MORGAN TRUE, VTDigger.org
Congressman Peter Welch came to the Statehouse Monday to announce that he will introduce legislation requiring the disclosure of spending levels at the 16 U.S. intelligence-gathering agencies.
How much the U.S spends on intelligence activities is currently classified information. Welch’s bill would require the president to include the total dollar amount requested for each intelligence agency in his annual budget.
"We need more, not less transparency," Welch said. "The fact that you have, in effect, secret budgets means that you are not going to have any real shot at accountability."
Those secret budgets have led to "dubious policies, wasted money and questionable effectiveness," according to Welch.
"My view is that we can be safe and we can have public support for this work if there’s more transparency," Welch told reporters, adding that making the intelligence budget classified is effectively a "gag order" on public debate.
He hopes that releasing each agency’s budget requests will spark discussions about how that money is being spent and if it’s being done in a way that avoids duplication of certain functions.
"Without that top-line number it’s hard to imagine you’ll get beneath the surface to answer some of these questions," Welch said, but he acknowledged that the line items in those budget requests would remain opaque to the public and members of Congress who don’t serve on intelligence, defense or appropriations committees.
Welch stressed the bipartisan backing for his proposal, but said that partisan gridlock is an impediment to passing any new laws.