— 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.
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.
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
for mission planners, the report said. However, video of a route to and from a particular facility or area, or ground-based photographs that
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
the panel deliberately avoided defining
the type of video imagery the
adopt so as
not to exclude any possible sources.
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
to ensure that it
can properly use the data.
An intelligence community official
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
is the agency’s use of 360-degree panoramas taken by
ground-based cameras to help secure
parade routes for senior government officials, the
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
NGA also must take care not
to impose requirements that could interfere with the normal activities
, the intelligence official said.