CIA spies and troops on-the-ground rely on NGA satellite imagery analysis to keep us safe.

Robert Morton
3 min readOct 26, 2022
NGA analysts assess damage from natural disasters

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a little known or talked about U.S. intelligence community member, headquartered in Fort Belvoir North in Springfield, VA. It conducts cartography, map making and satellite imagery analysis, providing timely Geospatial Intelligence to decision-makers and military leaders on imminent threats in hot spots around the world.

It conducts “GEOINT”, GEOspatial INTelligence, a discipline that analyzes imagery and geospatial information, usually from spy satellites. Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth became the eighth Director of the NGA in June 2022, and he works under the authorities of the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence.

Geospatial intelligence offers a respectable career with plenty of opportunities for advancement. Salaries begin at a median range of $58,000 for geospatial analysts, and there are numerous paths for advancement into senior analyst or management positions- the median salary for a senior intelligence analyst with a GEOINT skillset is $96,000.

It is a dynamic field to enter with opportunities to pursue in government, military, and humanitarian organizations. DHS and the U.S. military rely heavily on geospatial intelligence to protect civilians and better understand the complex issues facing our country, from military threats to natural disasters.

For example, humanitarian organizations rely on GEOINT analysts to assess damage from natural or man-made disasters to help determine how much aid is needed for populations facing crisis. Just recently, the NGA supplied geospatial intelligence support to FEMA in its search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

I was impressed how, in 2011, it found Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. Not only did it take detailed photographs of the compound, but it even retrieved and analyzed earlier satellite imagery that showed that it was under construction. GEOINT analysts viewed bin Laden’s hideout before the roof was put on, so they could draw a diagram of the doorways, staircases, and bedrooms inside the house. Navy Seal Team 6, no doubt, thanked them immensely, for they could rehearse and practice before their actual raid that killed the al-Qaida leader.

In my Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series, I often embed NGA activities into the plot. Here’s a snippet from the MISSION OF VENGEANCE spy thriller.

Snippet: The IMINT, image intelligence, satellite hovered 310 miles above Yury Bocharov’s estate, snapping high-resolution, color photos of every square foot of the mansion, outer buildings, and grounds.

The images were relayed to General Morrison’s computer at the CIA safehouse in Key West. The CIA owned eight safe houses in Key West and one of them housed NGA satellite image interpreters who masqueraded as drywallers. A sign out front of their unassuming home read “Key West Drywallers.”

Inside the fake front company, two NGA men and a woman watched computer screens as the satellite continued mapping the estate. Two older men sat on a patio in the back of the mansion. They directed the satellite to zero in on their faces and snap photos of each. With one-foot optical resolution imaging capabilities, each face filled an entire computer screen. The facial photos were enhanced, then relayed to Morrison’s computer. General Morrison sent them at once to Corey’s computer inside the Sosua safe house.

End of Snippet

Lastly, enjoy this video about the NGA: 5 Interesting Facts About the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community. He authors the Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thrillers: MISSION OF VENGEANCE and THE SHADOW WAR.



Robert Morton

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