Top scientists and spies are once again collaborating in an effort to use government equipment, including spy satellites and other classified sensors, to study climate change, the New York Times reports. The partnership revives a program shut down by the Bush administration and which now has the strong backing of CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Over the past year the scientists have examined images of Arctic sea ice taken by reconnaissance satellites, looking for differences between summer melts and warming trends. Scientists working on the images said they were very useful because they had no way to send large teams of explorers to gather the data themselves. About 60 scientists have special clearances to work with the data.
Federal officials said the partnership has had no effect on normal intelligence-gathering; most of the data being given to scientists is simply declassified versions of information already collected and stored. The program costs the government essentially nothing, despite criticism from Republicans in Congress, including Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who said the CIA should be fighting terrorists, “not spying on sea lions.”