In response to attacks by the Sudanese Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement against government targets in Sudan in early 2003, a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency analyst was asked by an intelligence community colleague to develop a baseline of imagery and maps to document events in Darfur. At about the same time, other NGA analysts studying images in the area noticed changes in population distribution. By the spring of 2004, they all began to see evidence of several hundred villages completely destroyed by fire.
Soon after, NGA was tasked to create a series of maps and graphics that combined data about damaged and destroyed villages with commercial imagery and displaced population information. In July 2004, after receiving a briefing from NGA analysts, Sen. John McCain took NGA’s maps and data to the Senate floor to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis, which led to Congress designating the actions in Darfur as genocide. With U.S. support, the United Nations imposed an open-ended arms embargo on the Darfur region in July 2004.
While violence in the Darfur region persists, GEOINT provided by NGA has helped relief workers locate camps for displaced refugees, facilitate food distribution, quantify the effects of the continuing violence and educate policymakers on the ongoing crisis.