Imagery Intelligence – A Foundation of 21st Century Intelligence
Today’s intelligence professionals must be familiar with imagery intelligence or IMINT. In fact, a congressional report called it a “mainstay” of the modern intelligence community. In other words, those looking to secure a position in intelligence should be knowledgeable about this important component of intelligence data.
What is Imagery Intelligence?
Imagery intelligence is the collection of intelligence through the analysis of aerial photography and images collected through satellites. IMINT has history dating even before the Civil War, when hot air balloons were used to get a “birds-eye” view of the enemy. With the advent of photography and airplanes, IMINT evolved into the analysis of aerial photography. This type of intelligence gathering was employed often in the last century; one specific case is the use of zeppelins in World War II to gather intelligence on enemy forces.
In the 21st century, however, technological advances, such as satellites, have taken imagery intelligence to a whole new echelon. Even the average computer user has access to Google Earth, which allows them to zoom in on most areas on earth down to even street level. This is an amazing advancement, however, it inundates the intelligence community with more information than it can handle. The above-mentioned report even stated that “Given present trends, the number of images collected will continue to outpace our ability to analyze them.”
This illustrates the incredible need the intelligence community has for professionals who are trained in IMINT and also that those who are will have a stable career ahead of them.
How is IMINT used?
Among other areas, imagery intelligence is extremely important to military and intelligence operations. It allows those who plan the operations to see the environment and terrain that they will be infiltrating. IMINT is consulted regularly in order of battle (OOB) analysis, battle damage assessments, and assessments on enemy courses of action.
Imagery intelligence is an important aspect of geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT, which looks at imagery, IMINT, and geospatial information to describe and make visual representation of physical features for use in military and intelligence operations. The National Geospatial Intelligence agency, or NGA, functions as a support agency to the U.S. Department of Defense and provides important information that is used in military operations as well as disaster relief and adding safety features to maritime navigation.
IMINT is also used to support or prove inaccurate other types of intelligence, such as signals intelligence (SIGNET) or human intelligence (HUMINT). Other purposes of imagery intelligence include the monitoring of global activity for national security, providing context to more complex intelligence data, and helping with the formation of national strategy and defense policy.
Imaginary Intelligence Training
Someone who would like to enter the imagery intelligence field should have strong geography skills, as well as math skills and advanced English skills. Written and verbal communication abilities are important because IMINT professionals often have to write reports or give briefings on the imagery information they have analyzed.
It is also very useful for an individual who wants to pursue an IMINT career to have a firm understanding of the intelligence collection management process, which is the management and organization of intelligence data. Since there is so much imagery information out there, it is important to be able to analyze, organize, prioritize and disseminate imagery intelligence to the appropriate departments or agencies.
Those who do have intelligence training and these important skills will definitely be competitive candidates for careers at the NGA or other intelligence agencies. There are also many opportunities for military careers and promotions in imagery intelligence for those who have the right skills and education.