[FPSPACE] Time To Declassify Historical Imagery
Mon, 6 Nov 2000 16:31:47 -0600 (CST)
RE: "It seems only logical that researchers should have access to
Gambit and Hexagon imagery, regardless of the objections raised by the
intelligence community. This is true, especially in the wake of the
commercially available 1-meter satellite imagery ."
At an NRC meeting held this last Friday to discuss foreign policy
and remote sensing, a NIMA rep said (and I paraphrase) that as more
private systems are licensed, less data can be released. This is because
together, the old images and the new commercial images can reveal national
security trends over time.
Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz
Professor, Space Law & Policy
Remote Sensing Law & Policy
Space Studies Department
University of North Dakota
On Thu, 2 Nov 2000, Charles P. Vick wrote:
> Space News Op-ed,
> November 6, 2000
> By Charles P. Vick,
> Senior Research Analyst, Space Defense Policy office at the Federation of
> American Scientists.
> Time To Declassify Historical Imagery
> Since the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released Corona satellite
> imagery — the nation’s first photo reconnaissance satellite system — in
> February 1995, there has been an unprecedented impact on environmental
> studies, urban planning, and legal documentation for the insurance industry,
> along with documentation of history.
> Corona imagery also has provided priceless insight into foreign strategic
> programs of various nations, including North Korea, The Peoples Republic of
> China, Taiwan, Pakistan, India, the former Soviet Union and Iran, among
> others. This declassification has truly fulfilled much more than expected.
> Corona imagery, combined with U-2 imagery and the still
> yet-to-be-declassified follow-on film-based imagery could provide scientists
> with an unprecedented, critical historical record of what Earth looked like
> and how it has changed.
> While the CIA and National Reconnaissance Office have been openly hoping for
> the declassification of the Gambit and Hexagon imagery since October 1997,
> it has yet to be fulfilled and is not expected until the of fall of 2001, if
> ever. It is now in the hands of the director of Central Intelligence. .
> These delays in the release of the follow-on imagery systems, a pattern of
> repeated broken promises throughout the declassification programs,
> discourages serious research and remains very perplexing. In fact, the
> intelligence community’s priority is current events information. History
> takes second place to that priority. Furthermore, it is quite expensive to
> maintain classified records. U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order
> 12951 required that a review decision by the director of Central
> Intelligence on further declassifications of imagery be conducted on or
> before Feb. 22, 2000. To date there is no evidence to suggest such a
> decision has been made or is forth coming. The lack of a continual
> presidential directive to require that the intelligence community get moving
> on this has allowed the community to get away with ignoring the issue.
> While the CIA was the owner of the Corona and U-2 imagery, it is not the
> controlling organization for the Gambit/KH-7, Gambit/KH-8 and Hexagon/KH-9
> film-based imagery. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency is the
> controlling agency, but the declassification decision is in the hands of the
> director of Central Intelligence. The question has become, does the Clinton
> administration still have the leadership to see this through to completion
> before leaving office?
> A close examination of the precise legal language of certain sections of
> Executive Order 12951 is very revealing on the future prospects of the
> imagery declassification.
> Most telling of all is the statement that indicates that only broad-area
> film-return systems will be considered for declassification. That means the
> medium-high-resolution KH-7/Gambit imagery will probably be considered
> because it is the oldest medium-high-resolution imagery acquired. It also
> means that the medium-resolution KH-9A & B/Hexagon imagery of a lesser
> quality than the KH-7 imagery will be considered for declassification. It is
> unlikely that any of the very high-resolution Gambit/KH-8 imagery will be
> released without a major change in declassification policy.
> This will have a major impact on the historical documentation of events. Why
> the intelligence community could not continue to have access to this Gambit
> high-resolution, Gambit very high-resolution and Hexagon medium-resolution
> imagery for themselves while it is also available for the public remains
> incomprehensible to me.
> The intelligence community needs to realize that these reconnaissance
> satellite images document history that cannot otherwise be documented.
> It represents a particularly significant source of certainty of historical
> events in countries such as the former Soviet Union and China, and there are
> critical lessons to be learned from this imagery. It alone, is the only way
> available to accomplish this as a cross check on the accuracy of Russian
> historic documentation statements.
> For example, this is especially true when looking into the the Soviet Union’
> s manned lunar programs. The official records of the former Soviet Union are
> being contradicted by the Corona imagery. We can only begin to wonder what
> the Gambit and Hexagon imagery will reveal beyond what Corona imagery has
> shown. .
> It seems only logical that researchers should have access to Gambit and
> Hexagon imagery, regardless of the objections raised by the intelligence
> community. This is true, especially in the wake of the commercially
> available 1-meter satellite imagery .
> It seems that because of the lack of congressional funding and political
> will, there will be no film-based imagery declassification, even though a
> large portion of this imagery is more than 25 years old.
> Apart from the absence of compelling security barriers to the release of
> various imagery and analytical products, the now operational commercial
> imagery satellite systems provide a compelling incentive for the release of
> the remaining archival film-based imagery. The practical utility of this new
> commercial imagery will be vastly enhanced by comparing it to the historical
> Everyone concerned acknowledges Corona imagery and the follow-on systems is
> a unique resource which security researchers and analysts have barely begun
> to exploit. The original promise of openness has not been realized.
> Surely the intelligence communities, Congress and the president can do
> better by the the citizens of the United States.
> My only other comment is that:
> It is fascinating that Russia has launched on Proton ISS & Commercial
> payloads from the Proton/Zond launch site 81 L, R of the manned lunar
> circumnavigation program, the direct competitor to Apollo-8 & many people
> have toured the Energia/Buran launch facility site of the TT-05/N1-L3 Soviet
> manned lunar landing program on the Baikonur Cosmodrome but we can not have
> the Gambit and Hexagon imagery access or its declassification to finish
> documenting that history. This is a supremely ridiculous.
> Charles P. Vick
> Research Analyst
> Federation of American Scientists
> phone: (202) 675-1025
> fax: (202) 675-1024
> email: email@example.com
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