Great news: CIA watching the ice melt

In the wake of the attempted al-Qaeda attack on Christmas Day and the intelligence failures that allowed the EunuchBomber to board the plane, people have asked what our intelligence agencies have been doing to protect the US from terrorism.  The New York Times provides an answer … of sorts:

The nation’s top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government’s intelligence assets — including spy satellites and other classified sensors — to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change. They seek insights from natural phenomena like clouds and glaciers, deserts and tropical forests.

The collaboration restarts an effort the Bush administration shut down and has the strong backing of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the last year, as part of the effort, the collaborators have scrutinized images of Arctic sea ice from reconnaissance satellites in an effort to distinguish things like summer melts from climate trends, and they have had images of the ice pack declassified to speed the scientific analysis. …

The monitoring program has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering, federal officials said, but instead releases secret information already collected or takes advantage of opportunities to record environmental data when classified sensors are otherwise idle or passing over wilderness.

Secrecy cloaks the monitoring effort, as well as the nation’s intelligence work, because the United States wants to keep foes and potential enemies in the dark about the abilities of its spy satellites and other sensors. The images that the scientific group has had declassified, for instance, have had their sharpness reduced to hide the abilities of the reconnaissance satellites.

Controversy has often dogged the use of federal intelligence gear for environmental monitoring. In October, days after the C.I.A. opened a small unit to assess the security implications of climate change, Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, said the agency should be fighting terrorists, “not spying on sea lions.”

Now, with the intelligence world under fire after the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day, and with the monitoring program becoming more widely known, such criticism seems likely to grow.

Gee, you think?

The CIA has a specific mission, which is to gather intelligence to enhance American national security and to conduct covert operations against our enemies.  Right now, we are at war in Afghanistan and attempting to defeat a resilient network of terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen.  The latter network came within a reliable detonator of killing hundreds of people and wreaking havoc on our transportation system  — again.

The CIA and the State Department managed to fumble the data that would have prevented the bomber from getting on the plane.  Eight years after 9/11 and four years after a massive reorganization of the intelligence community, we are no better at connecting dots to stop an AQ attack, and no better at communication of critical information.  Maybe — just maybe — the CIA and its political-hack director should be more focused on its mission than on watching ice melt, or freeze, depending on the time of year.