GeoCarta Has Moved

Dec 18, 2005

Iraqi Insurgents Using Google Earth Against American & British Forces

The popular mapping tool Google Earth may be being used by Iraqi insurgents to launch attacks against American and British troops in Iraq, defense experts told the Sunday Telegraph.

Launched this summer, Google Earth, gives internet users access to satellite images of virtually anywhere on the globe. Bill Sweetman, an expert on technological warfare with the military publisher Jane's, told the Telegraph that those images could enable terrorists in Iraq to pinpoint targets inside military bases. "Information gleaned from Google Earth can be of use to these people," he was quoted as saying. "They can use overhead images to get co-ordinates for a mortar attack or for a suicide bomber to try to figure out where a building is in the base so they don't get lost on their way in."

Soldiers in Iraq suspect that terrorists are combining the satellite images from Google Earth with cheap global positioning system (GPS) units to assist them in their attacks. An e-mail from a U.S. Marine was recently posted on the internet which stated, "Bad guy technology: simple yet effective. They use GPS units for navigation and Google Earth for overhead views of our positions."

On average, the images posted on Google Earth are about eighteen months old, and allied forces have access to much more recent and detailed satellite views themselves. However, Brian Collins, a professor at Cranfield University was quoted as saying that the value of such images cannot be totally discounted. "If you can locate a target on the image it will give you very accurate co-ordinates and a terrorist will know exactly where to aim a missile. If you also have a GPS then you know exactly where you are and you can sit there with your PC and look at these very high resolution satellite image and you will know where to fire your missile from and what to fire it at."

Since it was launched, several governments have raised security concerns about providing such easy access to satellite imagery. A spokesperson for Google said that the images they acquired and posted on the website were already publicly available.