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CIA Technology: Bettering Our Lives

The CIA represents people from all walks of life. Besides traditional intelligence officers, the Agency also needs doctors, hair stylists, seamstresses, and other skilled personnel to help meet the unique needs of its mission.

With this in mind, you might not be surprised to learn that declassified, publicly released technologies developed by CIA have impacted the world in positive ways. One of the best examples is the common lithium-iodine battery, developed by CIA in the 1960s to improve the performance of surveillance equipment and prolong the operation of reconnaissance satellites.

The benefits of this declassified technology can be felt close to home today, from its use in pacemakers to your cell phone and digital camera. The medical community often benefits from research and development performed by the CIA. For example, technology that CIA originally developed for the analysis of satellite imagery was made available to assist radiologists in detecting breast cancer.

By aligning and comparing digital x-ray images taken over time, radiologists are able to identify changes. This technique is especially useful in detecting breast cancer in women under 50, where diagnosis is particularly difficult. A former CIA employee, now a certified clinical anaplastologist, has had a significant impact on the lives of many medically disfigured patients. Having honed his talents as an Agency disguise specialist, he now designs custom prosthetics for patients to help restore their sense of identity and bolster their confidence.

“My work with disguises is what led me to where I am now,” he says, crediting his time at the CIA as the foundation for his second career. The CIA-assisted technology that may be most familiar to you began as a way for intelligence officers to combine complicated data sets and imagery into clear, realistic visual representations.

Allowing users to “fly” from space to street level seamlessly, exploring layers of information including roads, businesses, and demographics, this groundbreaking technology was acquired in 2004 and laid the groundwork for the development of Google Earth.

So the next time you are exploring a new land from the comfort of your laptop or texting a friend on your lithium-battery-powered cell phone, take a moment to think about the many ways CIA technology has improved life outside its walls.


Posted: Jun 04, 2013 02:20 PM
Last Updated: Jun 04, 2013 02:20 PM