Intell group renamed to reflect mission changes

The trade association that represents some of the intelligence community's most futuristic IT has adopted a new name that reflects changes in the mission of the agencies and companies that practice the tradecraft.

The Measurement and Signal Intelligence Association (Masint) recently announced that it has changed its name to the Advanced Technical Intelligence Association (ATIA).

Practitioners of high-tech spycraft share information and collectively mull the status and prospects of their discipline via the group's monthly and annual meetings. The ATIA's Web site names 29 corporate sponsors, all presumably active vendors in the field.

For years, Masint has slipped among the shadows of the more prominent intelligence disciplines, including human intelligence (HUMINT), imagery intelligence (IMINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT).

Masint practitioners frequently create useful information about enemy weapons, activities and capabilities by combining information gathered by multiple sensors that are fielded and sponsored by the agencies responsible for the traditional 'ints.'

The federal government has issued very little information about Masint matters. Leaders in the intelligence community have told GCN in short conversations that the Director of National Intelligence Office is sponsoring Masint IT pilot projects.

According to a brief notice on the association's Web site, 'This [name] change is occurring in recognition of the growing utility of traditional MASINT and MASINT-related capabilities and their emergence into new capabilities such as Advanced Geospatial Intelligence, etc., throughout our homeland security, defense and intelligence communities.'

The ATIA is in the midst of operating its annual meeting, Techint 2008, which began Tuesday, Jan. 15, and runs until Thursday.

The group's meeting, which is being held in Chantilly, Va. is open only to officials, vendor employees and others who hold the high level 'top secret/sensitive compartmented information' security clearance.

As for the Techint 2008 meeting's content, the ATIA said: 'This year's theme'challenge and response'will highlight challenges from recent developments in adversary weapon technologies and asymmetric threats and the technical intelligence response to those challenges. The conference will feature several keynote presentations from senior leaders representing US and Commonwealth intelligence agencies and military services, Capitol Hill and industry.'

The wide range of Masint technologies, and the difficulty of pinning the activity down to a single function, shows through in ATIA's cumbersome definition of the esoteric spycraft.

''Masint' ' encompasses a range of disciplines that exploit fundamental physical properties of objects of interest, the exploitation of which offers tremendous value for national security (military, homeland defense, and intelligence), as well as civil applications (such as agriculture, law enforcement),' according to the association.

'Masint techniques include advanced radar, electrooptical/ infrared (including spectral), nuclear, geophysical (acoustic, seismic), and materials sensing, processing, and exploitation systems. These offer unique and critical information that is not otherwise available, or complements more broadly known techniques such as imaging ('pictures'), signals intelligence ('eavesdropping'), or human intelligence ('spies'),' the official Masint definition adds.

ATIA was formed in 1998. However, Masint activities emerged as long as two decades before then, according to some sources. According to congressional sources, agencies responsible for the traditional sources of intelligence have from time to time sought to absorb or shut down the activities of Masint projects and the small organizations that sponsor them.

Information gathered by intelligence agencies has been 'converging,' partly via the technologies service oriented architectures and shared data tagging, that help merge data collected by all the spy agencies. The newly cooperative zeitgeist of the cloak-and-dagger set may help the sponsors of advanced technical intelligence projects to protect their turf.

The ATIA rechristening likely represents a change in the jargon and possibly the names of the organizations that practice the tradecraft within the intelligence community.

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