The National Geospatial Agency mapped bin Laden's compound, analyzed drone data, and helped the SEALs simulate their mission
President Obama's first brush with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was ignominious. Out for lunch in May 2009, at a Five Guys burger franchise in Washington, the new President started to shake the hands of other customers, TV cameras in tow. Then he turned to men with government ID badges.
"So what do you?" the president asked. "I work for at NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency," one said.
"Outstanding. How long have you been doing that?" Obama wondered. "Six years." Obama then asked: "So, explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial..." His voice trailed off. "Uh, we work with, uh, satellite imagery." Obama: "Sounds like good work." The response is obscured by the audio.
Suffice it to say: Obama knows what the NGA does today.
Any number of officials and agencies have been in the limelight since the raid on Osama bin Laden, including the CIA and the Defense Department. But the little-known and little-heralded work of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, often called the NGA, was central to the demise of the terrorist leader.
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The NGA integrates several core intelligence functions. It makes maps and interprets imagery from satellites and drones; it also exploits the electromagnetic spectrum to track terrorists and decipher signatures off of enemy radar. And notably, the NGA is the first intel agency to be headed by a woman: Letitia Long, a longtime intelligence veteran.