In a striking but unnoticed extension of domestic surveillance, the little-known National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency deployed a U-2 spy plane on the region affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to track hazards to public health.
In an article Thursday, Salon's Tim Shorrock explores the emergence of the NGA, born in 1996 from a partnership between the CIA, the Pentagon and the agency that maintains America's spy satellites.
The single-seat high-altitude plane, originally designed for CIA spy missions -- remembered perhaps for a 1960 mission where a plane was shot down over the Soveit Union -- is a key element of the US arsenal in collecting intelligence overseas. Its high-resolution imagery is critical for examining nuclear and other weapons sites.
In a way, Shorrock suggests the visible mission of the U-2 over New Orleans is akin to the visible mission of the U-2 over the Soviet Union -- a tip of the iceberg in a much larger program that most of America knows nothing about.