|The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 contains a very interesting provision. SEC. 1033 (d) of that bill reads, in part:
(8) Paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 453 of such title are amended-
(A) by striking `National Imagery and Mapping Agency' and inserting `National Geospatial -Intelligence Agency'; and
(B) by striking `NIMA' and inserting `NGA'.
Noting that "NGA" is also the official acronym for the National Gallery of Art, we asked the former NIMA spokesman if this represented a re-use of a simple set of initials, or a merger between the two organizations. "Due to some sloppy drafting of legislative language, we apparently have a merger on our hands," a chagrined intelligence official said. Despite his obvious discomfort with the idea, Congressional sources insist the merger was deliberate and would work well. "We were having some hearings on why they never found NMD in Iraq," one said, "and one of the intel guys kept saying that 'Imagery interpretation is more an art than a science," so we decided to take his word for it."
Outside observers believe that the merger has been in the works for some time, and say that it explains some of the administration's past behavior. "Look at the whole WMD question," said one. "It turns out that the best evidence of Iraq's current WMD stockpiles was a forgery. Any idiot could have told them that Rembrandt never made an etching called 'Sarin Stockpiles at Nasiriyah,' but they believed it. If nothing else, the presence of the brooding Flemish peasants in the background really should have tipped somebody off."
There are rumors that the administration may have been the victim of "blowback," the process whereby American-created propaganda is circulated so widely that it eventually gets reported back to intelligence agencies as independent verification of the alleged item. Said one analyst, "Sure, the posters from the 1990 Iraq exhibit were big sellers, and the gift shop really made a ton of money, but now we find that David Hockney photo mosaic of a nerve-gas processing plant that we've been basing our analysis on is actually composed of images from that exhibition, which just makes us look foolish."
Nonetheless, many in the administration are enthusiastic. "De-linking intelligence and the need for a Causus Belli from what academics call the 'tyranny of facts' has allowed us to transcend the normative shackles of the post-colonial gestalt and allowed us to pursue a vigorous re-imagining of the concept of sovereignty" said Under Secretary of Defense for Imagery, Imagination, and Imaginary Threats, Nikols ven der Waals.
The merger has not gone entirely smoothly, though. Although an exhibition of early satellite reconnaissance photos from the Corona program was hailed by critics as 'replicating in its gritty detail the harsh emotional climate of the cold war,' other new exhibits have not fared so well. Said one critic "When Jasper Johns cranks out dozens of prints of the digits from 0-9 we call that an 'obsessive re-mining of his own personal oeuvre,' and it's brilliant art, OK? When some nerd from Langley puts up an exhibit called "217 views of the Severodvinsk Shipyard,' it's just a bunch of fuzzy images colored with different crayons."
Perhaps hardest hit by the merger have been the gallery's volunteer docents, many of them retired, who have had to learn entirely new procedures. "I beat a school volunteer senseless the other day when they tried to take a third-grade class into the Current Intelligence section," said Edith Himmelfarb, who has volunteered at the National Gallery since her retirement eight years ago. "I'm not used to this kind of violence and I'm not sure I did it right." Others agree. Peter Clump, a docent who works as a teacher in the D.C. Public Schools, said "I started doing this because I loved art, not so I could carry a gun, but the gun is pretty cool. Still, the new guys don't know a Roy Lichtenstein from a Jackson Pollack, and their public manners are pretty poor. Maceing and frisking visitors is not the proper response to an inquiry about the location of the restrooms."
Overall, though, Congress seems determined to see the merger through, and experts on the Hill report little chance the move will be reversed soon. Said one staffer, "They'll be together until they finish the Keith Haring Ballistic Missile Proliferation retrospective and the U-2 images of U-2 concerts."
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