I was interested in how much we spent on the Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex overall, with a particular interest in what we spend on surveillance, about which we know far too little.
Here, formatted a little differently for easier reading, is the footnote I included in that article. . .
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* If you want to consider this further, follow the money. . . And there is a huge amount of money to follow.
The amount of money that flows through our military-industrial-surveillance complex, with all that implies, is mind boggling-especially if you consider that, statistically speaking, it is 82 times more likely for someone to be killed falling out of bed than by a terrorist. The amounts and portions of our budgets that flow to the spy agencies is not transparent, with a significant amount of such spending in a so-called "black budget" component involving little oversight or check against potential waste.
Frontline’s "Top Secret America" while referring to the secret expenditure figures tells us: "Exactly how much money the NSA was spending in the years after 9/11 is one of the government's most closely guarded secrets. The agency's budget, like its work, is a state secret." There are some sixteen or so different U.S. intelligence agencies. The Guardian reported that, as of 2013, the government's "black budget" security agency spending had doubled over what was spent in 2001. But how precisely known these figures are has to be a guess as, for instance, the intricately related Pentagon's budget is very leaky and imprecise with trillions of dollars not properly accounted for on a recurring basis.
It is reported that the Pentagon controls 85% of the intelligence budget. Budgets of other agencies, like the US Agency for International Development, are also leaky with amounts supposedly designated for other projects diverted to covert intelligence enterprises. Then there have been the problems with off-budget spending with things like Iran-Contra arms sales or CIA drug trafficking generating unsupervised revenues.
In May of 2011 after the U.S. announced that it had killed Osama Bin Laden in a secret CIA-led operation- about which there are disputed stories- The National Priorities Project calculated that, as of that time, "in all, the U.S. government has spent more than $7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security since the 9/11 attacks." Point of reference: a "trillion" is one million millions.
Notably, there was a significant increase in this torrential spending right after 9/11. The National Priorities Project calculated that as of that May 2011, in adjusted for inflation terms, the Pentagon base budget- exclusive of the $1.4 trillion spend on the Iraq and Afghan wars- increased 43%, spending on nuclear weapons increased 21% and spending on "Homeland Security" went up 301%.
Prior to 9/11 there had been appreciable decreases in our military-industrial-surveillance complex spending with there being talk of still further reductions due to the expected "peace dividend" flowing from the demise of the Soviet Union. Total expenditure figures continue to escalate at a fast rate since those 2011 calculations were done: For instance, the $365.9 billion figure the National Priorities Project gave for Homeland Security spending then it now states to have surpassed a total of $708 billion since 9/11 and the total cost of the wars we have waged since 9/11, exclusive of what is spent on the Pentagon base budget now exceeds $1.721 trillion, and just in the year of 2016 we have already spent about $1.1 billion on Predator and Reaper drones.
Put this in perspective of the entire national budget. Offering its own calculation, the Friends Committee on National Legislation calculates that of the $2.674 trillion “federal fund” budget, which is the spending supported by income taxes, estate taxes, and other general revenues- not the trust funds self-supported by dedicated revenue like Social Security- 37.5% is going to pay for the cost of current and past wars. It's not clear whether their 37.5% figure includes surveillance expenditures. The surveillance expenditures also flow through the economy in interesting ways.
Snowden revelations disclosed that security spending included the NSA's making huge payments to internet companies including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook under the Prism program. If properly calculated, these payments just reimbursed those companies for the cost of compliance with government surveillance requirements. If not then. . .- Yahoo has recently been prominently in the news for the over-surveillance it did for the NSA. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were similarly in the news for such surveillance. Thoughts on this? New York Magazine quips: "Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were shocked that law enforcement was using a company called Geofeedia to track their users. Only they're allowed to do that!" As the main body of this piece will go on to make clear one thing that is key to remember about U.S. surveillance spending is that most of it is directed through what is officially the private sector.
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The article I wrote for Noticing New York? It asks why the nation's largest private surveillance corporation was hired to overhaul New York City Libraries, starting with the dismantling of four of the most important in Manhattan (Donnell, Mid-Mahattan and SIBL libraries and the central research stacks of the 42nd Street Central Research Library):
If librarians were the first to successfully stand up and oppose the intelligence overreaching [of the PATRIOT Act] and if Booz Allen Hamilton "is really an arm of the intelligence community" involved with the federal government's "most controversial federal surveillance programs in recent years" then why was Booz Allen Hamilton hired to help reorganize the New York Public Library's most important libraries?As noted above, with the U.S. spending trillions on the military-industrial-surveillance complex since 911, 70% of the nation's surveillance budget goes to private contractors. Of this 80% is spent on just five private contractors, the “colossus” of which is Booz Allen Hamilton.
You can read the Noticing New York article here: Snowden, Booz and the Dismantling of Libraries As We Know Them: Why Was A Private Government Spy Agency Hired to Take Apart New York's Most Important Libraries And Turn Them Into Something Else? (Sunday, October 30, 2016).
If we weren't spending these trillions (these millions of millions times many) on the Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex we could be spending on other things like schools- make your own list and don't feel constrained to keep it short. . . . How much do we spend on our libraries? Another, Noticing New York article makes clear that we spend a relative pittance on highly valued NYC libraries, an immeasurably small amount by comparison, just "millions": What's Wrong With These Numbers?: The Baccarat Tower's $60M Penthouse and NYC's Library Budget (Tuesday, April 29, 2014)