Geospatial Intelligence

Origins and Evolution

Robert M. Clark

"It is a pioneering text suitable for everyone’s reading list as well as the classroom."
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A riveting introduction to the complex and evolving field of geospatial intelligence.

Although geospatial intelligence is a term of recent origin, its underpinnings have a long and interesting history. Geospatial Intelligence: Origins and Evolution shows how the current age of geospatial knowledge evolved from its ancient origins to become ubiquitous in daily life across the globe. Within that framework, the book weaves a tapestry of stories about the people, events, ideas, and technologies that affected the trajectory of what has become known as GEOINT.

Author Robert M. Clark explores the historical background and subsequent influence of fields such as geography, cartography, remote sensing, photogrammetry, geopolitics, geophysics, and geographic information systems on GEOINT. Although its modern use began in national security communities, Clark shows how GEOINT has rapidly extended its reach to other government agencies, NGOs, and corporations. This global explosion in the use of geospatial intelligence has far-reaching implications not only for the scientific, academic, and commercial communities but for a society increasingly reliant upon emerging technologies. Drones, the Internet of things, and cellular devices transform how we gather information and how others can collect that information, to our benefit or detriment.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



List of Abbreviations

1. Intelligence and Geospatial Intelligence

The Boundaries of Intelligence

Geospatial Terminology

The Power of a Single Word

Defining Geospatial Intelligence

2. A Brief History of Maps and Charts


The Silk Road



Nautical Charts

Aeronautical Charts

Establishing Claims with Cartography

Chapter Summary

3. Terrain

Measuring and Representing Terrain

Digital Elevation Models

Military Use of Terrain

Civil Use of Terrain

Oceanographic Terrain

Chapter Summary

4. Navigation

Celestial Navigation

Radio Navigation

Satellite Navigation

Chapter Summary

5. Geopolitics

Mahan’s Sea Power Theory

Mackinder’s Heartland Theory

German Geopolitik

Spykman’s Rimland Theory

The Continuing Influence of Geopolitical Theories

Thematic Cartography

Geopolitical Strategy

Chapter Summary

6. Geographic Information Systems

The Cluttered Map

Hard Copy Layers

Roger Tomlinson, the Father of GIS

The Harvard Connection

ESRI and Intergraph

Interactive Maps and Charts

The GIS Choice: Raster or Vector?

The Power of GIS

The Explosion of GIS Applications

Are Paper Maps Obsolete?


Chapter Summary

7. Geolocation

Geolocation Basics

Using Imagery

Radiofrequency Geolocation

Acoustic Geolocation

Cyber Geolocation

Chapter Summary

8. Gaining the High Ground


Observation Towers

Lighter-than-Air Craft

Exotic Approaches to the High Ground


Chapter Summary

9. The Ultimate High Ground

Remote-Sensing Satellites

Government Nonmilitary Applications

Military Applications

Commercial Imaging Satellites

Chapter Summary

10. Visible Imaging

Aerial Film Cameras

Satellite Film Cameras

Digital Cameras

Video Cameras

Getting the Image Right

Analyzing the Image

Chapter Summary

11. Spectral Imaging

The Infrared Bands

The Ultraviolet Spectrum

Imaging outside the Visible Band

Spectral Imagers

Chapter Summary

12. Radar Imaging

Conventional Radar

Side-Looking Airborne Radar

Synthetic Aperture Radar

Laser Radar

Chapter Summary

13. The Drivers of Geospatial Intelligence

Denial and Deception

Fleeting Targets

Precision and Accuracy

Outside Expertise

Characterizing Oceans and Ocean Traffic

New Issues

A Complete Picture

Chapter Summary

14. The Tools of Geospatial Intelligence


Geographic Information System


Big Data

Data Analytics and Visual Analytics

Geospatial Simulation Modeling

Chapter Summary

15. Sociocultural GEOINT

Sociocultural Factors in Conflict Resolution

Activity-Based Intelligence

Pattern-of-Life Analysis

Volunteered Geographic Information

Involuntary Geographic Information

Chapter Summary

16. The Story of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

The Defense Mapping Agency

The National Photographic Interpretation Center

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency’s Standup

A Tale of Two Cities

The Fight to Survive

The NGA’s Standup

Reaching Out

Establishing the Boundaries of GEOINT

Chapter Summary

17. The GEOINT Explosion

US Geospatial Intelligence Organizations

Five Eyes GEOIN

Other National GEOINT Organizations

Transnational GEOINT Organizations

Chapter Summary

18. Non-National Geospatial Intelligence

State/Provincial and Local Government

Nongovernmental Organizations

Chapter Summary

19. Commercial GEOINT

Geospatial Business Intelligence

Strategic GEOINT

Operational GEOINT

Geospatial Competitive Intelligence

Chapter Summary

20. The Road Ahead

Predicting the Future

The Future of Cartography

The Tools

Applications of GEOINT

National-Level GEOINT

The Challenge of Ubiquitous GEOINT

Chapter Summary


Selected Bibliography


About the Author


"Robert Clark has compiled an informative and interesting chronicle of the newest intelligence discipline, GEOINT. I would recommend this well-organized and readable treatise to anyone interested in the evolution of intelligence in this country."—James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence (2010-17), former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (1991-95), former Director of NIMA/NGA (2001-06),former Under Secretary of Defense, Intelligence, (2007-10), and author of Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence

"Paraphrasing a Michelangelo quote, the significance of Clark’s work is that in ‘GEOINT we paint with our brains and not just with our computers.’ He brings to the reader both GEOINT’s fascinating history and also an introduction to the fundamental domain concepts. The book is a needed and essential primer for the profession that transcends the technical and prepares the professional to think critically about the art and science of GEOINT."—Todd S. Bacastow, teaching professor of practice for geospatial intelligence, Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University

"It is a pioneering text suitable for everyone’s reading list as well as the classroom."—AFIO Intelligencer

"To call Robert Clark’s Geospatial Intelligence: Origins and Evolution the best GEOINT primer that I have read is necessary— accurate —and insufficient. It is much more."—The Cipher Brief


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Robert M. Clark is an expert in national intelligence and has authored or coauthored six books on the subject, including Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach. He is currently an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Clark has previously served as a CIA senior analyst and group chief and as cofounder and CEO of the Scientific and Technical Analysis Corporation.

320 pp., 7 x 10
9 color photos, 36 color illus., 10 b&w photos, 3 b&w illus., 3 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-010-8
Sep 2020

320 pp., 7 x 10
9 color photos, 36 color illus., 10 b&w photos, 3 b&w illus., 3 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-011-5
Sep 2020

320 pp.
9 color photos, 36 color illus., 10 b&w photos, 3 b&w illus., 3 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-012-2
Sep 2020

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