Intelligence: June 28, 2005

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Spy satellites, and the photos they provide, have long been something only wealthy governments could afford. Now everyone can have it, sort of. Google now provides satellite photos (maps.google.com), making such access much more widely known, and available. Not only does Google cover most areas where Americans live, and drive, but also many foreign lands, like Egypt, Iraq, Europe and China. Resolution varies, with most of it being several meters (that is, the smallest object you can make out would be several meters across.) But other satellite photo services, like Terraserver.com, will provide higher resolution (often under a meter), for a small fee. Now, what does the U.S. Department of Defense, and American intelligence agencies, think of all this satellite imagery being available to anyone. Not a lot, but the U.S. government is being quiet about exactly what they are doing about it. When satellite photos first became widely available to anyone (including criminals, terrorists and so on) back in the 1990s, the U.S. government did try to do something about it. But making threats, or buying all the time on some of the private photo sats, didnt really work. So more subtle methods, or, rather, tricks, are being used. Exactly what this consists of is being kept secret, for obvious reasons. 

 


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