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Open-government advocate sues CIA for budget figures

By The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON — An open-government advocate sued the CIA yesterday to get the government to disclose how much money it is spending on intelligence operations this year.

Steven Aftergood, with the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, said the government's release of the single classified number — widely estimated to exceed $30 billion this year — cannot damage national security.

"The idea that this is somehow sensitive is ludicrous," Aftergood said. "Budget disclosure is the most rudimentary form of government accountability. It is the one category of information where disclosure is required by the Constitution."

CIA spokesman Paul Nowack declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"There are very legitimate, well-founded national security reasons for not publicly releasing this classified budget figure," Nowack said.

The congressional intelligence committees are kept informed of the classified intelligence figures, he noted.

Aftergood's lawsuit is filed under the federal Freedom of Information Act, which mandates disclosure of government documents that don't contain certain kinds of sensitive national security, proprietary or personal information.

The CIA's budget alone is thought to have increased from roughly $3.5 billion to roughly $5 billion since Sept. 11.

In a separate lawsuit, Aftergood is also seeking disclosure of the agency's 1947 and 1948 budget totals, which the CIA has also declined to provide.


Secrecy foes continue push for government openness
Analysis Despite crackdown on information access since Sept. 11, FOI advocates are continuing to fight for public's right to know.  04.03.02