are stupid.... I try to be careful in my old age anymore with judging, blaming and thinking others are stupider. I've got waaay too many screwups on my record to talk. It is simply a matter of time before you (or me) has our next big stupid moment in finances, love, work, etc. Just because they work for the government doesn't mean they are different or better or worse. Probably one of the best arguments against vast and complex conspiracies is simply that: that people in any conspiracy are just stupid people like me and you.

      To quote Bullet Tooth Tony:

      "Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity...."

    • "This is even worse than declassifying documents by putting a box on top of text in a PDF. How can people be so stupid?"

      Umm... That's classified.
  • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:22AM (#19465045) Homepage
    The only people this was a secret from was the American people.

    Every government on earth (and the "bad guys" as well), knew the size of the budget. Or did someone think Putin was going to look at this powerpoint, smack his forehead with his hand and say "ah ha! now I know!"?
    • Makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, do you think Putin would start fuming over the waste of money?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by daveschroeder (516195) *
      No. The US government's budget, as a whole, was never a secret. People have been deducing and estimating, rather accurately, the entirety of the "intelligence budget" for decades.

      What was secret was the budget for individual pieces of the intelligence community, which can imply underlying specific operations, programs, and technologies on which a nation may be spending money. And that should be secret. This, however, necessarily means that the total exact amount spent on intelligence programs is also secret
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:03AM (#19465617)

      The only people this was a secret from was the American people.

      It's important to remember that $60BN doesn't spend itself, and it doesn't spend itself in small numbers. A whole lot of Americans knew that a whole lot of money was being spent on (essentially) nothing. It's also important to remember that this money mostly goes to defense contractors, and most of that goes to the upper management. Make no mistake: the rich don't spend in proportion to their income. They hoard. This money is being turned into silver spoons for a whole lot of terrorism-profiteers.

      Fun trivia: $60BN is enough to give *every* child and adult in the US $200; about half a week's wages for people working minimum wage (before the roughly 1/3rd that goes to taxes, of course.)

      It's enough to employ (are you sitting down?) one point two MILLION people in $50k/year jobs.

      Now sit there and explain to me why New Orleans is still a disaster area, why 10 million kids in the US don't get enough food to eat, ~1% of the population (3.5 million people) is homeless (third of those are children), and why poor residents living in New England have their federal assistance for home heating cut.

      This nation's spending priorities are so out of whack it is abhorrent.

      • by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:22AM (#19465863)
        Fun trivia: $60BN is enough to give *every* child and adult in the US $200; about half a week's wages for people working minimum wage (before the roughly 1/3rd that goes to taxes, of course.) ... Now sit there and explain to me why New Orleans is still a disaster area, why 10 million kids in the US don't get enough food to eat ...

        Because, sir, if you give a man $200, you feed him for half a week. If you keep up the hegemony status of that man's nation, and use a successful war to spur on the economy (as successful wars always do), you feed him for a lifetime. Remember that although there may be poverty in America, there is nothing resembling an actual humanitarian crisis due to an outright failure of the economy to sell food where it's needed - and there will never be one, so long as America remains the superpower.

        As a Louisiana resident, I know the Katrina disaster response was woefully inadequate and an embarrassment to our nation. But that isn't to say that the federal government should have any role in the long-term rebuilding of the city. The worst thing New Orleans, or in fact anywhere, could have is handouts. All they do is provide a source of capital that nobody can compete with, and therefore nobody bothers to work towards restoring an economy.
  • Name that quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snowgen (586732) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:22AM (#19465051) Homepage
    "...a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time."
  • That's it?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hanshotfirst (851936) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:24AM (#19465073)

    Only $60B ???!!!

    Personally, I'd rather see us spend $120B on intelligence and get it RIGHT than only spend $60B and get it WRONG and end up going to war based on that faulty intelligence at a price tag of $82B up-front and more annually!

    Politics and loss of life aside, it's just better economics!

    • Re:That's it?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spellraiser (764337) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:34AM (#19465197) Journal

      Personally, I'd rather see us spend $120B on intelligence and get it RIGHT than only spend $60B and get it WRONG and end up going to war based on that faulty intelligence at a price tag of $82B up-front and more annually!

      It's been said before, but I guess I need to say it again: There was absolutely nothing wrong with the intelligence. The Bush administration just didn't care whether Iraq had WDMs or not (nor whether they had any links with Al-Qaida, etc.); they decided to invade, and so they did. All the 'intelligence' they submitted to justify their decision beforehand was stuff that the intelligence agencies had rejected as false or inaccurate again and again. That they say that the intelligence was bad afterwards is only adding insult to injury.

      • Re:That's it?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by turing_m (1030530) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:02AM (#19465603)
        "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

        -- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

        Of course, a Powerpoint presentation on WMD rarely goes astray.
    • If you only watched politics for a few years, you know that it's better to spend 60b bucks to get it wrong than to spend 120b bucks to get it wrong. Getting it right is almost never an option, no matter how much money you pour into it.

      Not trying to bash our government officials, but you rarely if ever get the "good" people to work there. A lot of people working there do it for a comfortable job with almost infallable job security. There's also rarely any kind of reward for putting more effort into a fed job
    • by ErikZ (55491) *

      Throwing more money at the Government makes it bigger, not better.
    • Your argument assumes that the widely publicised "intelligence failures" in the United States can be solved by supplying additional funds. Since some of the most important "failures", those with the greatest consequences, were actually the result of policy failures (or perhaps worse, manipulation of the evidence at a policy level), and were not failures in data collection or analysis, I suspect that doubling the funds might actually be dangerous. Perhaps we could spend half as much money, and the consequ
      • by wes33 (698200)

        9 women cannot make a baby in 1 month
        of course they can ... on average.
        It just takes a while to ramp up production :)
    • Dude you went to war on information that your intel guys NEW was bogus.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sciros (986030)
        Maybe some did, but most probably had KNOW idea what was going on to begin with.
    • Because spending more money always makes things better and not worse.

       
  • Misinformation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aaron England (681534) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:31AM (#19465159)
    Whenever the government gives us information, we assume deception. Whenever we "discover" information, we assume truth. Perhaps I'm the only individual who realizes this, and no one would ever betray the public's trust by purposefully planting misinformation which would lead the public to believe they have uncovered truth. Or perhaps not.
  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:32AM (#19465165) Homepage
    On Slide #6, "Megatrends" and how that the "old hotness" for "non-core functions" was "in-house" but now that we are in the 21st century, the new hotness is "OUTSOURCED"! I wonder if they outsourced the making of this presentation :) Also, if you note the "Work Environemnt" row, you will see the transition from "Dedicated" to "Virtual, Telecommuting" which means more DIA laptops will be floating around, getting ripped off, and exposing the DIA to even more leaks. With this DIA strategy and demonstrated incomptence, China's expanded cyberweapons programs will have the information in hand before the President/Congress get to hear it in their briefings. Security is an illusion.
  • by tehwebguy (860335) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:37AM (#19465249) Homepage
    I guess there weren't any basic tutorials on computer security in that budget
  • Ho Hum (Score:5, Funny)

    by fm6 (162816) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:41AM (#19465313) Homepage Journal
    Back in the 60s there was a popular story (probably an urban legend, but still a good story) about a realtor in McLean, VA, who needed to do a report on how many people worked in the area. That would include CIA headquarters. The CIA refused to release any figures — it's a national secret! So the guy called up the Soviet embassy, which was happy to provide the data he needed.

    Secrecy, often as not, is less about keeping the bad guys in the dark than about avoiding public scrutiny.
  • by BlackCobra43 (596714) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:52AM (#19465445)
    Ladies and gentlemen, for the good of our nation, for our security..we must outlaws Powerpoint. Then, only criminals will use it in order to bore each other to tears. Two birds with one stone!
  • by nagora (177841) on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:54AM (#19465469)
    In a holdover from the Cold War when the number really did matter to national security,

    The number never mattered except to hide it from the electorate. An itemised list of what it was spent on, now, that would have been an issue of national security.

  • by dmccarty (152630) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:06AM (#19465653)

    News organizations constantly report million and billion dollar budgets without providing context. On the radio and on TV, for example, the announcer usually takes exceptional care to pause, then spit out the word as if it's a death-defying number: billion.

    No one even *knows* what a billion is. Can you conceptualize one billion things? I don't know what a billion is. I can't even fathom it. Anyone who tells you they can is lying. All we know is that a billion is more than a million and less than a trillion.

    So, for context, that $60,000,000,000 dollars that was mentioned was for the USA 2005 budget, which was about $2,400,000,000,000.* That's only 2.5% of the budget, and if you're a citizen of the US you'd better hope and pray that your country is spending at least 2% of the budget on intelligence in these times.

    * See, you had to think about it for a second to figure out how big that number is. (In newsspeak, that's $2.4 TRILLLLLIIIIONNNN)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AVee (557523)
      That's only 2.5% of the budget, and if you're a citizen of the US you'd better hope and pray that your country is spending at least 2% of the budget on intelligence in these times.

      Why exactly if i may ask? To be assured of oil? To be assured your next president is an moron as well? To be sure this $DEFENSE_CORP gets it's bonus? To be sure the US will have a enemy available when it needs one?

      I think it's a lot of money to put into organisation of which the effect is disputable and limited. I bet you'd s
    • conceptualization (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rodentia (102779) on Monday June 11, 2007 @11:45AM (#19466161)
      Can you conceptualize one billion things?

      A billion things is a thousand millions of things. The decimal orders of magnitude, scientific notation and other notation systems have been developed precisely to represent such large numbers. This is sufficient to allow for some pretty significant conclusions to be drawn about a billion in relation to other numbers.

      When you say conceptualize, I think you mean count.
  • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Monday June 11, 2007 @01:17PM (#19467375)

    .. about granting the state the right to keep secrets from taxpayers.

    Can you imagine if your employees were allowed (and encouraged) to keep business secrets from you, their boss? Imagine if you hired a contractor and he refused to give you a breakdown, line by line, of his expenses. You'd fire him in a heartbeat, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Imagine if you hired a contractor and he refused to give you a breakdown, line by line, of his expenses. You'd fire him in a heartbeat, right?

      That depends. If I'm hiring a contractor to destroy countries, assassinate my enemies, kill people, find out other people's secrets, and so forth, I would probably understand if he didn't want to share his methods with me.

      Of course, a better analogy is this: we, the taxpayers, are like shareholders of a corporation. Do corporate officers keep secrets from the shareh

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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