As the link between environment and security grew, then Senator Al Gore recognized the importance of linking the collection and synthesis of scientific data from the public and intelligence domains. Gore contacted then CIA director Robert Gates about mutually initiating supportive projects. Gates, in turn was supportive and discussions that followed led to the creation of science based group called MEDEA. The name MEDEA was chosen by CIA official Linda Zall for the character in Greek mythology who helped Jason and the Argonauts steal the Golden Fleece (Richelson 1998)
All of the scientists in MEDEA were given access to highly classified intelligence-gathering data and information. The scientists were allowed to study archival data and suggest innovative uses of CIA resources for scientific research. MEDEA scientists were able to access U.S. spy satellite data and studied about two dozen ecologically sensitive sites around the world. They hoped to generate significant results to help with environmental research, particularly with respect to global warming.
In a review of MEDEA activities Jeffrey Richelson (1998) called the MEDEA "scientists in black," noting that MEDEA was unique in that never before had the intelligence community worked so openly with a group of scientists outside the government. For scientists the unrestricted dissemination of data is the norm. For the intelligence community, data and information is restricted to those who "need to know." MEDEA research results tried to bridge this gap.
While MEDEA was discontinued by the Bush administration, the CIA has reactivated the program as part of a new CIA focus on the implications of climate change on U.S. national security. In 2009 CIA director Leon Panetta said, "Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security. The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence." (CIA 2009)
At the same time, the CIA was involved in creating the Center on Climate Change and National Security. The mandate of this new center was less on the science of climate change than on the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources.
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