3 January 2004

Who Is More Reliable, NASA or NIMA?

I have no idea who is right, but I'm curious now, and look forward to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) which might decide the dispute. If NIMA was really taken in by 'noise' it will definitely shake my faith in the part of the intelligence apparatus I always ranked miles above the CIA. [#INCLUDE joke about finding WMD's on Mars here.]

NIMA handles satellite based geographical intelligence for the US government.

The policy-maker as automaton has dominated a lot of the Iraq war story. A submeme running through that story has been the superiority of signal intelligence to human intelligence. I think that superiority is signally exaggerated and it's interesting that NASA (an empire of technique if ever there was one) agrees.

The West has poor human intelligence in the Middle East because we have invested so little in understanding the people of the Middle East. We have massive (not good) signal intelligence in the Middle East because there's a lot of money to be had in the manufacture and deployment of satellites, much more than by investing in quintessentially public goods like university Mideast schools or trained and competent analysts employed by (horror!) the government.

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