As part of an ongoing effort to “exploit medical intelligence,” the National Security Agency teamed up with the military-focused Defense Intelligence Agency to extract “medical SIGINT” from the intercepted communications of nonprofit groups starting in the early 2000s, a top-secret document shows.
Medical intelligence can include information about disease outbreaks; the ability of a foreign regime to respond to chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks; the capabilities of overseas drugs companies; advances in medical technology; medical research, and the medical response capabilities of various governments, according to the document and others like it, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents show that such intelligence is used in efforts to protect U.S. forces, assess the readiness of foreign armies, create opportunities for U.S. diplomats to build goodwill, uncover chemical weapons programs, identify specific bio-weapons facilities, and study how diseases spread.
The existence and broad contours of U.S. medical intelligence collection have been previously disclosed (as has one of its more nefarious uses, in which the flow of medical supplies would be used to hunt down a targeted individual). But a top-secret, previously-unreleased article published in November 2003 in the NSA’s internal newsletter, SIDtoday, details the birth of a collaboration between the agency and the DIA’s National Center for Medical Intelligence, then known as the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center. (The article is being published along with 262 others by The Intercept today; here are some other highlights.)