President Obama has taken the shackles off one Central Intelligence Agency project that could benefit humankind far more than any surreptitious spy or paramilitary operations. The CIA has been ordered to resume using its incredibly powerful spy satellites to collect imagery of evidence of global warming.
The program operated from 1992 until 2001, when it was shut down by President George W. Bush, an agnostic about global warming and foe of scientific efforts to reduce harmful industrial emissions.
No organization has the immense archival maps and data of the CIA. Its publicly available "World Factbook," found at www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook, is the premier source of updated material on 266 countries and their history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation and military issues,
But the CIA's unique high-resolution satellites orbiting the Earth also provide scientists with imagery that is so precise that photos must be slightly fuzzed up to prevent enemy nations from understanding the space platforms' true capabilities.
Of special interest are images of Arctic ice melts, unique precursors of climate change and long-term effects on the planet.
University of Washington Professor Norbert Untersteiner, a member of the 60-member team with secret clearance that works with the CIA, said 500 researchers would need to be sent to the Arctic regions to match the capability of the CIA satellites passing over the area.
A few critics, such as Wyoming's Republican U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, condemn CIA environmental intelligence gathering, saying the spy satellites should concentrate on military missions. However, as CIA Director Leon Panetta and others point out, the satellites gather data without abandoning military and intelligence missions.
This immensely wise additional use of spy satellites on behalf of the environment obviously will add indisputable credibility to what respected scientists have insisted all along: that the Earth is warming. This is especially threatening to Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, who has made a career out of pooh-poohing climate change as "a hoax."
This program garners more than technical and scientific credibility. It also is free of political manipulation. As it's said, photos don't lie. The same Washington politicians who fund and rely on CIA satellites for data about America's overseas enemies must now acknowledge the accuracy of evidence gathered about the environment by the same satellites.
Do they dare claim the CIA is concocting photos of the Arctic iceberg meltdowns?