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Opinion: Of debt ceilings and secret budgets

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As Congress braces for another bout of budget debates that propose to lift the debt ceiling, press rooms and political chambers are aflutter with idle chatter and empty threats about shutting down government. But even if the government did fold-up shop, the ‘shadow government’ would quietly keep humming along, like the hushed whirr of a supercomputer.

What the budget debates slyly conceal is that there are actually two budgets; yet, only one of these budgets is publicly debated; the other, which heretofore remains nearly untouched in budget talks, is called the ‘black budget.’ This budget is immune to public oversight and is used to fund covert government agencies.

Anyone who views current affairs through the prism of the past will note that black budgets are nothing new. From time to time the infamous programs that draw funding from the black budget piggy bank bob to the surface of public attention, as with the Church Committee Hearings that pried into the illicit deeds of the CIA, NSA, and FBI in 1975 during this seldom-recalled but crucially important Gerald Ford Administration, which housed Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissinger,and also when the Kerry Committee exposed Lt. Col. Oliver North’s running of a shadow government and a slush fund treasury from the basement of President Ronald Reagan’s White House.

Most recently, due to the efforts of an oft-mentioned whistleblower, the American public now knows the price tag affixed to these secret sanctums. The total tally of the black budget balloons to a vault-bursting $52.6 billion. This makes the U.S. black budget the eighth-largest defense budget on earth.

Pointing out that black budgets are utterly anti-democratic is almost yawn-inducing. Many Americans are faintly aware that they’re being routinely misled by occluded institutions which defy public scrutiny and are thus inclined to blow money and bend laws.

But the public is told that it must be kept uninformed about the black budget in order to insure public security. (Ignorance is strength, anyone?) While this argument certainly does contain a speck of truth, it is also dubious given the endless deluge of leaked information revealing the nefarious doings of non-public governmental agencies.

To be sure, those agencies will claim that their shrouded activities foil terrorist plots, hence justifying their ravenous appetite for public monies. However, such claims must be balanced against the fact that these plots have been exposed as sting operations devised by undercover agents. If you step back and view the whole scheme, you’ll find that the black budget bankrolls spooks who infiltrate underground groups then act as provocateurs to hatch terrorist plots, only to finally diffuse the same plots they initially concocted and thus proclaim victory over terrorist foes, all the while using black budget cash. The black budget thereby generates the justification for its own existence.

If you turn on the tube or punch-up a webpage to follow the budget debates, you’ll see the political pat-a-cake of choreographed opposition, alongside the phony juke that passes for political discourse in the limelight of center stage political theatre. And if you cast your gaze sideways at the right and left wings offstage, you might catch a glimpse of the wink-and-a-nod agreements that insure the secret state will continue to enjoy its blank check budget.

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