Google Maps now has satellite imagery. Which has all sorts of uses.
Dave Shea, for instance, remarks here
on how much easier it is to find clear cut areas in his local forests
through the use of Google Maps.
But the technique has its limits. The roofs of the White House,
and nearby buildings, turn out to be featureless
blobs of a strange, solid color (as pointed out in comments here). And
here is a more
interesting case. Ignoring the dummy zip code, the location is
the Pentagon's secret whatever-it-is at Groom Lake, Nevada. Zoom down
far enough, and all you get is a GIF saying that "we don't have
imagery for this zoom level at this location". Clearly, someone's
been busy with the magic paintbrush.
The objective is obviously to protect these facilities from prying
eyes. But past a certain point, you have to wonder what is being
protected here, and more importantly from whom. Anyone capable of
really using information about the secret weapons du jour presumably
has their own source for higher resolution (and likely, more recent)
satellite imagery of this particular garden spot. The people who
don't get to see it are the people who merely pay for it. Us.
Which is a security philosophy that appears to be very much in
evidence, these days. The National Academy of Sciences was recently
asked by Congress to look into vulnerabilities in nuclear power
plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission stonewalled
them on critical information, claiming that security was the
reason. But assessing the security efforts was the whole reason for
asking the question -- and the final report was certainly going to be
censored anyway. What's really going on here is that the "homeland
security" crew is protecting themselves -- from investigation of what
turns out to be seriously flawed work, as shown by even the partial
information that the NAS investigators were able to get.
But protecting American intelligence services from investigations
is serious business. Just look how hard the FBI is working to protect
itself from translator Sibel Edmonds' allegations that intercepts
describing Turkish espionage were effectively suppressed by a
translator who was a mole.
more where that came from. (via King
After all, if we got the impression these agencies were incompetent,
and shot through with enemies of the state, why would we ever let them
bank records without a warrant?