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Google Earth, Insurgents’ Friend?

by hambling on January 13, 2007

Insurgents in Iraq have been smart extremely smart about using the Net — from YouTube propaganda to anonymous webmail communications to uploaded training guides to t-shirts sold online. So it’s not surprising to hear that that might be using Google Earth for overhead reconnaissance, too.
Still, I have a feeling this story, from the Telegraph, is a little over-blown.

Terrorists attacking British bases in Basra are using aerial footage displayed by the Google Earth internet tool to pinpoint their attacks, say Army intelligence sources.
Documents seized during raids on the homes of insurgents last week uncovered print-outs from photographs taken from Google.
The satellite photographs show in detail the buildings inside the bases and vulnerable areas such as tented accommodation, lavatory blocks and where lightly armoured Land Rovers are parked.
Written on the back of one set of photographs taken of the Shatt al Arab Hotel, headquarters for the 1,000 men of the Staffordshire Regiment battle group, officers found the camp’s precise longitude and latitude.
“This is evidence as far as we are concerned for planning terrorist attacks,” said an intelligence officer with the Royal Green Jackets battle group. “Who would otherwise have Google Earth imagery of one of our bases?… We believe they use Google Earth to identify the most vulnerable areas such as tents.”

As the paper notes, “it is unclear how old the maps are.” But unless they’re very recent, it’s hard to believe they’d show today’s tents all that accurately.
Anyway, it is amazing the kooky stuff you can find on Google Earth. Last year, Defense Tech readers went buck-wild, discovering everything from Area 51 landing strips to target ranges to a 500-foot-wide Star of David shape, scratched out of the Nevada rock.

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