The increasing availability of commercial satellite photos
has made some intelligence and satellite experts nervous. Vice Adm.
Robert Murrett, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a
small U.S. spy agency, believes that some satellite photos should be limited
from the public for security purposes. Murrett wants the U.S. Government to
restrict access to high-resolution imagery.
Murrett participates in geospatial intelligence, a growing
field which studies images to help examine activities. “If there was a
situation where any imagery products were being used by adversaries to kill
Americans, I think we should act,” Murrett said during a rare interview.
He later admitted that there are a number of scenarios where
high-resolution imagery should not
be used here or overseas.
U.S. Spy satellites were previously used, especially during
the Cold War, as a secret military asset to gain intelligence. However,
companies such as Geoeye and Digital Globe launched commercial satellites which
share many of images with the public. Both companies are ready to launch new
satellites that will allow users to view even higher-resolution photographs,
but with several guidelines. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will
help the company limit the quality of public images to a resolution ranging
somewhere around a half-meter.
Google Earth is powered by companies such as Geoeye and
Digital Globe. India considered filing an official
complaint against Google Earth, claiming the program allowed people to view
state secrets. The government was concerned after images showed around
six or seven state-of-the-art fighter craft.