Dino Brugioni

Dino Brugioni
Dino Brugioni

Dino Brugioni in 1996
Born 1921
Occupation Imagery Analyst
Battle Damage Analyst

Dino A. Brugioni (born 1921) is a former senior official at the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC). He was an imagery analyst and also served as NPIC's Chief of Information. During his 35-year career, Brugioni helped establish imagery intelligence (now called geospatial intelligence) as a national asset to solve intelligence problems. Even after retirement, Brugioni is considered to be the world's foremost imagery intelligence analyst.[1]

After retirement, he has been active in encouraging the use of declassified photographic intelligence for historical research. His book, Eyeball to Eyeball[2] is an extensive unclassified history of US imagery intelligence.



Military service and education

Brugioni flew in 66 bombardment and a number of reconnaissance missions in World War II over North Africa, Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia and France. He received the Purple Heart, 9 air medals and a Distinguished Unit Citation. After the war, he received BA and MA degrees in Foreign Affairs from George Washington University. He joined the CIA in March 1948 and became an expert in Soviet industries. In 1955, he was selected as a member of the cadre of the newly formed Photographic Intelligence Division that would interpret U-2, SR-71 and satellite photography.

Role in Russian Bomber and Missile Gaps

The American U-2 spy plane began flights over Russia in 1956. Under the cover of an abandoned Washington car dealership, the first CIA analysts were assembled to review the U-2's photos. The founding analysts included Dino Brugioni and small team of World War II photo interpreters, under the direction of Art Lundahl. Analysis of U-2 photography dispelled the "bomber gap" in 1956 and the "missile gap" in 1961. Analysis was also conducted on U-2 photography taken during the Suez, Lebanon, Chinese Off-Shore Islands, Middle East and Tibetan crises.

In January 1961, Lundahl's CIA group acquired military imagery intelligence capabilities[3] to form the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC), as a part of the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology. Brugioni was a key deputy to Lundahl.

His first assignments included counting Russian bombers, finding new Soviet airbases and assessing Russian naval readiness.[4] He then was intimately involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis (see below)

Role in the Cuban Missile Crisis

Dino Brugioni in 1963

U-2 photographs taken on[5] October 14, 1962, by some of the first U-2 aircraft piloted by US Air Force members rather than CIA personnel, brought back photographs, in which the NPIC analysts found visual evidence of the placement of Soviet SS-4 Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), capable of hitting targets, in the continental United States, with nuclear warheads. This triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis, sending the US intelligence community into maximum effort and triggering an unprecedented military alert.

The October 14 high-altitude photographs, taken from the periphery of Cuba, led to the US taking the additional risk of direct overflights of Cuba, at the orders of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. McNamara, Chief of Naval Operations George Whelan Anderson Jr and Lundahl concurred that the US Navy's Light Photographic Squadron VFP-62, flying F8U-1P Crusader fighters in a reconnaissance role, were best qualified to take low-level photographs, flying directly over Cuba. As well as the U-2 photographs, the low-level Navy photographs also streamed into NPIC, where Brugioni and colleagues analyzed them around the clock.

(Klein) described Lundahl's presenting the October 14 photographs and their interpretation to President John F. Kennedy: "Mr. Lundahl, when Kennedy was shown the photographs, he turned his head, looked at Lundahl, and said, "Are you sure?" And Mr. Lundahl said, "I'm as sure of this, Mr. President, as we can be sure of anything in the photo interpretation field. And you must admit that we have not led you astray on anything that we have reported to you previously." And the President said "Okay.""

Brugioni's book, while a general history, deals extensive with the role of imagery intelligence in the Cuban Missile Crisis. A selection of the actual photographs, as well as supporting data such as the chart of CIA photo are at the George Washington University National Security Archive.[6]

Another source on technique, discussing the obscure technique of "crateology", or recognizing the characteristic ways in which the Soviets crated military equipment, is Hilsman's To Move a Nation.[7] A photograph analyzed using the crateology technique is shown in.[6]

After the Cuban Missile Crisis

Later assignments included finding chemical and nuclear weapons, missile sites and test blast areas. He provided intelligence to policymakers during World War II, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and the Yom Kippur War.

After retirement: using photo-intelligence for historical research

As more and more intelligence photographs are declassified, essentially all from World War II and a great many from the CORONA, ARGON, LANYARD and GAMBIT satellites, Brugioni has been active in guiding historians to use these collections in historical research.

After-the-fact intelligence about Auschwitz

Brugioni was one of the first historians to present photographic evidence of Auschwitz. A photographic plane was photographing an I.G. Farben factory in the general area, and didn't turn off its camera until after it had passed over the Monowitz camp.[8] The factory was the main interest, and World War II interpreters just marked Auschwitz as an unidentified installation. No one in that organization knew about human intelligence reports of the death camps, and only in the seventies did researchers learn the significance of the camp photographs.[9]

Brugioni explains why Allied intelligence knew little about the targets, even after the President asked that the camps be bombed.[9]

When the bombing specialists were ordered to formulate plans for bombing the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex, officials of the Air Ministry, the Royal Air Force Bomber Command and the U.S. 8th Air Force bemoaned the lack of aerial photographic coverage of the complex. In fact, such photos were readily available at the Allied Central Interpretation Unit at Royal Air Force Station Medmenham, 50 miles outside of London and at the Mediterranean Allied Photo Reconnaissance Wing in Italy. The ultimate irony was that no search for the aerial photos was ever instituted by either organization. In retrospect, it is a fact that by the time the Soviet Army reached Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, the Allies had photographed the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex at least 30 times.[citation needed]

Brugioni is an authority on contrived or altered photography, described in his book Photo Fakery. His interest in the Civil War in the West is chronicled in The Civil War in Missouri and his interest in reconnaissance in From Balloons to Blackbirds. Brugioni has written more than 90 articles, mainly on the application of overhead imagery to intelligence and other fields. He has helped with and appeared in over 75 news and historical television programs.

Brugioni has received numerous citations and commendations, including the CIA Intelligence Medal of Merit, the CIA Career Intelligence Medal and the prestigious U.S. Government Pioneer in Space Medal for his role in the development of satellite reconnaissance. He twice received the Sherman Kent Award, the CIA's top award for outstanding contributions to intelligence. However, he remains most proud of the commendation he received from President John F. Kennedy for contributions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. On April 13, 2005, he was inducted into the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Hall of Fame.


"If you draw a 25-mile circle in most areas of the world, a man is born, lives and dies within that circle. So if you analyze it closely, you can find out what he eats, what he does and how long he lives."

"We were determined to prove the value of aerial photography." (said of his CIA team's first assignment in 1956)

"If you walk in a field in the early morning, you create a path through the field when you disturb the dew. This could be seen from 100 miles up in space. We see things the groundling is not cognizant of at all on Earth."


  • The Civil War in Missouri As Seen from the Capital City. Jefferson City: Summers Publishing, 1987.
  • Eyeball to Eyeball. Ed. Robert F. McCort. New York: Random House, 1990.
  • From Balloons to Blackbirds: Recommaissance, Surveillance and Military Intelligence: How It Evolved. McLean: The Association of Former Intelligence Officers, 1993.
  • Photo Fakery: The History and Techniques of Photographic Deception and Manipulation. McLean: Brassey's, 1999.
  • Eyes in the Sky: Eisenhower, the CIA and Cold War Aerial Espionage. Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2010.
  • “The Unidentifieds.” Studies in Intelligence. Summer 1969.
  • "Spotting Photo Fakery.” Studies in Intelligence. Winter 1969.
  • “The Serendipity Effect.” Studies in Intelligence. Spring 1970.
  • “The Cuban Missile Crisis, Phase I.” Studies in Intelligence. Fall 1972.
  • “The Case of the Missing Diamond.” Studies in Intelligence. Spring 1979.
  • “The Million Dollar Photograph.” Studies in Intelligence. Summer 1979.
  • “The Holocaust Revisited: A Retrospective Analysis of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex.” Intelligence Journal. Spring 1979.
  • “President Truman and the Congolese SAM.” Studies in Intelligence. Fall 1979.
  • “Aerial Photography: Adding a New Dimension to History.” Air and Space. Nov.-Dec. 1979.
  • “Aerial Reconnaissance.” Lecture. Smithsonian Institution. 12 Dec. 1979.
  • “A Priceless Record.” Studies in Intelligence. Spring 1981.
  • “Precision Bombing Pays Off.” Air Force Magazine. Jun. 1982.
  • “Auschwitz-Birkenau: Why the World War II Photo Interpreters Failed to Identify the Extermination Complex.” Military Intelligence Magazine. Jan.-Mar. 1983.
  • “Hiding the Aircraft Factories.” Air Force Magazine. March 1983.
  • “Das Rustzueg Zum Durchhalten.” Stern Magazine. 14 Apr. 1983.
  • “Aerial Photographs: An Overlooked Resource.” Fortitudine. Spring 1983.
  • “Why Didn’t the Feds Block the West’s Floods?” The Washington Post. 3 Jul. 1983.
  • “Capitol Theater Evokes Fond Memories.” Jefferson City News Tribune. 7 Aug. 1983.
  • “Smoke Job.” Air and Space Magazine. Summer 1983.
  • “The Census: It can Be Done More Accurately Using Space Age Technology.” Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing. Sept. 1983.
  • “Crisis Humor.” The Retired Officer. Oct. 1983.
  • “Tarawa – A New Perspective.” Leatherneck Magazine. Nov. 1983.
  • “Will the Feds Allow Floods Again?” Rescue Magazine. Winter 1983.
  • “Statement of Dino A. Brugioni Concerning the Role of Information Technology in Emergency Management before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology.” U.S. House of Representatives. 16 Nov. 1983.
  • “Intelligence Community’s Space Age Technologies Could Aid in Disaster Prediction and Prevention.” Hazard Monthly. 22 Jan. 1984.
  • “We’re Missing the Boat on Flood Prevention.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Jan. 1984.
  • “The Tyuratam Enigma.” Air Force Magazine. Mar. 1984.
  • “Aerial Photography: Reading the Past, Revealing the Future.” Smithsonian Magazine. Mar. 1984.
  • “Aerial Photography: An Endangered Historical Legacy.” Imaging Quarterly. May 1984.
  • “The Class of ’39: The Way We Were.” Jefferson City Post-Tribune. 15 Jul. 1984.
  • “Photo Interpretation and Photogrammetry in World War II.” Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing.” Sept. 1984.
  • “Arlington and Fairfax Counties: Land of Many Reconnaissance Firsts.” Northern Virginia Heritage. Feb. 1985.
  • “The Town of Bergen, the Death Camp of Belsen.” Jewish Week. 9 May 1985.
  • “The Last Days of the Bergen-Belsen Camp.” The Jewish Newspaper. 23 May 1985.
  • “A POW Camp Lost in History?” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. Jul. 1985.
  • “The Civil War: Jefferson City, a City Divided.” Six-part series. Jefferson City Post-Tribune. 14-19 Jul. 1985.
  • “New Roles for Recce.” Air Force Magazine. Oct. 1985.
  • “Aerial Photography: A Challenge and a Commitment.” “Perspectives,” American Historical Association Newsletter. Nov. 1985.
  • “Aerial Photography: World Class Disaster Fighter.” With Arthur C. Lundahl. Information Society. Vol. 3. No. 4. Nov. 1985.
  • “William Colby: Intelligence Officer.” Address. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution. 4 Mar. 1986.
  • “Recon to the Rescue.” Airman Magazine. Jul. 1986.
  • “The President, Khe Sanh and the 26th Marines.” Leatherneck Magazine. Sept. 1986.
  • “Aerial Photography and Multisensor Imagery: Opening New Vistas on the World.” Renewable Resources Journal. Autumn 1986.
  • “Satellite Images on TV: The Camera Can Lie.” The Washington Post. 14 Dec. 1986.
  • “The Impact and Social Implications of Commercial Remote Sensing Satellites.” Address to U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. 30 Dec. 1986.
  • “The Fraulini Family.” History of Macon County, Missouri, Sesquicentennial Edition. 1987.
  • “Life’s Most Joyful Role: Being a Grandparent.” Rural Living. May 1987.
  • “Naval Photo Intel in WW II.” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. June 1987.
  • “Lawrence K. White on the Directors.” Studies in Intelligence. Winter 1987.
  • “Photo Reconnaissance.” Naval Aviation News. Jan.-Feb. 1988.
  • “The Art of Aerial Photography.” Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing. With Robert McCort. Feb. 1988.
  • “Aerial Photography and Multisensor Imagery.” The Symposium on Information Technology and Emergency Management. 4–6 May 1988.
  • “Genetrix – The Intelligence Balloon.” Military Intelligence. Jan.-Mar. 1989.
  • “The Impact and Social Implications of Commercial Remote Sensing Satellites.” Technology in Society. Vol. II, No. 1. 1989.
  • “The Serendipity Effect of Aerial Reconnaissance.” Interdisciplinary Science Review. Mar. 1989.
  • “The Kyshtym Connection.” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Mar. 1990.
  • “Operation ‘Drybeef.’” Men of the 57th. Summer 1990.
  • “The Meanest Bushwhacker.” Blue and Gray Magazine. June 1991.
  • “Space Satellite Photographs: Whose Pictures Are They Anyway?” Address to MIT Communications Forum. 7 Nov. 1991.
  • “Antoine de Saint Exupery: Reconnaissance Pilot Par Excellence.” American Intelligence Journal. Winter/Spring 1992.
  • “The Invasion of Cuba.” MHQ. Winter 1992.
  • “Imagery Intelligence.” International Military and Defense Encyclopedia. 1992.
  • “Reconnaissance and Surveillance.” International Military and Defense Encyclopedia. 1992.
  • “Too Close to Nuclear Conflict.” The Washington Post. 8 Feb. 1992.
  • “Remarks for Receiving Award for Outstanding Achievement.” Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene. Vol. II, No. 3. 1992.
  • “A Salute to Lundahl’s Legacy of Excellence.” NPIC Update. June 1992.
  • “Chalk Up Another Chicken.” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. October 1992.
  • “Ornery.” Men of the 57th. Spring 1993.
  • “Images of Anguish.” Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. 24 Apr. 1993.
  • “Life in the CCC.” Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. 15 May 1993.
  • “A Legacy of Excellence.” Studies in Intelligence. Spring 1994.
  • “Could D-Day Be Kept Secret Now?” Newsday. 10 May 1994.
  • “Photo Reconnaissance at Tarawa.” Lecture. Naval Historical Center. 11 Aug. 1994.
  • “Memorial Address, Arthur C. Lundahl.” Photogrammetry Engineering and Remote Sensing. Jul. 1995.
  • “The Veteran’s Angel.” The GW Magazine. Fall 1995.
  • “The Art and Science of Photoreconnaissance.” Scientific American. March 1996.
  • “Arthur C. Lundahl: Founder of the Image Exploitation Discipline.” Corona between the Sun and the Earth: The First NRO Reconnaissance Eye in Space. Co-Author with Frederick J. Doyle. Bethesda: American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. 159-166.
  • “Secret Air Missions.” World Intelligence Review. May/June 1997.
  • “The Evolution of Aerial and Spatial Reconnaissance.” Address, U.S. Air Force Museum. 17 Mar. 1998.
  • “Recalling Favorites.” The GW Magazine. Fall 1998.
  • “If You Can’t See It, You Can’t Hit It.” Air Power History. Winter 1998.
  • “Bootlegging Thrived Here During Prohibition Days,” Fredericksburg Free-Lance-Star. September 1, 2007.
  • “The Aerial Photos of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex.” The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, eds. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. 52-57.
  • “The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited.” Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. 25 Jan. 2003.
  • “The Effects of Aerial and Satellite Imagery on the 1973 Yom Kippur War.” Air Power History. Fall 2004.
  • “Focusing Attention on Geospatial Security Needs.” Imaging Notes. Spring 2007.
  • “Bootlegging Thrived Here during Prohibition.” Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. 1 Sept. 2007.


  1. ^ Klein, Larry "Master of the Surveillance Image". PBS, November 2002. Retrieved 19 May 2007.
  2. ^ Brugioni, Dino A. (Updated edition (October 5, 1993)). Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Random House. ISBN 0679748784. 
  3. ^ National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. "NGA History". Archived from the original on 2007-07-17. http://web.archive.org/web/20070717060027/http://www.nga.mil/StaticFiles/OCR/nga_history.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  4. ^ Spies Above (video). Discovery Channel, 1996.
  5. ^ Naval Historical Center (n.d.). "The "Milk Run" U-2 Mission of October 14". http://www.history.navy.mil/download/cuba-mc/cmc18-21.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  6. ^ a b National Security Archive (2002). "The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962: The Photographs". George Washington University National Security Archive. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/photos.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  7. ^ Hilsman, Roger (1967). To Move a Nation: The Politics of Foreign Policy in the Administration of John F. Kennedy. Doubleday. 
  8. ^ "Aerial Photographs of Auschwitz". The Auschwitz Album. Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. 2004. http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/album_auschwitz/air_photo/air_photographs.html. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  9. ^ a b Brugioni, Dino (January–March 1983). "Auschwitz and Birkenau: Why the World War II Photo Interpreters Failed to Identify the Extermination Complex". Military Intelligence 9 (1): 50–55. http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/imint/holocaust2.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 

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