From early detection of breast cancer to lithium batteries that power your cell phone or digital camera to Google Earth, the CIA is proud of what it calls its contributions to modern life. In a feature article it posted on its Web site on Feb. 12, the Agency patted itself on its back.
“Have you ever wondered if the world-class technology developed by the CIA could ever be made available to the public?,” asked the CIA, in its article. “You may be surprised to learn that it already has. Look no further than your cell phone or digital camera, which is powered by the lithium-iodine battery.”
CIA developed lithium iodine batteries in the 1960s because certain operational missions required long-lasting batteries of various shapes and sizes. The lithium-iodine battery improved the performance of surveillance equipment and prolonged the operation of reconnaissance satellites. In the early 1970s, the CIA passed the technology to the medical community where it was used in heart pacemakers.
The medical community has also used CIA’s research and development to improve early detection of breast cancer. Radiologists were able to adapt technology — originally used for satellite imagery analysis — to help better diagnose breast cancer in women under 50, where diagnosis is difficult. The use of these methods is believed to have considerably reduced the number of deaths from breast cancer.
Finally, in February 2003, the CIA-funded strategic investor In-Q-Tel made an investment in Keyhole, Inc. Keyhole was a pioneer of interactive 3D earth visualization and creator of the Earth Viewer 3D system. CIA worked closely with other Intelligence Community organizations to tailor Keyhole’s systems to meet operational needs. The technology was also useful in the private sector, with multiple TV networks using Earthviewer 3D to fly over Iraqi cities during its news coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The popularity of this technology eventually caught the attention of Google, which acquired Keyhole in 2004. You know this technology today as Google Earth.