Intelligence: June 10, 2005

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Alarmed at the speed with which army and marine combat troops are just giving up on spy satellites, and air force intelligence in general, and developing their own aerial reconnaissance capabilities, the big intel agencies are talking serious change on how they distribute their product. The problem is, and has always been, one of determining who is authorized to view photos and other intelligence (usually electronic) obtained with these very expensive satellites and aircraft. During the Cold War, it was believed that if the enemy could see what we were getting, and realize the quality of it, the bad guys could use that information to better hide things. There was some truth to this. But the Soviet Union is gone, and the biggest user of all this expensive intel is not a bunch of generals in the Pentagon, but thousands of grunts fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. When some people in Congress suggested that money be taken from the billions spent on satellites, and diverted to the army for more recon UAVs, there was suddenly a major attitude adjustment among the satellite community. Now there are proposals to make satellite and air recon images available immediately on the classified Internet. The ground pounders have access to this. The satellite lords would promptly classify the images, some being more secret than others. But any ground commander could instantly get access to the images if they had a high enough security clearance. That would mean that some images would only be seen at a division headquarters, and not at brigade or battalion level. No problem, sat the grunts. If you can get us useful stuff faster than anything weve got, well use it. Otherwise, the implication is, well take your money.

 


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