NGA to block some aeronautical info

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has decided to bar the public from viewing most of its aeronautical data and publications.

NGA will remove the worldwide Digital Aeronautical Flight Information File from public sale in January 2006, and will stop distributing it electronically in October 2006. The agency will also stop selling the Flight Information Publications covering airspace outside the United States in October 2006 and will remove other versions of the documents in October 2007, according to a NGA statement.

“The removal of this aeronautical data from general public access will assure the continued availability of information vital to national security,” said James Clapper, NGA director and retired Air Force three-star general. The agency said government agencies and authorized government contractors are not affected by the decision, and that its nautical data and publications will continue to be available publicly.

NGA said it took this action primarily because of the growing number of international source providers claiming intellectual property rights of its data. The agency analyzes sea, air and ground pictures from sensors, satellites and spy aircraft and makes maps for U.S. warfighters and intelligence analysts.

NGA will continue to provide aeronautical charts for U.S. airspace, the Caribbean, South America, Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific Rim in areas considered part of the U.S. flight information region. The agency will also continue offering aeronautical paper map products to a scale of 1:250,000 to 1:5,000,000.

Some librarians, commercial mapmakers and public interest group members were angry in November 2004 when NGA — without seeking public comment — announced that it planned to end the public sale and distribution of its aeronautical data and publications available copyright-free in print or online at the agency’s Web site.

NGA wanted to make the information available only to authorized warfighters, intelligence analysts, defense contractors and government officials through the Defense Department’s distribution system. However, in December 2004 the agency said it would seek public comment through June 2005 before making a final decision.

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