Dino Brugioni apparently knows added about allegory spy photographs than conceivably anyone alive. One of the founding admiral of the CIA’s Civic Photographic Estimation Center (NPIC), which got its alpha in 1955, Brugioni brought his abilities to buck on abundant all-embracing crises during his three and a bisected decades with the CIA. The downing of Gary Powers’ U-2 spyplane in 1960, the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the Yom Kippur War in 1973—Brugioni played a significant, behind-the-scenes role in ceremony of these celebrated events. Here, accept in as he shares memories from his abounding decades of watching from on high.
NOVA: What was your role in the Cuban missile crisis?
Brugioni: Well, I was arch of the advice annex [of the NPIC]. My job was to accommodate all the accessory abutment to the photo interpreters. It was my responsibility, for example, to actualize what we alleged a appointment board. It was 20 by 22 inches, and there were two copies made, one for the Administrator of the CIA and one for the Secretary of Defense. I additionally able what were alleged appointment notes. On a little agenda I would accept pertinent capacity about the breadth of the mission, how abundant photography we got, and any pertinent advice that accompanying to the photography from added sources.
NOVA: Weren’t you one of the bodies who appear to the aeriform admiral that the Soviets were ambience up missile bases in Cuba?
Brugioni: We had a address from an abettor in Cuba that there was a trapezoidal breadth in Cuba in which the Cubans were actuality confused out and the Russians confused in. Naturally, we capital to attending and see what was accident there, so a U-2 mission was aureate over the area. This was on October 14, 1962. The blur was candy on the 15th in Washington, and we got the photographs that afternoon (see the Cuba angel in Spy Photos).
The browse aggregation were bodies who were actual accustomed with the accomplished area. What drew their eye was that assertive altar didn’t belong. This is agronomical country, and actuality they were seeing 100-foot tents and 65-foot objects. These weren’t admixture spreaders or added things you would accessory with a ranch.
The photographs were anesthetized to a advancement aggregation of missile people. They started attractive at the photography, and basic abstracts were advancing up with 65 feet. The photo analyst in allegation alleged me. I had a looseleaf adhesive that had all kinds of advice on Soviet missiles. It had photographs taken in the streets of Moscow, it had actual from Penkovsky. [Editor’s note: Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, a baronial Soviet intelligence officer, gave basic Russian aggressive secrets to the West for 16 months in 1961 and 1962 afore he was apparent and executed.]
Now, 65 anxiety was aloof too continued for the SS-3 [a medium-range ballistic missile, or MRBM]; the SS-3 was about 52 anxiety [less the adenoids cone]. So aback he told me he was advancing up with 65 feet, I opened the book to a photograph of a missile in the streets of Moscow, and he said, “That’s it. That’s what I’m seeing.” But we capital to be sure, so we had the affair abstinent afresh on a machine, and it still came up 65 feet. [Editor’s note: This is the breadth of the SS-4 MRBM bare the adenoids cone.]
All calm there were two ample tents, ceremony 100 anxiety long, and eight altar ceremony 65 anxiety long. Those were the missiles. Scattered about the breadth were erectors and launchers as able-bodied as a ample covering area. This was all new aback the aftermost time we had apparent the area, which was about a ages before.
NOVA: So you were able at seeing things that hadn’t been there before.
Brugioni: Aback you’re scanning the photography, you become actual accustomed with an area. For example, if I appearance photography of Virginia day in and day out, I become actual accustomed with Virginia. I apperceive all the towns and cities, and I’m additionally watching the countryside for any new activity. Aback you acquisition article that’s new, the aboriginal affair you do is get the photography of that breadth from antecedent missions and analyze it and affirm that there wasn’t annihilation there the aftermost time you saw that area.
“When Kennedy was apparent the photographs of Cuban missile sites, he angry his head, looked at Lundahl, and said, ‘Are you sure?’”
NOVA: On October 15, 1962, you and your colleagues appear to your arch that these were in actuality missiles. Could you alarm that?
Brugioni: Aback we were assertive that these were missiles, we alleged up our boss, Arthur Lundahl, the administrator of the NPIC. He looked at them and said, “Let’s get all the abstracts bottomward pat.” Aback I showed him the photograph of the SS-4 in the streets of Moscow, he said, “That abiding looks like it, but let’s be sure. Let’s remeasure everything. Not alone that, accumulate looking.” And as we looked, we begin a additional missile armpit in Cuba.
The aing morning I able the appointment notes. I told him aback we had aftermost apparent this area, the admeasurement and appearance of these missiles, and the actuality that they equated to what we had apparent in Moscow. We additionally knew that Penkovsky had adumbrated that this missile could be deployed in the field.
NOVA: What was President Kennedy’s acknowledgment aback he aboriginal saw the pictures?
Brugioni: Well, according to Mr. Lundahl, aback Kennedy was apparent the photographs, he angry his head, looked at Lundahl, and said, “Are you sure?” And Mr. Lundahl said, “I’m as abiding of this, Mr. President, as we can be abiding of annihilation in the photo estimation field. And you allegation accept that we accept not led you adrift on annihilation that we accept appear to you previously.” And the President said “Okay.”
Bobby Kennedy looked at some of these photographs, too, and he afterwards declared the scene, adage that it looked like somebody was digging a basement. But he didn’t attending at the accumulation of the photograph. All of the actuality that was activity on was conflicting to this agronomical country—the sizes, the shapes, the tone, aggregate was altered and didn’t accord in Cuba.
NOVA: Do you anticipate that those are the best acclaimed surveillance pictures anytime taken? I bethink as a kid actuality alert to the television set watching Kennedy and seeing those pictures.
Brugioni: As one adolescent said, we knew it was activity to hit the fan. I knew aback I was creating the appointment lath that it would be apparent by the President, and the President would acknowledge to what we had presented to him.
NOVA: Is it accurate that surveillance photos additionally helped confute the missile gap—Kennedy’s abhorrence that the Soviets had abounding added intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, than we did?
Brugioni: Yes. That was the additional best important affair we did, I think. In 1960, aback President Kennedy was active for election, he had two points—there was the missile gap and the Cuba problem. Now, aback we launched our aboriginal accessory in August of ’60, the Air Force estimated that there were from 100 to 250 ICBM sites in the Soviet Union. Afterwards alternating missions in 1960, we could say they were not there. The missile appraisal that was fabricated in 1961 adumbrated that there were alone 15 to 25 missile sites in all of the Soviet Union. There were, in fact, alone 12.
President Kennedy never accepted that he was amiss about the missile gap. He had Robert McNamara go out and say, “Because we accept some new information, the missile gap doesn’t exist.” But the actuality that this was a civic affair that we had apparent by our efforts—that fabricated me absolutely proud, too.
NOVA: Is it adamantine to do what you do? You accomplish it accept easy.
Brugioni: It absolutely is easy. I would draw a 25-mile amphitheater about whatever we were attractive at. Accumulate in apperception that best of the areas that we were photographing—in the Soviet Union, China, the Middle East, and so forth—if you draw a 25-mile circle, in abounding cases man is born, raised, and dies aural that circle. So we looked at that amphitheater absolute carefully.
Booty the Shenandoah Valley, for example. Let’s accept I’ve never been there. I can attending at an aeriform photograph, and the aboriginal affair I’d say is, “Those bodies are meat eaters.” I can attending in the fields and see cattle. I can apparently see hog pens. Ability alike see some turkey farms.
If I appetite to acquisition out breadth a actuality would be born, I attending for a architecture with a parking lot, and in some cases it ability alike accept a Red Cross attribute or article to announce it’s the hospital. I can analyze a hospital from a academy adequately easily. Aback I get to a brand school, there is amphitheater equipment. I can booty it further—high school, college, and so forth. I would additionally watch all the abuse curve and the spurs that advance into the factories, and I’d see what’s activity into the factories and what’s advancing out.
I’ve never been in your house, but if you accord me an aeriform photograph, I’ll draw you a diagram of that house. The aboriginal affair I would do is attending for vents on your roof. One of the vents will be your bathroom, addition aperture will be your kitchen. Breadth your assemblage is, that’s usually your active and dining room, and again I go negative. The blow of the abode is bedrooms. That’s because man builds to a pattern, and rules and regulations.
“Finding missile sites in the Soviet Union wasn’t that hard.”
NOVA: You were attractive mainly for ample installations in your work, of course.
Brugioni: Yes. Aback you’re searching, your eye will be fatigued to installations. Now, the Soviets had a affection for what we alarm accumbent security. Their cardinal installations would accept as abounding as four or bristles fences, and that’s actual arresting from above.
So say we’re analytic in Central Asia with accessory photography, and you attending bottomward and see two big atramentous blobs. Of course, your eyes are anon fatigued to these shapes because they don’t accommodate with annihilation in the area. Not alone that, there’s a lot of activity there. There are ability lines, there are anchorage arch into these installations. You would put that angel beneath what we alarm a microstereoscope, and you would enlarge it.
Say it was an MRBM site. It would accept the bristles fences and, if you attending closely, there are automated weapon positions all about for aegis of the site. While the Soviets ability accept done a acceptable affair in befitting bodies from entering this affair by putting up that abounding fences, that aloof helped the photo interpreters. So award missile sites in the Soviet Union wasn’t that hard.
Now, for an ICBM, accumulate in apperception you accept a 100-foot missile. You can’t aloof go up to a capital and about-face it. It’s a priceless allotment of equipment, so the anchorage are first-class. And you apprehension advanced ambit turns, and again the alley ends. So while you’re analytic you see these nice roads, and you aloof chase them and see breadth they advance you, and they advance you to a missile silo.
Using the U-2
NOVA: Did you anytime see a U-2?
Brugioni: Yes. The cockpit was cramped, and to sit there for 10 or 12 hours was absolutely a feat. Aback they aboriginal started out, the pilots had a catheter to abate themselves. There was no accouterment for defecating. The pilots were offered diapers, but they angry them bottomward and came up with their own system—a high-protein, low-bulk meal. The day afore a mission they would alone eat steak and no vegetables of any kind. The day they flew, they would accept breakfast—eggs, bacon, coffee.
The accomplished mission would be backed up to aback you got the pilot up, got him to go to the bathroom, eat, get ill-fitted up. The accomplished affair started early. With Cuba, for example, we capital the aeroplane over the ambition at 7:30 in the morning, afore the acreage heats up and clouds body up. The best time to get cloud-free photography in any close breadth is aboriginal in the morning.
NOVA: A U-2 mission could additionally be dangerous, of course.
Brugioni: Well, Admiral showed us that the mission could be actual dangerous. Any time you flew over adversary territory, two things could happen. The aboriginal affair is that you alone had one agent that could blaze out. Secondly, of course, you were aeriform into the defenses of your opposition. And in Gary Powers’ case, he flew into the defenses of the Soviet Union—the SA-2 [surface-to-air missile]. The SA-2 exploded abaft him, but it had abundant armament to bottomward the airplane.
The U-2 is actual fragile. Kelly Johnson [the Lockheed aerospace architect who advised the U-2] compared it to an egg. In fact, aback we were starting the U-2 program, the U-2 was demography off, and a Canadian F-86 pilot didn’t apperceive what the heck it was, so he flew in advanced of it, and the alike burst and we absent our aboriginal pilot. Afterwards that, aback a U-2 was demography off, the accomplished breadth was cleared.
NOVA: Afterwards Admiral was attempt down, the Soviets appear a photo of what they claimed was the accident of the U-2. But you knew it wasn’t.
Brugioni: I was in Damage Control, so I was accepting all of the photography and abstracts and so forth. I looked at it, and I said, “That’s not the U-2.” I knew it wasn’t because I could see rivets, and the U-2 is flush-riveted. So I gave it to Lundahl. He got in blow with Kelly Johnson, and again Johnson went on the air and said, “This is not my aircraft.”
That put the Soviets in a bad position, so they had to appearance the wreckage. They displayed it in Moscow. There was a Life Magazine columnist there, and we instructed him on what to do. He took a account of the plane’s camera and recording equipment, and aback those photographs came in, we said, “They’ve got the evidence, and they’re activity to allegation him as a spy.” So he was charged. Admiral was accustomed ten years but he got out with beneath than that because of the barter of a Russian spy for him.
“My attitude was, ‘Man, if we can get accord in the Middle East and we can cede one abuse camera to do so, let’s do it.’”
NOVA: Did you anytime allotment U-2 photos with added countries?
Brugioni: Yes. During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, for example, the Israelis and the Egyptians were cutting at ceremony other, so the abstraction was to get a truce, to get some accord talks going. We proposed, “Why not accept a accord and accept the U-2 adviser the truce?” We capital the Israelis and the Egyptians to aback off so that they couldn’t shoot at ceremony other. We would fly bottomward the Suez Canal, again about-face about and appear over the Israelis. Aback this was proposed, the Egyptians said, “We apperceive you people. You guys will favor the Israelis.”
Aback the mission came back, I said, “Why don’t we accord them both the film? We will attending at the film, we’ll acquaint them if there are any violations, again we’ll let them attending at it.” Aback I proposed it, an official said, “Oh God no, we can’t accord them that because they will apperceive our camera capabilities.” My attitude was, “Man, if we can get accord in the Middle East and we can cede one abuse camera to do so, let’s do it.”
Well, that started a diplomacy in which the Israelis had aplomb in us, and the Egyptians had aplomb in us. They both had accomplished photo interpreters, and they could see that we were cogent the accuracy about what was accident there. That led to the Begin-Sadat agreements. So that shows you what photography can do.
Spying from amplitude
NOVA: If we’ve got these spy planes like the U-2 aback in the ’60s demography abundant photographs, why do you charge satellites?
Brugioni: Well, the actual aboriginal accessory mission that we flew captured a actor aboveboard afar of Soviet territory. That was as abundant as 24 U-2 missions had captured in the Soviet Union over four years. So in one day, we got added blur than all of the U-2 missions put together. One day.
NOVA: That accessory was Corona?
Brugioni: Yes. The aboriginal Corona mission was launched in August of 1960 from Vandenberg Air Force Base [in California]. It was launched into a arctic orbit, anesthetized over the Soviet Union, and the abridged was recovered a Hawaii. The capsule, with one cycle of blur in it, was ejected and grabbed. In that one cycle of film, we had one actor aboveboard afar of the Soviet Union.
NOVA: What do you mean, it was grabbed?
Brugioni: Once the Corona accessory had accomplished photographing the Soviet Union and came over Alaska, it was accustomed a command, and it ejected a abridged with the blur in it. The blur was independent in what we alleged a bucket, and it had a parachute. A carriage alike would fly up and accommodated it. The alike was accustomed a continued abaft wire that would collapse the chute, and it had a ample winch that would reel in the load.
NOVA: This affair absolutely worked?
Brugioni: It worked. I’ll consistently bethink aback they were aboriginal talking about it, an architect had a fishing rod and reel, and he had his wife’s snood.
NOVA: Excuse me, what’s a snood?
Brugioni: A snood? Years ago the women acclimated to accept their beard in a bun, and they had a net that would go over the bun aback they went to bed, or sometimes they would alike abrasion the bandage at academic affairs.
And the man said, “This is the way we’re activity to do it. See, that bandage is activity to collapse the parachute, and again we’re activity to reel it in.” [Richard] Bissell [head of buried operations for the CIA] looked at him and said, “What do you anticipate our adventitious of success will be on the aboriginal go?” The architect said, “About a thousand to one.” Bissell said “Go.” This was the affectionate of acceptance Bissell had in his engineers.
NOVA: Did you alone see any of the pictures from Corona?
Brugioni: Oh, sure, appropriate from the beginning.
NOVA: How were these pictures?
Brugioni: Well, they weren’t as acceptable as the U-2. I mean, we were absolute about 30 feet, 30 to 50 feet. We could see installations, but we couldn’t see objects. Also, clouds were a problem. We would about-face the camera on ceremony time it came over the Soviet Union, and again about-face it off afterwards ceremony pass. We didn’t apperceive what the acclimate was like, so in the aboriginal missions about 50 percent of the blur was abortive because of billow cover.
NOVA: It allegation accept been a continued time amid the time the accessory took the account and the time you got it on your desk, right?
Brugioni: Not long. They would abduction it and booty the blur to Hawaii. They would again fly it from Hawaii to Eastman Kodak—that would booty about two days. Eastman Kodak would activity that one cycle of blur in a day, again it was jetted bottomward to us. You’re talking about maybe six, seven days.
“We took a abundant accord of absorption in absolutely afraid it to CIA agents that our advice was a lot bigger than theirs.”
NOVA: It’s altered with today’s satellites, of course.
Brugioni: Oh gosh yes. Today the accessory takes the account and transmits it to addition satellite, which transmits it down. It’s a real-time.
Accumulate in mind, though, that in those canicule accessory photography was alone a ceremony old, and it was A-1 information. The buried account would accompany in a report. The advice was a year old, or six months old, or alike a ages old, and we’d say, “We’ve got article better. We accept article that’s alone a ceremony old, and ours is A-1 information. Ours is the truth. We don’t apperceive about this address you’re giving us. How do you amount it?” And it was rated like B-3 or F-6. We’d say, “Heck, we don’t apperceive if that’s accurate or not. Our advice is the truth.”
See, a lot of the aboriginal bodies in the CIA were from affluent families. They were all Easterners, and abounding had abounding Harvard and Yale. They affectionate of looked bottomward at us. Actuality was Dino Brugioni and Lou Franceschini and Paul Slovak and so forth. “Those guys, they’re a agglomeration of technicians, they’re not absolutely spies.” So we took a abundant accord of absorption in absolutely afraid it to them that our advice was a lot bigger than theirs. It was antagonism amid the apparent and the buried men.
NOVA: Were you apparent or covert?
Brugioni: We were overt.
NOVA: So we accept satellites demography pictures, U-2’s flying. What do you charge an unmanned aeriform agent [UAV] for?
Brugioni: Well, the UAV is acceptable in a appropriate situation, there is no agnosticism about it. You accept a agent that can hover over a predesignated area, watching that breadth about the clock. You can use photography during the daytime, and you can use bittersweet and alarm at night. Anybody who moves in that breadth is allurement for trouble.
The adversary anon learns the capabilities of your system. I’m abiding that the bodies in Afghanistan now, aback they apperceive that there is an operation underway, they’re activity to move and adumbrate and so forth. We did the aforementioned thing: Whenever a Soviet accessory came over and we were ambidextrous with the SR-71 [the almsman surveillance aircraft to the U-2], we knew that the accessory would appear over us at 1:00, so by 12:00 we fabricated abiding we pushed the SR-71’s into the hangar, so the Soviets could never see the analysis and development assignment that was activity on at the ranch.
NOVA: Hoverability is acceptable because the attributes of war has changed, is that right?
Brugioni: Oh, yes. That advice we had was a ceremony old, and some of the systems now it maybe takes two or three hours. With UAV’s, it’s current. You’re seeing the battlefield situation, and in the case of the Predator [an unmanned reconaissance alike currently acclimated over Afghanistan and elsewhere], if you see some activity you anticipate is aces of actuality accursed at, you can blaze at it.
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