The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, coping with two wars and terrorism, has sent analysts to Haiti to help SouthCom and the State Department plan and deploy troops and aid.
We got an email from NGA spokeswoman Sue Meisner telling us of the deployment. Given the enormous strains on the intelligence community's analysts, pouring through huge quantities of pictures, human intelligence, multi-spectral imagery and signals intelligence data, this deployment sends a clear signal of the depth of the Obama administration's commitment to Haitian relief.
For those who might question this use of a scarce resource at a time when US troops need every scintilla of decent intelligence they can get, remember that the Haitian disaster occurred in our backyard. For those who remember the Monroe Doctrine, one of the most fundamental tenets of American foreign policy is that we take care of our backyard to ensure it remains ours. If the relief effort in Haiti does not give Haitians good reason to stay in their country and not take to rafts and boats to try and get to Florida then we will face fundamental health and economic challenges. Imagine the scene as thousands -- if not tens of thousands -- of Haitians pour into Florida, people weakened by lack of food, bearing with them some of the highest TB rates around, all desperate for housing, health care and economic help. I'd argue that any efforts we can take that will help forestall that scenario are worth taking and are much cheaper in the long run.
Also, the unique capabilities NGA analysts can bring to bear will doubtless help greatly in deploying aid and health workers where they are most needed. That will help us get out of Haiti more quickly. Those NGA products may also provide substantial help as the very long effort to rebuild housing and basic infrastructure gets underway.
NGA "remains committed to making as much information and as many products available as possible," Meisner said in her email, "at the unclassified level for use by first responders and disaster response workers. NGA continues to add products to the NGA-earth.org Web site for their use."
When I did my first story on the intelligence help heading to Haiti, I failed to mention a basic truth about the products on the NGA web site. NGA puts them together, but much of the satellite imagery comes from the National Reconnaissance Office's satellites. An NRO official pointed this out after our story ran and we are happy to give credit where credit is due, especially in the service of such a righteous mission.