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In an effort to study and evaluate environmental changes around the world, the Central Intelligence Agency is granting environmental scientists access to formerly classified spy satellite imagery; the photograph in this post, which offers detailed information about polar icecaps in the East Siberian Sea, has been "degraded to hide the satellite's true capabilities." The idea behind the collaboration is that climate change and other environmental changes could constitute threats to national security, and this sort of data sharing (which had been done throughout the 1990s but was scrapped by the Bush Administration) presents a cost-effective way to monitor and understand the global environment. From NYT:
The program resurrects a scientific group that from 1992 to 2001 advised the federal government on environmental surveillance. Known as Medea, for Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis, the group sought to discover if intelligence archives and assets could shed light on issues of environmental stewardship.It is unclear why Medea died in the early days of the Bush administration, but President George W. Bush developed a reputation for opposing many kinds of environmental initiatives. Officials said the new body was taking on the same mandate and activities, as well as the name.
The program is not without its critics-like Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who argued that the agency should be fighting terrorists, "not spying on sea lions." But considering the low cost of operation and the potential to aid discoveries relating to desertification and rising sea levels, the practice of scientists tapping into CIA intelligence seems perfectly warranted.
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