The NSA and CIA are household names in the U.S. most consider them the leading spy agencies. However, there’s a one spy agency that has managed to remain in the shadows.
The agency has cutting edge tools of the surveillance trade. It’s headquarters is bigger that the U.S. Capitol in size. Its name is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
Surprisingly, even former President Barack Obama didn’t know of its existence when he first took office. The agency has 15,400 employees.
The NGA remains the most shadowy member of the Big Five spy agencies, which include the CIA and the National Security Agency.The secretive identity of NGA contradicts the agency’s massive physical size and the scope of its surveillance activities.
The agency was completed in 2011 at a cost of $1.4 billion. Its main building measures four football fields long and covers as much ground as two aircraft carriers.
Back in 2016, the agency purchased 99 acres in St. Louis to construct additional buildings at a cost of $1.75 billion to accommodate the growing workforce, with 3,000 employees already in the city.
NGA’s principal function is to analyze the billions of images and miles of video captured by drones in the Middle East and spy satellites circling the globe.
NGA has largely kept its ultra-high-resolution cameras pointed away from the United States, according to a variety of studies, the agency has never been involved in domestic spy scandals like its two far more famous siblings, the CIA and the NSA.
NGA was originally tasked with cartography. It has since undergone a mammoth expansion, the spy arm had been called the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, until a name and mission switch in 2003 gave the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency its name, with the hyphen allowing a three-letter acronym so enamored by the government.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the National Photographic Interpretation Center shortly before leaving office, it was later absorbed by the NGA.
The NGA works in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force to analyze the staggering amount of data collected through aerial surveillance abroad, mostly by unmanned aerial systems, such as drones with high-powered cameras.The NGA was integral in the analysis of surveillance data pertaining to Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
The data provided to the NGA by military officials has assisted in various U.S. operations in the Middle East by tracking vehicles believed responsible for planting improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and for monitoring hot spots for insurgent breakouts.
The NGA was involved in the NEPTUNE’S SPEAR mission, the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. NGA enabled the SEAL Team Six to access a perfect replica of the Abbottabad compound where the terrorist mastermind was hiding.
The NGA collected the details of Osama’s compound using laser radar and imagery to construct a 3D version of the compound.The NGA figured the compounds measurements and analysis, how many people lived at the compound, their gender, and even their heights. But the NGA didn’t stop there: Its calculations also helped the pilots of the stealth Black Hawks know precisely where to land.
The National and Military Intelligence combined budget request for 2017 totaled $70.3 billion. NGA is under the program the agency will definitely have quickened support from the authoritarian-leaning, pro-military Trump administration.
There are fears that the agencies astonishingly sophisticated equipment could be granted authority to bring its expert microscope into focus against the American people.
The agency can determine the structure of buildings and objects from a distance, it has some of the most sophisticated facial recognition software on the planet and uses sensors on satellites and drones that can see through thick clouds for ‘all-weather’ imagery analysis.