After the U.S intelligence community worked with commercial satellite companies to share their imagery of Russia’s military build near Ukraine’s borders before its invasion of Ukraine, these companies are independently releasing more of this data publicly, and that’s a good thing, the deputy director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said on Wednesday.
Early on, the intelligence community asked if it could use its contracts with these commercial companies to help build the narrative around Russia’s intentions, Stacey Dixon, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, said during an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It’s a partnership on the one hand but it’s also just the companies independently wanting to be able to share more of what’s happening in the world,” she said. “And frankly, I think it’s a great service that they’re providing putting the information out there. I’m glad we were able to sort of spur it, now they’re actually leading in many ways and putting information out for others to see.”
The intelligence community is not asking these companies to release the data, Dixon said. The intelligence community would have to declassify some of its information if it were using its classified sources but the commercially available data isn’t classified, so “It’s easier for them because their sources aren’t classified.”
Satellite sensing companies such as BlackSky Technology [BKSY], HawkEye 360, and Maxar Technologies [MAXR] have all released information related to the war in Ukraine. Maxar this week released photos of Russia’s buildup of forces in eastern Ukraine from western Russia, which appears to have become the primary front in the war following the defeat of its forces around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
Dixon said the public release of the satellite imagery allows “individuals to make their own judgments.” Earlier in her talk, Dixon said that the Biden administration’s and intelligence community’s decision to declassify a lot of the information related to Russia’s military buildup and intentions helped get in front of any disinformation efforts aimed at justifying the war.
“What it did do, though, was alert the world of what was happening, pointed people so that they were not focused on it, and now if disinformation came out that was going to be used as a justification for the invasion, people would be able to think twice about whether or not that was actually true in a way that had we not publicized it beforehand, had we not shared it beforehand, it’s not clear whether people would have been as aware,” she said. “That that could have been disinformation.”
Indeed, BlackSky on its website states, “We will continue to share geo-spatial imagery and analytics from Ukraine to help show the world the seriousness of the situation and be moved to help.”