At a public intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last week, Mary Margaret Graham, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and now the deputy director of national intelligence for collection, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.Big mistake? No, not at all. That $44 billion number shouldn't have been a secret in the first place. Several former CIA directors have already come out and said that the overall intelligence budget figures should not be classified, that publishing these numbers wouldn't harm national security so long as individual budget items were kept secret. The Brown-Aspin Commission in 1996 concurred. Indeed, from time to time I do wonder why no one ever takes article 1, section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution seriously:
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.Yet this statement has obviously never applied to either the Department of Defense or the Central Intelligence Agency. So why don't constitutional orginalists ever start complaining about this? One explanation is that this clause has been violated almost continuously since the country's founding. In 1790, Congress appropriated $40,000 for "intercourse between the U.S. and foreign nations," but didn't require George Washington to account for how he actually spent the money. In 1794, Congress gave the president $1 million in a similar fashion—the money ended up being used as ransom money for American hostages in Algiers. Regardless of how useful these moves were, they were clearly unconstitutional, allowing Congress to decide willy-nilly when and where it gets to spend money without public oversight.