Leetonia grad talks security

COLUMBIANA- Although most of their daily businesses might be considered low security in nature, members of the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce got a chance to listen about what it takes to provide national security.

A Leetonia High School graduate, Don Paul Rance is the deputy director with the office of special programs of the Analysis Directorate of Mission Systems Transition for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Speaking at the Chamber’s 61st annual awards banquet he went over some of the things the U.S. intelligence community is currently dealing with and how much things have changed since he started in his first intelligence job in Washington, D.C., 28 years ago.

“When I first started working at NGA, everything was about the Russians,” Rance said. “After 9-11, everything changed. We had to retool how we do business for the upcoming threats.”

Issues in the Middle East, terrorists abroad and in America, the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Asia, the destabilization of governments throughout the world are just some of the issues people at the NGA and throughout the intelligence community have to consider.

The NGA works on creating accurate maps for military operations in the field, providing intelligence briefings for those making decisions and even assisting those going into areas where there have been recent natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.

Utilizing satellites, high-flying airplanes, the Internet and people on the ground, the NGA attempts to provide the most recent and accurate information, although Rance said he could not get into too many details about all the operations of the group.

“How do we do it,” Rance said. “I can’t tell you. You’ve heard if I told you I would have to kill you. Well, unless you are a geek like me I would bore you to death.”

However, Rance did point out the organization does spy on non-Americans, but tries not to spy on Americans. If it is learned an American has been spied on, actions are taken to correct the situation. American adversaries are a different matter.

Rance noted there are a lot of different ways the NGA keeps an eye on what others are doing, sometimes as simple as checking where someone in their family has posted they are traveling on Facebook and comparing it with a phone record. There is new technology making it easier to sort through the “buckets and buckets” of Internet, magazine and newspaper information readily available.

Rance noted if the adversaries knew all the ways America is watching them, they would change their actions. He also noted U.S. Intelligence is still determining how much damage the Edward Snowden leaks have caused to our operations.

One of the operations Rance said his organization was involved in was locating and planning the ultimate mission, which led to the death of Osama Bin Laden. Rance showed a slide of a model built by the organization, showing details of how the compound looked. Intelligence was able to determine there was a courier believed connected with Bin Laden frequenting that compound. Then the NGA officials got to make some plans about where the forces could land and enter the compound, the information passed along to those who made the final decisions and carried out the raid.