NSA Spends $1 Billion on Crypto – A Fraction of Total Spy Budget, Researchers Say

Charles Dharapak/AP file photo

Only 23 percent of the black intelligence budget goes to tech for bugging other IT systems worldwide.

Only 23 percent of the United States' black intelligence budget goes toward information technology for bugging other IT systems worldwide, according to a new IDC report. 

That said, researchers expect this slice to widen to up to 34 percent, largely because intelligence analysts need more data collection tools and supercomputers to parse ever-growing bits and bytes. 

For example, the National Security Agency needs facilities and machines to analyze almost 5 billion records a day on the locations of cellphones across the globe, according to the Washington Post.

Already, nearly $11 billion of the intelligence budget covers "consolidated cryptologic" programs, IDC researchers said in the study released on Wednesday. The NSA individually spends $1 billion on cryptanalysis and exploitation services.

As the Post reported on Tuesday, NSA applies Web-tracking software used by commercial data brokers, called "cookies," to narrow in on targets for government hacking and surveillance.

The total U.S. intelligence budget for fiscal 2013 was $52.3 billion, with an additional $400 million in spending across other government agencies that share data with the intelligence community, according to published sources. IDC's IT estimates were derived from leaked classified budget figures and extrapolations based on those numbers that are specific to information management. 

The researchers noted that NSA's facility costs are striking, in comparison to the CIA's. In fiscal 2013, NSA funneled $1.6 billion into buildings and logistics, for projects like a Utah data center, which is 15 times the size of MetLife stadium. The CIA spent $170 million in the same category. 

"It's interesting to see that some organizations, such as the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office, spend a great deal of their funding on data collection, while other organizations, such as the NSA and the Office of the Director of Intelligence Operations, spend more money on facilities, equipment, and general management,” the report states.

Earlier this year, ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden shared with the Post and other media outlets classified figures on fiscal 2013 U.S. intelligence operations. 

The overall intelligence IT budget is expected to grow from $11.8 billion now to $15.2 billion in 2017, according to IDC’s assessment of the Snowden leaks.