Friday, December 26, 2014


     As a writer of the "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean" spy series, I try to obtain knowledge about the technical means that our intelligence services use to battle global terrorism. Knowing how ELINT, HUMINT, COMINT, SIGINT and MASINT work together in their surveillance missions makes for fast-paced spy novel plotting and intrigue. For example, I attended an Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) luncheon in Tysons Corner, VA to hear Leticia Long speak about her duties as Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The video below has an appearance by Long, and is an excellent beginning resource for studying GEOINT:

Introduction to Geospatial Intelligence

     In the Corey Pearson spy series, an organization known as the Caribbean Basin Interdiction Force (CBIF) makes use of stealth satellites to spy on terrorist cells throughout the Caribbean islands. To add credibility to these satellites and their missions, I wanted to learn about Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
     A 5-week course offered by Penn State University in Pa. provides much information about GEOINT and the NGA. I enrolled in it (cost is free) and will learn about how this specialty of intelligence gathering has grown due to advances in satellite and GPS technologies, unmanned aerial systems, wireless communications, handheld computing, and the ability to automate laborious map analysis processes.
     The U.S. Intelligence Community has advanced from working with mountains of  hardcopy maps to amazing automated systems that provide previously unavailable understanding. Analysts can now use real-time apps to guide quick decision making and combine geographic information science and technologies with an analytic tradecraft.
     The course will teach me the value of GEOINT as I learn how to design and execute a geospatial analysis project using GEOINT tools and tradecraft. The course is "watered-down" and designed for guys like me who want to learn the basics of GEOINT. If you are a spy thriller author, journalist, or spy buff, you will enjoy taking it, too. It is not designed for the geospatial intelligence professional. That's right,  No background is required and anyone reading this article is welcome to enroll and take the course. Here's a breakdown of what I'm about to experience in the 5-week program: 

Week One: What is GEOINT?
Learn what GEOINT is and how it provides a powerful way of thinking about and finding solutions to complex humanitarian, military, economic, and cultural problems. We'll discuss the role of secrecy and its challenges.

Week Two:  GEOINT Data.
Examine the types and nature of data used to create GEOINT, including textual information, imagery, and geospatial data. Discuss how location-based data is changing conceptions of privacy.

Week Three: GEOINT Data Sources.
Understand how GEOINT data is collected by a variety of methods including satellites, drones, crowdsourcing, and through social media.

Week Four: The GEOINT Tradecraft.
Apply the art and science of extracting meaning from GEOINT data to uncover and investigate relationships and patterns.

Week Five: Applying GEOINT Principles.
Use GEOINT principles to evaluate and transform raw data into descriptions, explanations, or judgments about a place.

     The class consists of short lecture videos, which are 5-10 minutes in length, as well as written and graphical content to cover key geospatial intelligence concepts and competencies. Each week features a hands-on lab assignment using browser-based software. Weekly quizzes will be based on these concepts as well as those covered in lab activities. There is a final exam.

If you are interested in taking the course, click Coursera Course on GEOINT.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online Spy series, "Corey Pearson, CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean". The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any organization he is a member of. Reach him on the Secure Contact Form

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