The New Political Economy of Geographical Intelligence

Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104:1, 196-214, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2013.843436

39 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2014

See all articles by Jeremy Crampton

Jeremy Crampton

University of Kentucky - Department of Geography

Susan Roberts

University of Kentucky - Department of Geography

Ate Poorthuis

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Date Written: January 1, 2014

Abstract

A troubling new political economy of geographical intelligence has emerged in the United States over the last two decades. The contours of this new political economy are difficult to identify due to official policies keeping much relevant information secret. The U.S. intelligence community increasingly relies on private corporations, working as contractors, to undertake intelligence work, including geographical intelligence (formally known as GEOINT). In this article we first describe the geography intelligence “contracting nexus” consisting of tens of thousands of companies (including those in the geographical information systems and mapping sector), universities and nonprofits receiving Department of Defense and intelligence agency funding. Second, we discuss the “knowledge nexus” to conceptualize how geographical knowledge figures in current U.S. intelligence efforts, themselves part of the U.S. war on terror and counterinsurgency (COIN). To analyze the contracting nexus we compiled and examined extensive data on military and intelligence contracts, especially those contracts awarded by the country’s premier geographical intelligence agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), for satellite data. To analyze the knowledge nexus we examined recent changes in the type of geographical knowledges enrolled in and produced by the U.S. intelligence community.We note a shift from an emphasis on areal and cultural expertise to a focus on calculative predictive spatial analysis in geographical intelligence. Due to a lack of public oversight and accountability, the new political economy of geographical intelligence is not easy to research, yet there are reasons to be troubled by it and the violent surveillant state it supports.

Keywords: geographical intelligence, geographical knowledge, GEOINT, government contracting, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Suggested Citation

Crampton, Jeremy and Roberts, Susan and Poorthuis, Ate, The New Political Economy of Geographical Intelligence (January 1, 2014). Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104:1, 196-214, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2013.843436. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2511331

Jeremy Crampton (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - Department of Geography ( email )

Lexington, KY 40506-0027
United States

Susan Roberts

University of Kentucky - Department of Geography ( email )

Lexington, KY 40506-0027
United States

Ate Poorthuis

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) ( email )

8 Somapah Road
Singapore, 487372
Singapore

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