In 1995, the intelligence community (IC) simply did not have access to the imagery and collection technologies that are available today. Many in the IC may recall that imagery analysts often personally carried every imagery product to the supported team of warfighters for briefings. This meant that analysts were working almost around the clock to provide the necessary geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) data required to support missions.
Why did imagery analysts operate in this way? Beyond the fact that it was just how the system worked at the time, they went the extra mile because they were sincerely dedicated and passionate about their critical role in intelligence sharing.
As we are faced with a post-WikiLeaks world, it may be the perception that Army PFC. Bradley Manning’s alleged actions of passing classified documents to the controversial online media organization are indicative of how many operate in the IC. This could not be further from the truth.
The heightened awareness surrounding the WikiLeaks scandal reinforces what former CIA Director General Michael V. Hayden once said about the importance of balancing the intelligence community’s duty to share information with the duty to protect U.S. citizens. When top secret information is leaked, it is often the innocent who suffer most. This threat reaches beyond putting overseas intelligence analysts at risk, causing citizens to experience a level of change and discomfort when measures like air travel security requirements are heightened in the name of national security.
While the alleged actions of Pfc. Manning are considered treason, they are not symbolic of how all members of the IC operate—especially those in the GEOINT space. The majority of IC professionals operate in accordance with the highest code of ethics and would never leak information that could potentially harm our military or citizens.
Despite the recent setback of the WikiLeaks scandal, the IC must continue to foster collaboration in order to truly be successful. In looking back, we have come a long way with regard to collaboration. Recent technological advancements have made it easier to pass appropriately classified, sophisticated products to the necessary experts while also protecting sources and methods.
Agencies such as the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) are also helping to overcome collaboration challenges by assembling experts from multiple interagency partners to work together toward a specific problem set. In addition, simple solutions like regular video teleconferencing (VTC) and cross-agency meetings at the analyst level will help tremendously in building cohesion.
Imagery analysts and the vast majority of the IC have a deep passion for what they do. If you walk the halls of the annual GEOINT Symposium, you can almost feel the deep dedication and patriotism that permeate this community. As members of the intelligence community, it is in our nature to “do the right thing”—and we cannot let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch.