from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 83
August 25, 2008

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The easy availability of high-resolution imagery of much of the Earth's surface through Google Earth has presented a significant challenge to longstanding secrecy and national security policies, and has produced several distinct types of reactions from concerned governments, according to a recent report from the DNI Open Source Center (OSC).

"As the initial shock wore off, five main responses to the 'Google threat' emerged from nations around the world: negotiations with Google, banning Google products, developing a similar product, taking evasive measures, and nonchalance," the OSC report said.

The report documents these responses with citations to published news sources. It also notes several incidents in which terrorists or irregular military forces reportedly used Google Earth to plan or conduct attacks.

The OSC report has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "The Google Controversy -- Two Years Later," Open Source Center, 30 July 2008:

Further background on the impact of commercial satellite imagery may be found in "Can You Spot the Chinese Nuclear Sub?" by Sharon Weinberger, Discover, August 2008:

Due to government restrictions, lawsuits or other arrangements with Google, quite a few locations have been excluded from detailed coverage in Google Earth. Many of these were identified in "Blurred Out: 51 Things You Aren't Allowed to See on Google Maps," IT Security, July 15, 2008:

Both articles were cited by the OSC in its new report.


Chinese military authorities are paying increased attention to foreign satellite reconnaissance of Chinese forces and operations, and are pursuing countermeasures such as camouflage and deception to conceal sensitive material and activities, according to a newly-disclosed analysis performed in 2007 by the DNI Open Source Center.

"A variety of Chinese open source reporting suggests that China is developing an increasingly sophisticated understanding of US imagery collection capabilities and is steadily taking steps to evade both Western intelligence and commercial satellite and aerial reconnaissance," the OSC report stated.

"PRC domestic and military media clearly indicate that China is well aware of US intelligence's imagery satellite reconnaissance activities, including some key specifications. Much of the knowledge could come from observation of US military operations or from authorized and unauthorized disclosure in US media," the report said.

Like most other OSC analytical products, the report has not been approved for public release. But a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "China: PLA Training Emphasizes Countermeasures Against Imagery Reconnaissance," Open Source Center, July 31, 2007:


Scientific research in Pakistan on laser isotope separation is the subject of a new open source bibliography compiled by independent researcher Mark Gorwitz.

"It should be noted that they are using this technology to separate Lithium-6 which can be used in advanced nuclear weapons designs," Mr. Gorwitz said. "They have also done research on uranium spectroscopy, which could be an indication they are looking at uranium enrichment by the laser method."

See "Pakistani Laser Isotope Separation Related Research" by Mark Gorwitz, August 2008:


Last week (Aug. 20) I mistakenly wrote that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not been "signed" by China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. I should have said it has not been "ratified" by those countries. The Treaty has been signed (but not ratified) by China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and the United States. It has not been signed or ratified by North Korea, India or Pakistan.

Also last week (Aug. 20) I cited a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee complaining of the Justice Department's refusal to provide timely access to certain Office of Legal Counsel records on CIA interrogation policies, and setting an August 29 deadline. I should have noted that the Justice Department has provided copies of all OLC opinions on the subject of CIA interrogation to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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