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The secret's out
We must get used to new reality where Google Earth uncovers our top secrets

Before anything else, this satellite image website must shake our consciousness. We must understand that terms such as "ambiguity" and "state secrets" are being gradually eroded as a result of technological leaps.

 

This is simply a strip show. We feel as if we're wearing something, but in fact we're wearing nothing. Nothing to cover it up. We're transparent.

 

The State of Israel and its sensitive facilities lost another layer this week that previously served to cover them. If up until now, we only exposed ourselves to the satellites of superpowers, then now, as a result of the upgraded quality of Google Earth's satellite images, Israel's most secretive sites are apparently exposed not only to any intelligence agency, but to any Internet user.

 

Even if we're talking about images that are out-of-date, from a year or two ago, and with picture resolutions that are not the highest possible, what we have here is a pool of information that any intelligence body would be willing to invest plenty of money and effort to get a hold of.

 

From now on, when a member of the global Jihad network will be sent to gather intelligence information about a sensitive site in Israel, his masters would be able to provide him with exact coordinates to be entered into Google Earth's search window on his laptop – and that's it. The program will assist him in preparing the operation: It will show him the target from up close and enable him to identify a nearby building where he can observe the target, as well as escape routes.

 

Until now, guiding a terrorist or agent with such level of accuracy required a complex intelligence gathering effort. Today, this information is openly available and accessible to all. Just grab some satellite images and go on a tour of Israel's secret facilities.

 

The identification of sensitive strategic and security sites in Israel is a major objective for countries such as Iran and Syria. The intelligence gathering ability of Arab states in Israel is rather limited, particularly in all matters pertaining to the gathering of military intelligence via cutting-edge technologies. Until now, these countries were forced to rely on superpowers and commercial companies, which usually sold low-resolution images.

 

This, by the way, demonstrates the kind of advantage acquired by Israel vis-à-vis the enemy after we were able to develop an independent capability to launch spy satellites.

 

Pure gold for terrorists

However, now that we have this strip show, Arab states find it easier to point to the location they are interested in. When this website is used by an expert, who knows exactly what he's looking for at the sensitive site, the quality provided by the site may be enough to confirm or reject the existence of one site or another or of certain capabilities attributed to Israel.

 

If Google Earth is able to provide an image of a sensitive bunker or a missile battery, it in fact provides coordinates that can be used to accurately aim ballistic missiles to target.

 

If this program is an asset for enemy countries, it is no less than pure gold for terrorists. Until now, Islamic Jihad used the program in order to improve its Qassam fire on civilian targets. Today, with the program also identifying military targets, why should Islamic Jihad ignore them?

 

This transparency, which will only grow, creates a major problem for the entire world. In the '60s and '70s, when the US felt threatened
by Soviet spy satellites, it invested $15 billion in hiding its ballistic missile arsenal underground. This is not the solution Israel needs, or can, adopt. Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that in the near future it would be possible to purchase satellite images that provide thermal shots – which will allow the buyer to reach conclusions regarding the materials or type of activity taking place at the site.

 

All that is left for us to do is internalize the fact that we are transparent and take it into consideration when we undertake any kind of military activity. Just like we got used to the fact that cellular phones are one of the major means for leaking information, we must get used to the notion that the most secret facilities are no longer that secret – and conduct ourselves accordingly.

 

What can be done in the face of all this transparency? This is the (complex) challenge faced by the experts dealing with the fields of concealment and deception.

 

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