New Snowden Leak Shows the Insane Amount of Money We Spend on Spying

A new leak from former security contractor Edward Snowden, published in the Washington Post, reveals the "black budget"—the money spent on the U.S. government's intelligence-gathering operations—for 2013. And it's colossal: A total of $52.6 billion, covering the CIA, the NSA and lesser-known agencies like the National Reconnaissance Office.

You can read some of the budget here, or check out the Post's incomprehensible shades-of-grey Mondrian data visualization. (The Post, after "consultation with U.S. officials," is withholding some portion of the leaked documents.)

So where's all that money going? The bulk of it to the CIA, which took in a whopping, well-beyond-the-standard-estimate $14.7 billion—well more than the NSA. A great deal of it is focused on computer espionage (in the parlance of the budget, "offensive cyber operations"), including hacking, and possibly sabotaging, the networks of foreign countries, but still one-third of the budget, and one-quarter of intelligence agents, are focused on terrorism.

And where are we spying? Our "priority targets" include China, Russian, Iran, Cuba, Israel, and Pakistan—and North Korea, where the budget reveals the U.S. has "critical" blind spots in its knowledge of the country's weapons program and its leaders intentions.