Open Source Intelligence



Frank Pabian, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Date and Time

October 29, 2007 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Reuben W. Hills Conference Room

FSI Contact

Justin C. Liszanckie

This presentation provides an overview of the history of US satellite-based reconnaissance as has been publicly revealed by the US Government to date. Extrapolating from there, it will transition to the evolutionary and revolutionary role that commercial satellite imagery is now playing on the international stage in proving a heretofore-unimaginable basis for greater global transparency and the way it has helped, and will continue to help, to detect and monitor undeclared unconventional weapons related facilities and activities. In addition, new geospatial tools, which draw heavily upon commercial satellite imagery as well as augmenting it, have also become available over the internet. Among those Geospatial tools, "Digital Virtual Globes" (i.e., Google Earth, Virtual Earth, etc.) not only provide a much improved mapping capability over previously used simple plan-view line drawings used by various international inspection organizations such as the IAEA, but the offer much improved visualization of known and inspected sites. Such digital globes also provide a new, essentially free means to conduct broad area baseline search for possible "clandestine" sites...either allege through open source leads; identified on internet blogs and wiki layers with input from a "free" cadre of global browsers and/or by knowledgeable local citizens that can include ground photos and maps; or by other initiatives based on existing country program knowledge. The digital globes also provide highly accurate terrain mapping for better overall geospatial context and allow detailed 3-D perspectives of all sites or areas of interest. 3-D modeling software, when used in conjunction with these digital globes can significantly enhance individual building characterization and visualization (including interiors), allowing for better international inspector training through pre-inspection walk-arounds or fly-around, and perhaps better IAEA safeguard decision making. In sum, these new geospatial visualization aids are ideal for international inspector training and orientation, as well as site characterization, monitoring and verification. But perhaps just as significantly, these new geospatial tools also now make it possible for anyone to conduct his or her own satellite-based reconnaissance for any application from the comfort of home, at a wi-fi enabled coffee shop, or even on the beach at a tropical island resort.

Frank Pabian is a Senior Nonproliferation Infrastructure Analyst at Los Alamos National Laboratory who has over 35 years experience in the nuclear nonproliferation field including six years with the Office of Imagery Analysis and 18 years with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's "Z" Division. Frank also served as a Chief Inspector for the IAEA during UN inspections in Iraq from 1996-1998 focusing on "Capable Sites." In December 2002, Frank served as one of the first US nuclear inspectors back in Iraq with UN/IAEA. While at Los Alamos, Frank has developed and presented commercial satellite imagery based briefings on foreign clandestine nuclear facilities to the International Nuclear Suppliers Group, the IAEA, NATO, and the Foreign Ministries of China and India on behalf of the NNSA and STATE.