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AGENCY HELPS COORDINATE SATELLITE PLANS

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The intelligence community, in a major organizational shift, has established a new agency to coordinate satellite operations and rid them of duplication and confusion, a Pentagon directive shows.

The decision to create the National Imagery Office, prompted partly by serious shortcomings identified in U.S. intelligence operations during the gulf war, is the first major change in the spy satellite operations since the United States began using its eyes in the sky more than 30 years ago.The new agency, housed in the Defense Department, will pull together various committees and offices that were spread through the intelligence community in a manner that critics said was inefficient and incoherent.

And in another departure from Cold War practice, the May 6 directive signed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to create the new agency was not a secret - although it wasn't made available until a reporter asked for it Thursday.

Critics of the longstanding secrecy surrounding U.S. satellite operations hope the new, unclassified agency will lead to more openness about the overhead espionage.

Rep. George Brown, D-Calif., said the secrecy made no sense even during the Cold War because the Soviets tracked the satellite operations very closely.