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Intel Community Assists Flight MH17 Investigation

By Claudette Roulo DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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ASPEN, Colo., July 26, 2014 — Agencies throughout the U.S. intelligence community are collaborating to develop as complete a picture as possible of the events surrounding the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Richard H. Ledgett Jr., the deputy director of the National Security Agency, said here today.

“The community is working really hard to provide as much fidelity to the White House and the rest of the policy community as they can … and will continue to do that,” Ledgett told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum.

When events like this occur, he said, the NSA -- which is focused on signals intelligence -- begins looking for communications or emanations from weapons systems.

Other defense agencies contributing to the investigation include the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which searches for phenomena in the imagery realm, Ledgett explained.

The Defense Intelligence Agency adds human intelligence to the mix, he added. “And we work also with all relevant partners who have a capability or interest in the area,” the deputy director said.

Once the information is accumulated, the deputy director said, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Director of National Intelligence produce an assessment that is provided to policy makers.

The assessment will inform their decisions and their activities in terms of how the United States will respond, he said. And sometimes information from the assessment is made public in order to support the policy goals of the administration, Ledgett added.

One example of a decision to make signals intelligence public was in 1983, when then-President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in which he played and then explained a recording of a conversation between Russian fighter pilots as they shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, the deputy director said.

269 people from 13 countries died in the incident, which Reagan described in his speech as a “massacre.”

As a rule, signals intelligence isn’t released because that can potentially impact sources and methods, Ledgett said.

But, he added, there “are times when that’s really important and where you need to do that.”

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)