Freedom lawsuit forces CIA to reveal its $26bn budget

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The US Central Intelligence Agency revealed its annual budget for the first time yesterday, divulging information that has been classified top secret since the agency was founded 50 years ago. In a statement, the new head of the CIA, George Tenet, said the 1997 budget for national intelligence, which includes all branches of the intelligence services, was $26.6bn.

This is equivalent to roughly one-tenth of the US defence budget, and about two-thirds of what the US federal government spends each year on health or transport. The bulk of the money is said to be allocated to satellite and front-line military surveillance. Only about 3bn dollars finances the CIA itself.

The budget details were released in response to a lawsuit brought under the Freedom of Information Act by a watchdog organisation that challenged the need to keep the figure secret following the end of the cold war.