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INTelligence: Geospatial Intelligence

The president and policymakers rely on insights from Central Intelligence Agency products to help form their foreign policy decisions. CIA officers use a variety of sources in formulating their assessments. The following article is the third in a series that will explore different sources and collection disciplines, which are the building blocks of what we call “finished intelligence.” This article focuses on geospatial intelligence.


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A picture is worth a thousand words: a lesson every intelligence officer learns. Every day satellites in the sky capture the comings and goings of nations around the world. These images may provide the missing piece to the puzzle that can help keep the nation safe.


Geospatial Intelligence

The Intelligence Community (IC) refers to the use and analysis of geospatial information to assess geographically referenced activities on Earth as geospatial intelligence (GEOINT). It is everything you can see or know about the earth.

GEOINT consists of:

  • Imagery  - a likeness of any natural or man-made feature, as well as its location.
  • Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) – information derived through interpreting imagery.
  • Geospatial Information – information that identifies a natural or constructed feature on Earth by its geographic location and other characteristics.


GEOINT Collection

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is the prime producer and functional manager for national and allied GEOINT efforts for the IC.  CIA analysts often use NGA products to complement their analysis of a situation in finished intelligence.


GEOINT Analysis

GEOINT is a layering of multiple sources, including imagery, IMINT, and geospatial information. No one source can do it all. The final product is intelligence that can answer questions such as:

  • Where am I?
  • What are the natural and man-made structures?
  • What does the area look like now? What might it look like after an event?
  • What do we need to prepare for?
  • Where are our allies? Where are our enemies? Where might they move?


Importance of GEOINT

GEOINT because it provides invaluable information about the activities of our adversaries that may help shape foreign policy.


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Posted: Sep 23, 2010 10:05 AM
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2013 12:41 PM