By Melanie Batley
A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers is pressing the White House to release the figures on how much will be spent this year on secret intelligence activities, as debate continues over the National Security Agency secret surveillance programs.
Sixteen agencies currently receive secret intelligence funds from what is known as the "black budget." Congress is set to pass a comprehensive budget bill this week, but details of the black funds contained in it remain classified, The Daily Caller reported Tuesday.
Lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation that would force the administration to disclose a topline figure for how much the U.S. spends on secret intelligence activities. They have also written to President Barack Obama setting out their case.
"As you develop your fiscal year 2015 budget, we strongly urge you to take a simple step toward much needed transparency by including the total amount requested for each of the sixteen intelligence agencies," the lawmakers wrote, according to BuzzFeed.
Vermont Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, a sponsor of the bill, said the measure aims "to get back the right balance between security and privacy" and to restore accountability to the process.
"The biggest threat to the implementation of a vital national program is the combination of unlimited money with nonexistent oversight, and that's essentially the situation that Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering," Welch said at a press conference Tuesday, according to The Daily Caller.
"We believe those topline numbers are appropriate for the American people to know; we believe those topline numbers are appropriate for members of Congress to know," said Wyoming GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis, another co-sponsor of the bill.
"We are not asking them to delve into their sources and methods, and we are not asking them to delve deeper into their budget priorities, other than to give us the top line," she said.
Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and David Price of North Carolina are also co-sponsors, along with GOP Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Justin Amash of Michigan, according to BuzzFeed.
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