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Abstract

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, many agencies within the federal government began restricting some of their publicly available geospatial data and information from such sources as the World Wide Web. As time passes, however, decisionmakers have begun to ask whether and how such information specifically helps potential attackers, including terrorists, to select U.S. homeland sites and prepare for better attacks. Under the direction of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, researchers at the RAND Corporation sought to clarify how geospatial information can be exploited by attackers and what kinds of information might prove most valuable. After evaluating both the "supply" and "demand" of geospatial data and information and surveying hundreds of Web sites, they developed a framework of three steps--usefulness, uniqueness, and benefits and costs--for assessing the implications of making such information available. The research detailed in this book aims to assist decisionmakers tasked with the responsibility of choosing which geospatial information to make available and which to restrict. In addition, the researchers make general recommendations about how the federal government should proceed in developing a more comprehensive model with similar features of the framework presented here, as well as how the U.S. government should communicate with public- and private-sector decisionmakers tasked with comparable assessments at more-local levels.

The research described in this report was prepared for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.