Intelligence


NIMA Historic Imagery Declassification

Historical Imagery Declassification
America's Eyes: What We Were Seeing
20 September 2002

On September 20, 2002, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) unveiled for the first time KH-7 GAMBIT and KH-9 HEXAGON (Mapping Camera) imagery, which will be available to researchers ahd historians at the National Archives by October 31, 2002.

Description and Goals:

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) is leading the U.S. Government effort to declassify and release to the public a variety of historical information about our nation's Intelligence Systems through the Historical Imagery Declassification (HID) Program. The HID Program has three goals: promote the spirit of open governance; demonstrate results of taxpayer investment in national security and ensure that researchers from, environmentalists to historians, have access to useful and unique sources of information.

Genesis and Partners:

The HID Conference, "America's Eyes: What We Were Seeing" is the capstone of a NIMA-led effort with other Intelligence, Department of Defense (DOD) and civil organizations to review and declassify Keyhole (KH) imagery from the KH-7 system and KH-9 mapping system. It marks the official transfer of the original satellite imagery from NIMA to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), as stipulated by Executive Order (EO) 12951. Signed on February 22, 1995, EO 12951 directs the release of certain scientific or environmentally useful imagery, consistent with national security, to the public and to create a research repository for the images and complimentary material. The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is NIMA's host for the conference at University College's Inn and Conference Center in Adelphi, MD on September 20, 2002.

KH-7 High-Resolution Surveillance System:

The high-resolution KH-7 surveillance imaging satellite, flown from July 1963 to June 1967, monitored key targets such as ICBM complexes, radar systems, and hot spots around the globe. This system complemented the CORONA search system. Whereas the CORONA missions were dedicated to answering: "Is there something there?" this higher-resolution system assisted imagery analysts in watching that something, to learn more about it, identify it, and classify it. This system also provided the basis for producing large-scale maps of airfields, harbors, cities, and missile defense systems.

KH-9 Low-Resolution Mapping System:

The lower-resolution KH-9 mapping system was devoted exclusively to gathering information for mapmaking, and collected imagery from March 1973 to October 1980. Geodetic data, including precise geopositioning, elevation, and other information provided the DoD with accurate point locations for air, sea, and ground operations. This system was also used for tactical and strategic weapons system planning.

Public Availability (NARA and EROS Data Center):

Together, these two systems acquired approximately 50,000 images (approximately 93,000 linear feet of film). Following declassification, NARA will archive the original imagery and make a duplicate copy available for the public. The United States Geological Survey's EROS Data Center (EDC) in Sioux Falls, SD will receive a duplicate negative of this imagery, the metadata associated with the frames, and browse images for the public to view on their web site before ordering. The public will then be able to order prints and film transparencies from EDC via the Internet -just as they can do today for the CORONA imagery.




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