".....a congressional investigation revealed that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a supersecret agency whose existence was publicly acknowledged only a few years ago, lost track of a $2 billion slush fund because it was so highly classified even top intelligence officials had no control over it."
This piece was written a few years ago.
Orbit of Influence
Spy Finance and the Black Budget
By Robert Dreyfuss
A spy satellite silently drifting across suburban Virginia and Maryland would count hundreds of buildings that are part of the vast and mostly hidden "intelligence-industrial complex." It is a network that stretches from coast to coast and around the world, reaching far into space and deep under the oceans. Although it is administered by government officials, this complex is engineered, manufactured, deployed, and maintained by private industry. Around Washington, from Reston and Tysons Corner, Virginia, to Columbia and Fort Meade, Maryland, the intelligence-industrial complex generates tens of billions of dollars a year in profitable government contracts that go to a handful of big contractors and scores of smaller subcontractors--with a grateful flowback of campaign funds from industry to compliant congressmen.
Certainly there is a legitimate place for secret intelligence operations in the modern state. But political circumstances might suggest that this complex, like other government-dependent industries, is due for serious downsizing. With President Clinton and Congress desperate for budget cuts, the intelligence community has offered a steady stream of embarrassing scandals, from the Aldrich Ames affair to the reports that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency hired alleged psychics for what the agencies called "remote viewing." This January, a congressional investigation revealed that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a supersecret agency whose existence was publicly acknowledged only a few years ago, lost track of a $2 billion slush fund because it was so highly classified even top intelligence officials had no control over it.
But if the recent past is indicative, even losing $2 billion may not be enough to incur the wrath of federal spendthrifts. In 1995, while the intelligence community was still reeling from the Ames scandal and budget savings were in short supply, the White House and Congress quietly agreed on an uneasy freeze in the intelligence budget, leaving spending about where it was: around $28 billion. (Republicans in Congress, who initially pushed for an increase, settled on the status quo while promising a substantial hike next year). And, while the $28 billion figure represented a 20 percent fall from peak spending levels in 1987, the intelligence budget stands fully 50 percent higher (in adjusted dollars) than it was in 1980, at the height of the Cold War. Post-1987 cuts in spending derived almost entirely from the elimination of spy systems targeted exclusively against the territory of the former Soviet Union.
Despite the utility of expensive satellite reconnaissance systems and listening devices, such as the ones that helped mapmakers in the Bosnian peace accords, there is a strong argument to be made that the cash outlays for the intelligence community's space program could be radically reduced. But these expenditures are sustained by a voracious military appetite for ever greater quantities of intelligence data--and, equally important, by the power of lobbyists and campaign money. Only a select handful of legislators and their staff members are privy to the intelligence appropriations process. In this cozy, cloistered world the members are the frequent beneficiaries of donations from--and frequent targets of lobbying by--intelligence contractors. Both within the intelligence bureaucracy and congressional oversight committees, staffers routinely work hand in glove with industry lobbyists, often in the explicit hope that "playing ball" with the contractors will pave the way for private employment down the road.
Much more here:
Resurrecting the Ptech story (9-11)