Intelligence Reform in the Post Cold War Era, WWS 401a

Dr. Diane Snyder


Michael L. Brown
January 6, 1997


Table of Contents

History of IC involvement with Environmental Intelligence

Traditional Roles
Non-traditional Roles
Role of Academia and Civilian Agencies
Joint Ventures
The Environmental Task Force and MEDEA
Leveraging Resources in the Oceanographic Community
The Growth of Commercial Technology
Recent Reform Proposals
Hedley's Checklist
Aspin-Brown Commission
Council on Foreign Relations
Twentieth Century Fund
Measuring Success



The end of the Cold War has caused significant shifts in the nature of threats to U.S. national security. The end of the adversarial relationship between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. continues to have numerous impacts on the global power structure. As threats such as organized crime, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and narcotics trafficking have become more pronounced, it seems logical that the monitoring and containment of these dangers should be handled by the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). However, there are other menaces that do not fit into the traditional role of the IC. Environmental hazards, both natural and human-induced, present significant threats to national and global security. However, collection and analysis of most environmental data has typically been handled by civilian government agencies and academia.

As policy makers and military officials become increasingly cognizant of the importance of environmental intelligence, the question must be asked, What kind of role, if any, should the IC take in dealing with these issues? This question has many facets which must be carefully examined. Are joint ventures among the IC, civilian agencies and academia feasible? Can dual-use technologies lead to more cost-effective projects? What are the risks of exposing collection techniques? Who funds these joint ventures? How are they tasked? Can costs for projects that benefit the global community be shared with other countries? What are the benefits, costs, and risks of declassifying old satellite imagery? Is unclassified data derived from classified sources valuable to scientists? What role will the commercial sector play, and how can private companies be prevented from simply selling their technology to the highest bidder?

I have considered these questions, and arrived at the conclusion that, whenever feasible, the IC should use its superior technology to contribute to the collection of non-traditional environmental intelligence, but leave the majority of the analysis to civilian agencies and academia. I will supply background on the types of environmental intelligence with which the IC historically has been involved. Then I will analyze non-traditional kinds of environmental intelligence, and discuss the IC s current policy on these issues. A brief description of the efforts of academia and civilian agencies in the environmental arena will follow, before a review of a few case studies of joint ventures. I will also look into the rapid developments being made in commercial satellite systems, and evaluate the need for more well defined export controls to limit the flow of industrial technology to enemies of the U.S. Finally, I will evaluate the recent reform proposals offered by the Brown Commission, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), the Checklist for the Future of Intelligence, the Twentieth Century Fund (TCF), and the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR).


Traditional Roles

Environmental intelligence itself can be broken up into two categories; traditional and non-traditional. The IC has a history of involvement in environmental data collection when the information relates to supporting the military, tracking world-wide natural resource levels, monitoring compliance with international environmental accords, and forecasting crop yields. During the Gulf War, the CIA used its remote sensing technology to track the path of the toxic fumes produced by the oil fires in Kuwait, and thus was able to keep U.S. troops away from harm. The intelligence community also plays an important role in the enforcement of both the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Stratospheric Ozone Layer and the London Convention which limits waste disposal in the ocean. The U.S. employed satellite imagery to estimate the Soviet wheat harvest throughout the Cold War. Today, this practice is used on a broader scale as policy makers increasingly acknowledge that the precarious stability of many nations can be shaken by drastic food shortages.

Non-Traditional Roles

Aspects of environmental intelligence, such as dealing with natural disasters, and tracking trends such as global warming, ozone depletion, deforestation, desertification, and oceanic degradation, have been handled sparingly by the IC in the past. The current debate about IC involvement centers around these roles. In a speech to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) made earlier this year, DCI John Deutch summed up the IC s policy on dealing with these non-traditional environmental threats. We use imagery from existing systems to support the work of the scientific community and other government agencies in their efforts to understand global environmental phenomena. Specifically, the CIA has established a Disaster Response Team (DRT) with the capability to disseminate unclassified products to help fight natural disasters. On June 5, 1996, the team was presented with an opportunity to test its effectiveness when the U.S. Forest Service requested aid in monitoring fires which were ravaging the Alaskan wilderness. Within 24 hours, the DRT managed to compile maps of the fires. According to DCI Deutch, this information was more comprehensive and detailed than data collected from overflights by civil aircraft and it was also available much more quickly. The CIA also disseminates warnings about potential natural disasters on foreign soil without charge to the relevant foreign governments. When intelligence satellites picked up precursors to volcanic activity on the island of Montserrat, local officials were notified of the danger and thousands of inhabitants were evacuated. Speaking on these non-traditional uses of intelligence, Deutch asserted that the CIA believes it is important to provide aid when the capabilities would not otherwise be available.

However, the biggest step by the IC to venture into the non-traditional realm of environmental intelligence occurred in 1992, with the establishment of the Environmental Task Force (ETF), and the follow-up group called MEDEA. The mission of this group of roughly 60 scientists, who were cleared for access to top secret documents, was to determine whether the IC s technical assets could be used productively by the scientific community to study environmental problems. A more detailed case study of this initiative will follow later in the report.


Regardless of the level of involvement which the IC decides to take in the realm of non-traditional environmental intelligence, the bulk of environmental research will likely remain in the hands of civilians. In addition to researchers in hundreds of institutions of higher learning, a large number of government agencies are engaged in the collection and analysis of environmental data. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), are the most important non-military / non-intelligence members of the environmental research community.

FEMA was created to provide leadership and support to reduce the loss of life and property in the face of natural disaster. This role includes the dissemination of warnings about earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and other natural catastrophes. In this capacity, FEMA has partnerships with the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

NASA's contribution to the study of the environment has increased with the recent implementation of their Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) program, an enterprise devoted to the study of the total Earth system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment. NASA is using its space-based technology to monitor both short and long-term climate variability, atmospheric ozone levels, and natural hazards. MTPE also works with NASA s foreign counterparts, other Federal agencies, and university researchers to develop advanced technologies that will lead to new, lower cost scientific investigations.

The EPA is primarily concerned with environmental issues on U.S. territory. Some initiatives include the National Estuary Program, the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program, the Acid Rain Program, and the Ozone Layer Protection Program. The EPA is an active participant in the environmental community and collaborates with other Federal agencies, like NOAA, as well as with academic researchers.

The NOAA is charged with the monumental task of describing and predicting changes in the Earth s environment, and conserving and managing the Nation s coastal and marine resources. Through the NOAA s Environmental Research Laboratories (ERL), environmental research programs are jointly undertaken with universities. ERL also offers grants to academic scientists. The NOAA works closely with the National Weather Service, the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the Navy. To carry out its research, the NOAA employs space-based satellite technology, and a fleet of ships to conduct oceanographic measurements.

The USGS is the largest earth science and information agency in the U.S., and its mission is to provide geologic, topographic, and hydrologic information that contributes to the wise management of the Nation s natural resources. The bureau also studies ways to predict, prevent, and mitigate the effects of natural hazards.

Founded in 1950 with the passage of the National Science Foundation Act, the NSF serves to support scientific research concerning national security and the effects of scientific applications upon society, promote communication between U.S. and foreign scientists, and provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific resources. The NSF s international activities are extensive. With a budget of over $3 billion, its largest international undertaking is the Global Change Research Program, half of which is funded by the U.S. The NSF pays for about one quarter of the U.S. share. Other international joint ventures include the Ocean Drilling Program, the Global Seismic Network, the International Intelligent Manufacturing Systems Program, and the Organization for Tropical Studies. The NSF also operates international research facilities within the U.S., such as the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Two aspects of the Department of Energy s mission are to secure national defense and improve the quality of the environment. As a result, the department often plays a role in ventures which involve the dual use of technologies to serve both defense and environmental purposes.

The Minerals Management Service, a division of the Department of the Interior, is tasked with the management of the mineral resources of the outer continental shelf. As a result, it participates in most projects that involve study of marine areas or the ocean, including a current undertaking with Mexican ocean scientists to study underwater mineral resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bureau of Land Management is charged with sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of 270 million acres of U.S. public lands. The agency attempts to maximize benefits from the land s natural resources while minimizing environmental degradation.

As an independent agency, the National Academy of Sciences provides scientific advice to the U.S. policy-making community. Recently, the NAS has dedicated resources to studying the conversion of defense enterprises to civilian activities. For this reason, the academy has played a significant role in current debates about the feasibility of dual-use technologies.

As this summary shows, the environmental community is far from dependent on the IC. Hundreds of important programs function successfully without its aid. However, in some cases, collaboration with the IC has yielded even better results without incurring a higher cost.


The Environmental Task Force and MEDEA

As mentioned, the establishment of the ETF and, later, MEDEA represents a deep commitment from the IC to investigate the utility of its technology in tackling some non-traditional environmental issues. The impetus for the initiative grew out of the efforts of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and then-Senator Al Gore. In early 1992, Gore suggested to DCI Robert Gates that classified data might be useful in analyzing subjects such as global warming, ozone depletion, deforestation, and the state of the oceans. Gates was amenable to the proposal, perhaps because the IC was looking for a new mission in the changed intelligence environment of the Post Cold War era.

Although the report issued by MEDEA was classified, journalist Robert Dreyfuss obtained a copy of the draft summary. According to the article, the report states that Changes in vegetative and desert boundaries, which may be sensitive indicators of global climate change, can be tracked over time by satellite systems. . .and the monitoring of changes in ocean temperature could provide a direct measure of global warming. The CIA's vast imagery archives of Soviet territory that were collected to monitor missile silos could also be used to note the date when the last snow melted, an indicator of climate change trends. Since the Eisenhower administration, satellite imagery of the globe has been collected consistently by the IC. This data cannot be obtained from any other source, since commercial and research satellites have only recently come into use. Another advantage to using these images is that their quality is presently far superior to anything produced by commercial or research satellites. For example, whereas the resolution of intelligence images can be measured in inches, LANDSAT images have resolutions, at best, of a few meters. For example, a LANDSAT image of a forest would depict only splotches of greenery, while images from an intelligence satellite would allow scientists to actually count individual trees and to ascertain their species.

During the Cold War, submarines took daily measurements of Arctic sea ice, another valuable indicator of climate shifts. Again, such comprehensive data does not exist outside of the IC. Additional examples of possibilities for dual use abound. The IC's Global Positioning System would be able to monitor ice flows. Navy's numerous undersea listening devices which operate to detect enemy submarines could be used simultaneously to study whale migration, detect storms, or predict undersea volcanic eruptions and earth quakes that can cause tidal waves. MEDEA scientists also believe that the Defense Support System, which was created to detect the sudden flare-up of an ICBM as it emerges from its silo, could be employed to identify the outbreak of forest fires. Finally, technology from MASINT, which the IC developed to monitor industrial emissions and to recognize the plumes of airborne missiles, could be used to gauge the condition of forests. Says former CIA analyst Bruce Berkowitz, if you take a reflection of sunlight off the top of a forest canopy, you can do spectral analysis of the composition of the forest. That will tell you if it s deficient in certain chemicals that are associated with healthy vegetation.

The great value that these technologies can add to scientific study suggests that dual use would, in theory, be a cost effective way to simultaneously achieve multiple intelligence and environmental goals. DCI John Deutch affirmed this view in a recent speech to the World Affairs Council: We are using intelligence capabilities that are already in place. This important work requires no new capital investment. However, he limited IC commitment by adding that he does not see the IC becoming a center for environmental science expertise or directly sponsoring research in that area. Nevertheless, it seems as though the IC is prepared to assume a larger role in the area of environmental intelligence.

However, collaboration between the IC and the environmental research community raises some thorny issues that threaten to derail, or at least mitigate, the gains of joint projects. The single greatest obstacle to furthering scientific inquiry through the use of intelligence archives and technology may be the CIA s classification system. As John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists points out, the fundamental tenet in science is that you tell everyone everything, and the fundamental tenet in intelligence is that you don t tell anyone anything. The CIA is very concerned that the release of intelligence images will betray their collection techniques. As a result, the CIA seeks to release the data in a form from which scientists will be unable to discern the exact time or location of a measurement. Clearly, this requirement would diminish the usefulness of the data. One solution to this problem would be to superimpose small sections of intelligence images over larger LANDSAT images. Thus, research scientists could extrapolate from the detailed image to form a reasonably accurate estimate of the composition of a forest.

With regard to measurements of ice pack thickness, for example, the CIA has been reluctant to disclose the process by which these measurements were obtained. Eric Rodenburg of the World Resources Institute observes that without knowing the procedure of collection, it is difficult to get an idea of the accuracy of those measurements. Oceanographer Kenneth Hunkins identifies another problem posed by collaboration with the IC. He said, the critical part of [science] is that the results are reproducible. But of course, if you re the only one who has some complicated satellite, nobody else can reproduce it.

The physical process of retrieving the archives is itself a monumental and costly task. Wilfred Weeks, a scientist who participated in the ETF, laments that pulling out a particular photograph or digital image from a mountain of archival data, particularly when such data was not indexed for environmental purposes, is a nightmare. The process is also slowed by the fact that unanimous consent within the IC is required before documents or imagery can be declassified. Thus, a document may be withheld from the public if one of the thirteen IC members believes that their collection capabilities would be compromised by the release of the file.

However, in 1992, Congress took a step toward ameliorating the problem by appropriating $200 million to finance the mining of classified archives. In the past year or so, the movement for declassification has gained momentum. On February 22, 1995, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12951, which called for the release of all imagery produced by the CORONA, ARAGON, and LANYARD satellite systems between 1960 and 1972. President Clinton also asserted that the declassification of more recent satellite systems would be a priority. However, realistically, declassification of more recent imagery is not likely to be forthcoming in the near future. Bruce Berkowitz has bluntly summarized the reluctance of the IC to declassify more recent imagery: You blow their system and they re out of business.

Leveraging Resources in the Oceanographic Community

The oceans direct impact on important global environmental trends, from climate change to weather patterns, makes them an important focus of scientific research. The oceans are also crucial in their function as a theater for military operations, both above and below the surface. Given the dual importance, it seems logical to explore the possibilities of sharing technologies that can address both of these needs simultaneously. At a January 25, 1996, joint hearing of the Military Research and Development Subcommittee of the House National Security Committee, the Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee, and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the House Science Committee, these issues were addressed by leading figures in the military, government and academia. All stressed the benefits of joint ventures and suggested that the coordination process be formalized.

In his testimony, the late Admiral Jeremy Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations, explained the Navy s new focus on developing a better understanding of coastal waters to match its expertise in deep ocean operations. This change was necessitated by the new regional threats presented in the Post Cold War era. Coastal waters have more complicated underwater terrain and are subject to sudden changes in surface conditions, which can adversely affect the performance of weapons and collection sensors. To satisfy this new need, the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Board has suggested that the Navy, which already produces roughly twenty-five percent of ocean science and technology research, should develop and operate coastal research platform laboratories on which military and civil, operational and research communities can cooperate in testing new theories and products. A give and take relationship between the Navy and the civil and academic oceanographic community already exists. The Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) is a loosely organized group of twenty-nine major oceanographic research institutions which have an extensive relationship with the Department of Defense in the area of oceanographic research. The research community provides the Navy with most of its meteorological and oceanographic data, which the Navy uses to back up its daily operations, and the Navy makes public more than ninety percent of its environmental findings.

A specific example of a successful joint venture involving a dual-use technology is the partnership between the NOAA and Navy in using Navy s Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS). IUSS is comprised of acoustic rays on the ocean floor which, during the Cold War, were used to monitor movements of Soviet submarines. The civil applications of this system have proven to be phenomenal. In just one short demonstration of the system, NOAA scientists collected more information on marine mammal movements than all the previous data collected in history. IUSS was also successfully utilized to detect underwater seismic activity, and scientists conjecture that it could be used to identify illegal commercial fishing. To ensure that maximum utility is derived from this technology, the Navy has set up a system whereby civilian scientists are cleared to use the system and to view past measurements.

The Navy has made an effort to speed up declassification, and just over a year ago, released all of its altimetry data collected from the GEOSAT satellite network. The oceanography community has used this information to study underwater surface features and the gravitational pull of the Earth.

In some cases, technology which served a purpose during the Cold War no longer plays a lead role in defending national security. One example is the Air Force s Over-The-Horizon-Backscatter radar, a highly sensitive system originally intended to detect enemy aircraft. Recently, it was used to chart sea conditions and wind patterns, information that is valuable in predicting hurricanes and other weather disturbances. The Air Force permitted scientists from NOAA to use the system until the Department of Defense decided to shut it down. Although the termination of this system undoubtedly disappointed the civilian research scientists, it would not have been justified, in a time of military downsizing, to keep a superfluous system operational simply for the marginally improved weather prediction which it provided. However, when a defense or intelligence technology remains useful in its intended capacity, effort should be expended to make the system serve scientific ends as well.

A successful international program, in which NOAA and other members of the U.S. oceanographic community, as well as over 30 foreign nations, participate, is the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS). The project has made important advancements in the study of one of the most significant factors in global warming, the passage of carbon dioxide between air and water. Another auspicious international effort is the monitoring of fisheries to avoid over-exploitation.

Although there have been many successful joint ventures which have achieved both defense and environmental goals, coordination can often pose problems. In many instances, opportunities for leveraging multi-billion dollar defense systems before they degrade are being missed. This inefficiency is one of the factors that spurred the passage of a bill in the House of Representatives to encourage dual-use joint ventures. Another reason behind the Congressional initiative was that no single member of the oceanography community had the resources to take full responsibility for the oversight and coordination of joint ventures. The question Congress faced was, at what level would activities be coordinated? There were clear tradeoffs between a coordinating body comprised of high-level government officials and one composed of those individuals most closely associated with the oceanographic research and technological development. Congress chose the latter alternative by chartering a committee on which all of the members have direct links to the oceanographic community. H.R. 3537, the Federal Oceanography Coordination Improvement Act of 1996, was passed this past July.


Some have argued that the debate about collaboration between the IC and civilian scientists may soon be irrelevant. They believe that commercial technology will soon rival with defense technology, and that scientists will merely have to pay for time on a commercial satellite to do the kind of research that is now only possible with intelligence or defense systems. Former CIA officer and Marine Corps intelligence specialist Robert Steele believes that it is only a matter of time before this scenario comes to pass. He points to the disparity between the budget allotted to technology development in the IC, and the $500 billion-a-year information industry. Increased demand for space-based satellite imagery has boosted industry in recent years. In 1995, Lockheed Martin announced that, by 1997, it would have sophisticated satellites capable of one meter resolution, the highest resolution earth imagery available for commercial satellites. While companies like Lockheed, which have a long history as defense contractors for the military, do not pose a threat of selling technology to adversaries of the U.S., there are many firms in foreign nations, which possess technology comparable to U.S. companies. Since the U.S. can only impose shutter controls on American companies, it will be increasingly difficult to stop the flow of technology from these foreign countries to hostile nations. International export agreements seem like the best way to handle this threat. However, enforcement of these agreements will likely require high levels of vigilance on the part of the IC.


There is wide acknowledgment among politicians and political scientists that the end of the Cold War necessitates a rethinking of the mission and structure of the IC. Most studies observe that U.S. national security is now endangered by a multitude of threats, whereas before the fall of the Soviet Union, something between two-thirds and three-quarters of the major problems derived in one way or the other from Moscow. Nearly all of the studies discussed below agree that environmental degradation is a serious problem, and that it can have an impact on national security. However, they take differing positions on the proper role for the IC in this area.

The Checklist

In the Checklist for the Future of Intelligence, written by Dr. John Hedley for the use of the Brown Commission, the author asserts that the IC can neither competently nor cost-effectively function as a general information service. Hedley calls the environment a peripheral issue, and recommends that, except for special circumstances when the IC has a unique advantage in expertise, the bulk of collection and analysis in this area should be handled by civilian agencies or the academic community.

The Brown Commission

In the Brown Commission report, there is scarcely half a page dedicated to a recommendation for the IC s role in collecting and analyzing environmental information. Although the commission acknowledges the growing importance of environmental intelligence, and endorses the traditional roles for the IC in this area, it does not believe that the IC should make environmental intelligence a priority. Specifically, the Commission opines that the use of technical capabilities to collect information on environmental problems is legitimate but should not duplicate what civil authorities are able to obtain. The report claims that civil agencies are ordinarily in a better position to analyze information relating to environmental matters, but allows for IC involvement when it possesses a special analytical expertise in a given area. Regarding the dangers posed by the export of technology to U.S. adversaries, the Brown Commission advocates export controls.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) study finds that IMINT will continue to be an important collection discipline for a wide variety of issues including ecological problems. However, the panel struggles with the issue of providing imagery to non-intelligence consumers. As a means to aid civilian consumers without betraying collection capabilities, HPSCI suggests the use of graphical overlays, in which sections of a high-resolution image are superimposed on a LANDSAT or commercial image. With regard to commercial satellite systems, the study recommends that the IC improve its acquisition and use of commercially available imagery to complement its existing capabilities. Like the Brown Commission, HPSCI endorses shutter controls on commercial systems to avoid use by enemies of the U.S.

Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report, Making Intelligence Smarter, asks the question, What are the higher priorities likely to be for intelligence collection in the foreseeable future? Environmental protection does not make this list because open sources are normally sufficient.

Twentieth Century Fund

The Twentieth Century Fund (TCF) task force report acknowledges the increased importance of environmental issues, and adds that problems like holes in the ozone layer have a tremendous impact on modern diplomacy and foreign policy. However, the report equivocates on the question of whether the study of environmental problems should be handled by the IC or left to academia and non- intelligence government agencies.


During the Congressional committee hearings on the coordination of oceanographic research, Chairman Representative Curt Weldon pointed out that, in the U.S., if you re a supporter of defense, you re considered to be against the environment, or if you re for the environment, you re not for defense. He then added, Well, we re going to take a new approach. We re going to be for both. This attitude, if not typical of most politicians, makes a lot of sense.

Because traditional threats to national security such as a nuclear attack or terrorism can present immediate danger to U.S. security, politicians, who tend to have relatively short time-horizons, often fail to prioritize threats like environmental degradation, which develop over longer periods of time. I do not disagree that, given limited resources, more immediate concerns, like terrorism or counter-proliferation, should take precedence over problems such as environmental monitoring. However, when the study of the environment can be markedly improved by leveraging intelligence and defense technology that already exist, and thus do not incur substantial new costs, it seems misguided not to make the minimal investment, as long as there is no risk of exposing collection techniques.

This last qualifier, however, places serious restraints on the cooperation between the IC and civilian agencies and academia. Because of the obvious threat to national security, scientists outside the IC cannot be indiscriminately entrusted with highly confidential data or images. Since much of the data serves a military or intelligence function as well as an environmental one, caution must be exercised in the release of information. Clearly, it would be unwise to order the wholesale declassification of all of the IC s IMINT archives, thus giving scientists unlimited access to this environmental data. Nevertheless, release of images from 1960-1972 was a good start, and efforts should be hastened to declassify more recent satellite imagery. If some photos are particularly sensitive, these could be withheld, but I suspect that a large number of images from the 1970s, and even the 1980s, could be released without betraying collection techniques which are not already obsolete, or raising the ire of foreign nations on whom we have spied.

In terms of disseminating current intelligence to civilian agencies and research scientists, the IC is willing and able to distribute unclassified documents derived from classified sources. However, many scientists have bristled at the suggestion of using maps which do not specify time, date or location. This conflict can only be resolved in favor of the interests of the IC because protecting national security has a higher priority than observing proper guidelines for scientific inquiry. Ultimately, the IC s discretion must be trusted to decide which risks are allowable. However, because of the IC s tendency to be overly cautious, the President and the Congressional oversight committees must press the IC into releasing as much environmentally valuable information as is securely possible.

The precedent set by the oceanographic community in forming joint ventures, and exploring efficient applications for dual-use technology should be emulated in other areas of environmental study which overlap with defense interests. In this case, the responsibilities of over forty Congressional oversight committees were consolidated into one governing body with the authority to task joint ventures. More important, through collaboration, the quality of both Naval and civilian research has improved, and costs have not risen. Congress should stimulate joint ventures like the ones established in the Oceanographic community by earmarking a certain portion of the appropriate military, intelligence and civilian agencies respective budgets specifically for collaborative research.

International projects like the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, an agreement between the U.S. and Russia to share products derived from national intelligence to help solve environmental problems of concern to both countries, should also be encouraged. Often, foreign countries have specialized in collecting information in areas which, by comparison, U.S. intelligence has neglected. For example, the former Soviet Union possesses vast archives of data on the Arctic, while U.S. knowledge of the region is relatively deficient. International intelligence sharing is a cost-effective way to increase global reach and improve surge capability.

The current informal process by which an agency like FEMA is able to task the IC for intelligence products, like maps to help fight forest fires, should not be formalized. If the IC is able to comply with requests for assistance in situations in which substantial life and property are at risk, it has the moral responsibility to offer its services. However, if a system were designed whereby any request from a civilian agency had to be met, the number of requests would likely rise, and the IC s human and financial resources would be diverted from their primary goals. Intelligence is not free and cannot be treated as if its production does not require the application of resources.


The success of these proposals can be gauged by assessing the quality and level of output of research in the scientific community resulting from the enhanced collaboration between the IC, civilian government, and academic research. Increased accuracy and timeliness of warnings for natural disasters would also be a sign that the environmental and intelligence communities are functioning efficiently. Reports from committees like the newly formed National Oceanographic Partnership Program would serve as a means of checking the progress of joint-venture reforms. Although many determinants of global environmental trends are outside the influence of U.S. policy makers, indicators like the rate of global warming or the size of the hole in the ozone layer could be used as rough measurements of the success of environmental intelligence efforts.


A frequently argued position against IC involvement in environmental study is that any information on the environment that would be relevant to policy makers can be gathered through open sources. Although policy makers probably could get by on unclassified information, the deeper their knowledge of our environment, the better prepared they will be to deal with environmental hazards before the problems reach irreversible proportions.

Another argument against placing the environment under the IC umbrella asserts that by studying the environment, the IC is distracted from its primary goals. According to columnist Bruce Fein, international conflict and turmoil is better explained by political rivalries, disputes over boundaries or natural resources, and religious animosities, than by famine, soil erosion, rapid population growth, and desertification. However, Fein contradicts himself. He claims that a dispute over natural resources is a legitimate cause of international strife. However, he dismisses as irrelevant the study of soil erosion and desertification, key determinants of the quantity of arable land, the most precious natural resource in many areas of the globe.

These criticisms of environmental intelligence fail to recognize that, in many instances, environmental issues can be linked to many of the IC s primary missions. In this sense, environmental intelligence is an important facet of a balanced defense of national security, and therefore, merits a place on the intelligence agenda.


Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Preparing for the 21st Century: An Appraisal of U.S. Intelligence (Washington, D.C., U.S. Printing Office: March 1, 1996.)

Council on Foreign Relations. Making Intelligence Smarter: The Future of U.S. Intelligence.

Deutch, John. The Environment on the Intelligence Agenda, Speech at the World Affairs Council, Los Angeles, CA. July 25, 1996.

Deutch John. Worldwide Threat Assessment Brief to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington D.C. February 22, 1996.

Dreyfuss, Robert. "Spying on the Environment," Earth Action Network (February, 1995), p. 28.

Fein, Bruce. Is the CIA Being Led Astray? The Washington Post, October 17, 1995.

Frye, Alton. "How to 'Spy' on the Environment; From the Cold War Archives, We Could Learn Much About the Planet," The Washington Post, May 3, 1992.

Hedley, Dr. John H. Checklist for the Future of Intelligence. Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, March 1995.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the 104th Congress. IC21: Intelligence in the 21st Century. Washington D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996.

U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Federal Oceanography Coordination Improvement Act of 1996. 104th Congress, 2nd Sess., H.R.3537, July 17, 1996.

Washburn, A.L. and Gunter Weller. "Arctic Research in the National Interest," American Association for the Advancement of Science (August 8, 1986), Vol. 233; p.633.

World Wide Web Resources:

Bureau of Land Management website.

Department of Energy website.

Environmental Protection Agency website.

Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

"Kodak Selected to provide Digital Camera for Space Imaging's Satellite," html, Thornton, CO., July 12, 1995.

Minerals Management Service website.

National Academy of Sciences website.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration website.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

National Science Foundation website.

Ruffner, Kevin C. "Declassification's Great Leap Forward: CORONA and the Intelligence Community,"

U.S. Geological Survey website.

Congressional Testimony:

U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Military Research and Development Subcommittee of House National Security Committee, Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee of House Resources Committee, Energy and Environment Subcommittee of House Science Committee. Leveraging National Oceanographic Capabilities. Hearings, 104th Cong., 2nd sess., January 25, 1996. (Testimony given by Dr. D. James Baker, Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere at NOAA, Admiral Jeremy Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Watkins, U.S. Navy (Ret.), and Representative Curt Weldon, Chairman.)

U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Military Research and Development Subcommittee of House National Security Committee, and Wildlife, Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee of House National Security. Disposal of Radioactive Materials in the Ocean. Hearings, 104th Cong., 1st sess., December 6, 1995. (Testimony given by Lawrence K. Gershwin, National Intelligence Officer for Science and Technology, CIA.)

U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on Appropriations, and Subcommittee on National Security. House Appropriations National Security FY96 Defense Appropriations. Hearings, 104th Cong., 1st sess., May 16, 1995. (Testimony given by Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy (Ret.).)