Clapper: GEOINT is on the rise

The transparent nature of geospatial intelligence brings added value in the post-Snowden era, the director of national intelligence says.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper advocates greater use of geospatial intelligence, saying it is the "most transparent of all of our intelligence endeavors."

According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden have made the U.S. Intelligence Community more likely to embrace geospatial intelligence gathering.

Snowden's disclosure of troves of classified documents last year must be met with more transparency from the IC, Clapper said, adding that geospatial intelligence is the "most transparent of all of our intelligence endeavors." He spoke April 15 at the GEOINT Symposium in Tampa, Fla., where National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Letitia Long spoke the same day.

Geospatial intelligence is based on the notion that every speck of data that might be useful to practitioners can be tied to a physical location on the globe.

The U.S. government's use of geospatial intelligence is transparent in the sense that officials can talk publicly about its use in high-profile missions, such as aiding victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last November. NGA set up a working unit that used data from commercial satellites and airborne platforms to aid in the international response to the disaster, according to an agency statement.

Geospatial intelligence has also played a "heavy role" in the IC's analysis of the Syrian civil war and in efforts to counter the proliferation of weapons, Clapper said in his April 15 speech. NGA's contributions to intelligence on Syria "were huge in content, magnitude and impact, and were directly visible to the White House and to the Hill," he added.

Partly because of its predictive capabilities, geospatial intelligence "is going to be increasingly critical to our national leaders as they look to understand the world," Clapper said. The tool is helping U.S. officials monitor Russian troop movements in Crimea, making it crucial to Washington's understanding of the crisis in Ukraine, he added.

Clapper also lauded the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise strategy, which seeks to unite the IC under a single, standards-based IT architecture. After two years of setting up the strategy, intelligence agencies are ready to adopt it through a "business plan to allow each IC element to depend on the others for common services," he said.

Clapper expressed a willingness to remain director of national intelligence as long as it takes to see the strategy through to fruition.

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