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Inside the C.I.A., She Became a Spy for Planet Earth

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posted on Jan, 15 2021 @ 07:16 AM
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Linda Zall played a starring role in American science that led to decades of major advances. But she never described her breakthroughs on television, or had books written about her, or received high scientific honors. One database of scientific publications lists her contributions as consisting of just three papers, with a conspicuous gap running from 1980 to 2020.

The reason is that Dr. Zall’s decades of service to science were done in the secretive warrens of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Now, at 70, she’s telling her story — at least the parts she’s allowed to talk about — and admirers are praising her highly classified struggle to put the nation’s spy satellites onto a radical new job: environmental sleuthing.

“It was fun,” she said of her C.I.A. career. “It was really a lot of fun.”


www.nytimes.com...

It was quite the novelty to read a story in which US intelligence agencies are portrayed in such a positive light.


The top-secret images that Dr. Zall succeeded in repurposing for environmental inquiries came from satellites that were some of Washington’s crown jewels. The spy satellites would zero in on such targets as deadly weapons and render images that in some cases were said to be good enough to show a car’s license plate. The first reconnaissance satellite, known as Corona, was launched in 1960. Federal experts have put the overall cost of its hundreds of successors at more than $50 billion.



Dr. Zall’s environmentalism for the C.I.A. began in 1990 when Vice President Al Gore, then a Democratic senator from Tennessee and now a leading climate-change activist, wrote a letter asking the agency to examine whether the nation’s spy fleet might address environmental riddles. The agency put Dr. Zall onto the question. Quickly, she saw how the nation’s archive of surveillance observations could also serve to strengthen assessments of Earth’s changing environment.


It's more than that though, Zall's story demonstrates how great leaps forward can be made when the intelligence agencies of different countries work together towards a common goal.


As part of the post-Cold War thaw, the Clinton administration wanted to engage Russia with new projects and better relations. The Soviets, it turned out, had amassed a treasure of Arctic ice data.

The negotiations to share the trove involved top officials from both sides, starting with Dr. Zall. “I went to Moscow probably 10 times and St. Petersburg twice,” she said.

Her first visit took her to a mansion on Moscow’s outskirts. She rode a tiny elevator made of ornate ironwork that opened to a large room full of vases, Oriental rugs and chandeliers. Five men met her, including a general.

“It was really intimidating,” she said. “I was a satellite wonk. They all spoke perfect English. They were extremely warm and inclusive.” In time, that initial meeting was part of a series that helped broker a peaceful new era.

In early 1995, Medea was the driving force when President Bill Clinton ordered the declassification of more than 800,000 spy-satellite images, including ones for mapping and area surveillance. Taken from 1960 through 1972, the images showed not only airfields and missile bases but also giant swaths of land marked by deforestation and environmental ills. An image taken in 1962 revealed the Aral Sea before an ecological catastrophe left it bone dry.


It is truly sad that such pioneering and globally important work can be sidelined or deprioritised due to changes in administration.


President George W. Bush’s administration and conservatives in Congress, questioning the scientific consensus on global warming, let Medea languish for many years. But in late 2008 it was revived in cooperation with a Democratic Congress, and continued by the Obama administration.

Dr. Zall then focused on how Earth’s changing environment would most likely prompt security issues and crises. In late 2009, the C.I.A. set up a Center on Climate Change and National Security. Its mission was to help American policymakers better understand the impact of floods, rising sea levels, population shifts, state instabilities and heightened competition for natural resources. News reports announcing the program again made no mention of Dr. Zall.

She retired from the C.I.A. in 2013. Medea was never the same. The agency shut it down in 2015, and the Trump administration made sure there was no revival of the program.



She said her group, knowing that Earth’s fate might hang in the balance, wrestled for years on how to monitor climate treaties. She called the problem “very difficult” and argued that its resolution was even more important today.

“It needs to be done,” Dr. Zall said. “We have to figure it out.”


It is well-known that in the same period as Dr Zall was documenting the decline of Earth's environment for the CIA, federal US agencies along with privately employed security firms were doing all they could to counter the Climate Change science and to disrupt grass-roots environmental groups that questioned the activities of the fossil fuels industry. This perhaps goes some way to explain why Dr Zall's team was a secret due to the same entities creating obstacles to transparency within government.

Kind of makes you wonder where we would all be now if Al Gore hadn't felt the need to dumb things down and given the people of the US a little credit for having some intelligence to comprehend the enormity of the situation.


edit on 15-1-2021 by KilgoreTrout because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 15 2021 @ 07:35 AM
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a reply to: KilgoreTrout

great to see you again!
and hugging trees no less.


That is a cool story. Thanks for sharing.



posted on Jan, 15 2021 @ 10:07 AM
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a reply to: KilgoreTrout
Rising see levels,mass migration,water/resourse wars,increased diseases/famine/war,national security at risk,collapse of civilasation...


knowing that Earth’s fate might hang in the balance, wrestled for years on how to monitor climate treaties



“It was fun,” she said of her C.I.A. career. “It was really a lot of fun.”


Hmm,yeah that doesn't sound like much fun to me.
It sounds like we have #ed the whole thing up TBH.



posted on Jan, 15 2021 @ 01:15 PM
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a reply to: network dude

I think tree-hugging is the only acceptable form of hugging in these pandemic times.

It is a cool story isn't it? Let's hope that such ventures receive new impetus with the new administration and that the US finally gets it's arse into gear and starts instead fighting for a sustainable future instead of worrying that the "Commies" are coming for them/you.




posted on Jan, 15 2021 @ 01:19 PM
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originally posted by: Silcone Synapse
Hmm,yeah that doesn't sound like much fun to me.
It sounds like we have #ed the whole thing up TBH.


I think it is reasonable to have fun whilst working up against the pit-face - if you can, but yeah, we've #ed up bad. We need to get on with sorting it out before it gets really bad, sobbing into our palms won't help, it needs nation-level action - nothing less will do it now.



posted on Jan, 15 2021 @ 04:06 PM
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a reply to: KilgoreTrout



Let's hope that such ventures receive new impetus with the new administration and that the US finally gets it's arse into gear

What , paying carbon credits to enrich the UN ?
You are right though .
The "new administration" does so want their cut of them.



posted on Jan, 17 2021 @ 03:18 AM
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originally posted by: Gothmog
What , paying carbon credits to enrich the UN ?
You are right though .
The "new administration" does so want their cut of them.


We're a big ways past that stage Gothmog, I think that was the plan 20-some years ago. Now most nations are concentrating on the rapid phasing out of fossil fuels. It has been, admittedly, slow to roll out and there has been resistence, obviously, but it is gaining momentum now that the technology is catching up and becoming more accessible price wise. Last year all my domestic energy use was from renewable, sustainable energy sources. The US has a great deal of catching up to do but places like Austin are blazing the trail and setting a good example for others to follow - and given the on-going exodus to Texas of wealthier Americans it seems that such forward thinking is what people want to put their money and support behind. People want cleaner air - funnily enough and are willing to pay for it. There will hopefully be some trickle down effect because poor people need it too, and as recent court rulingsts have also demonstrated, we also have a right to chose to leave somewhere with poor air quality, and cannot be extradited back from somewhere with better air quality.


edit on 17-1-2021 by KilgoreTrout because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 17 2021 @ 03:31 AM
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a reply to: KilgoreTrout



We're a big ways past that stage Gothmog, I think that was the plan 20-some years ago.

Nope.
Still there .
Ask Australia.



posted on Jan, 17 2021 @ 03:34 AM
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originally posted by: Gothmog
a reply to: KilgoreTrout



We're a big ways past that stage Gothmog, I think that was the plan 20-some years ago.

Nope.
Still there .
Ask Australia.


You're a really deep thinker, ain't ya!

I never said the Kyoto agreement was moot just that we've moved on from just bartering to the action phase. Just ask Australia and how they are addressing the massive land degradation there by reclaiming wet-lands.




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