Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Another consequence of transparency...

The world of espionage is becoming more mundane, thanks to ubiquitous technology like Google Earth. With enough time (and it seems there are people who have it in abundance - these lucky dogs!) you can sort through images and see amazing things.

Photos of China's new second-generation nuclear submarine, believed to be equipped with 12 intercontinental ballistic missile launch tubes, have been published on Google Earth, according to reports. Nuclear weapons analyst Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists discovered the images of China's top secret submarine while searching photos of China's northeastern naval ports. One image clearly depicts China's next-generation Jin-class nuclear powered submarine, according to Kristensen, who has republished the image on his Strategic Security Blog at www.fas.org. The satellite image, believed to have been taken during late 2006 by the commercial Quickbird satellite, shows the submarine alongside a pier at the Xiaopingdao Submarine Base south of the city of Dalian. Kristensen said the images show a vessel about 35 feet (10 meters) longer than the earlier-generation Xia-class nuclear submarine. The U.S. reportedly believes China has been conducting sea tests on the Jin-class submarine since 2004 and then later carried out additional tests on its missile system. The U.S. reportedly believes the submarine and its missile system will be ready for deployment before 2010 [More]

This photo of a super-secret next generation Chinese sub would likely have a Top Secret label on it had this been 20 years ago. Instead, I'm putting a link to it on a farmer blog.

More examples to remind you somebody is watching, just about all the time. Note this information came from commercial satellites.
Commercial satellite imagery shows Iran is building a new tunnel complex inside a mountain near a major nuclear site — a possible attempt to protect sensitive uranium enrichment activity from aerial attack, nuclear analysts said Monday.

The pictures taken on June 11 were obtained from DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite imagery firm, by the Institute for Science and International Security, whose president is David Albright, a physicist and former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. [More]
Now add in the plummeting price of closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras, digital storage (priced a 4GB flash drive lately?), recognition software, and maybe we should all invest in better curtains.

Recent events in London have attracted more support for CCTV here in the US, despite growing reservations about both privacy (remember that?) and efficacy.
Still, in the perennial tug of war between security and privacy, security appears to be winning. The next wave in CCTV, experts say, is to marry traditional surveillance with computer software to make cameras better at detecting suspicious behavior that can be the precursor to a crime.

The police are believed to have used a rudimentary form of such technology to make the first arrest in this plot — Mohammed Asha, a Palestinian of Jordanian descent, who was captured on a motorway after his license plate was recognized by roadside cameras. [More]
I don't think it's much of a leap to assume this kind of technology is being deployed discreetly on our fields and the results being analyzed with improving accuracy. As we have seen in recent months grain markets are a constant source of surprise to farmers and traders alike, and technology-driven transparency is likely one reason. It's really hard to keep any kind of secret.

The non-intuitive part for farmers is remembering that we are being watched from the sky - and it's not only God.

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