— 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


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


, 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


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


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.


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.


NGA also must take care not

to impose requirements that could interfere with the normal activities


intelligence operatives

, the intelligence official said.