Senate Panel Tells NGA To Adopt Video, Ground-Based Imagery

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  Space News Business

Senate Panel Tells NGA To Adopt Video, Ground-Based Imagery

By JEREMY SINGER
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 25 July 2007
11:33 am ET








BOSTON


— The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is in the early stages of incorporating more video imagery and ground-based photography into its databases, but a U.S. Senate committee believes




the agency is moving too slowly with this work.



The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence included language in S. 1538, its version of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, that formally adds video imagery and ground-based photography to the NGA’s set of responsibilities.

The bill,




awaiting a vote on the Senate floor, directs the NGA to “develop a system to facilitate the analysis, dissemination, and incorporation of likenesses, videos, and presentations produced by ground-based platforms, including handheld or clandestine photography taken by or on behalf of human intelligence collection organizations or available as open-source information, into the National System for Geospatial Intelligence.”

There was no comparable language








in the House version of the legislation, H.R. 2082, which passed the House on May 11. Senate and House conferees will have to hash out the differences in their respective intelligence bills before the measure can become law.



In the




report accompanying its bill,




the Senate Intelligence Committee




noted that the NGA, since its creation in 1996, has made significant progress in bringing together imagery and mapping missions traditionally handled by its legacy military and intelligence organizations.





However, the agency has been slow to adopt new developments in imagery from sources like aircraft, commercial satellites, ground photography




and video, according to the report. While the NGA




is “belatedly” beginning to make progress with




commercial-satellite and aerial imagery




, its databases and products are “nearly devoid” of video and ground photography, the report said.



David Burpee, an NGA spokesman, declined to comment on the legislation




.

The agency’s current products based on overhead imagery




are useful






for mission planners, the report said. However, video of a route to and from a particular facility or area, or ground-based photographs that




depict




a facility




from a soldier’s




perspective, “would be of immense value to military personnel and intelligence officers,” the report said.

While the report did not mention possible sources of video imagery, it suggested that ground-based photography could come from open as well as




government sources, including




military units, embassy personnel, clandestine officers




and foreign allies.

Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for the Senate Intelligence




Committee




, said




the panel deliberately avoided defining




the type of video imagery the




NGA should




adopt so as




not to exclude any possible sources.

The bill




does not give the NGA authority over human intelligence assets as the agency




incorporates




video and ground-based photography into its mission. The




report said lawmakers




would like to see the NGA work with its




intelligence community partners to develop




technical requirements




to ensure that it




can properly use the data.

An intelligence community official




said the




NGA has been making an effort in recent years




to incorporate more ground-based photography and video, such as video taken by unmanned aerial vehicles, into its databases




. Another




example




is the agency’s use of 360-degree panoramas taken by




ground-based cameras to help secure




parade routes for senior government officials, the




official said.

However, a number of issues must be addressed




before the NGA can adopt these data sources on a




much wider scale, the intelligence official said.



One issue is defining the types of




images and videos that are best




handled by NGA




, the official said. It is the NGA’s mission to provide information related to location; images or video that answers the question of “who” or “what” rather than “where” might




be better handled by databases at the CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency, the official said.



























Determining




locations of the people or places depicted in




videos or photographs is another issue, the




official said. Video from




unmanned aerial vehicles like the




Predator comes with




location coordinates provided by the platform




, the official said. However, this is not necessarily the case for a lot of other types of video or images, which may be taken by handheld cameras, the




official said.

The




NGA also must take care not




to impose requirements that could interfere with the normal activities




of




intelligence operatives




, the intelligence official said.