Guardian: Gazan rocket launches planned with Google Earth

The Guardian comes out with the archetypal “terrorists are using Google Earth” piece this morning:

Palestinian militants are using Google Earth to help plan their attacks on the Israeli military and other targets, the Guardian has learned.

Members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group aligned with the Fatah political party, say they use the popular internet mapping tool to help determine their targets for rocket strikes.

“We obtain the details from Google Earth and check them against our maps of the city centre and sensitive areas,” Khaled Jaabari, the group’s commander in Gaza who is known as Abu Walid, told the Guardian.

And there’s the video to prove it (2:30m in):


It’s not the sort of endorsement one wishes for. But Abu Walid is trying to boast about his militancy, as his Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is now trying to outdo Hamas in the toughness stakes in order to win over the Gazan population. Google Earth is mentioned because it is a new tool — it is the best way yet to find the local supermarket, regardless of who you are. The Volkswagen bus used to transport the rocket doesn’t rate a mention by Abu Walid, but that’s because both we and he are used to terrorists having cars.


Ditto for the maps they use, the cellphones, the HP computer on which Abu Walid runs Google Earth, and their internet connection. Google Earth (and Virtual Earth and Yahoo Maps) are the new universal for placing yourself in the world and navigating it. Denying ourselves that tool and all the good that comes from it because we think it spites terrorists would be a pity. Google Earth’s imagery is definitely cheaper and more convenient than what Abu Walid had access to before, but taking it away from him and us would diminish his effectiveness by very little, whereas the cumulative cost to the rest of us would be far greater.

[Previous “terrorists use Google Earth” stories: Terrorists use Google Earth in Algeria, militants use Google Earth in Iraq, militants use Google Earth in Yemen.]

12 thoughts on “Guardian: Gazan rocket launches planned with Google Earth”

  1. Hey! Isn’t that a violation of the Google Earth License Agreement?? Somebody should bust him. ;)

    Or, is a terrorist organization considered “commercial use”? Tsk tsk tsk.

  2. Hey! Isn’t that a violation of the Google Earth License Agreement?? Somebody should bust him. ;)

    Or, is a terrorist organization considered “commercial use”? Tsk tsk tsk.

  3. If they’re still GE3, it’d be relatively easy to locate them over the network.

    Besides, I think they enjoy knowing that the paranoid will probably block us out even more — in effect, doing exactly what they want, which is economic and social disruption above all else.

  4. And… I love how he explicitly says ‘and we check them against our own maps’.

    Gee, can anyone say — ground intel?

    Haven’t we been saying this the entire time in how they plan-out their missions?

  5. I fear that the use of google earth with this kind of intentions will soon lead to the prohibition of this kind of software, that we love very much, making all of us good guys pay for the stupidity of others. There must be a way of making this software available only to trustworthy people.

  6. I fear that the use of google earth with this kind of intentions will soon lead to the prohibition of this kind of software, that we love very much, making all of us good guys pay for the stupidity of others. There must be a way of making this software available only to trustworthy people.

  7. Wow, I didn’t know the power GE has economically and socially. Guess we were so depressed or backwards prior to GE. That sure has opened my eyes….not!!

    I haven’t and I don’t think others have denied terrorist or others have to do on-site surveillance or investigations. The issue which y’all fail to grasp or maybe y’all don’t want to grasp it so one can beat their chest and say I am soo right. I know it makes people feel so big and smart in front of their internet buddies.

    The technology and data has helped make their “job” more efficient and easier unlike prior to all this technology and data being freely available to any “joe”.

    I’ll use the example of mapping soil scientists instead of the engineering one I have used before. Maybe this time it will make sense and get through the blinders.

    Over time the tools, technology, data used by soil scientists have changed drastically. In the end, soil scientists still have to visit the field just as they had to do 20-30 years ago. That part of the equation hasn’t changed, field visits, and it won’t ever change in the foreseeable future. Even with better data and technology.

    In the 70-80’s soil scientists basically had stereoscopic hard copy imagery years and years out of date, hard copy topo maps, and drew their soil lines by hand on hard copy imagery. Compared to now, imagery which is within a year of being current, better elevation information, the data/imagery in digital format, and digital soil lines which are easier to edit and copy. Which is more efficient, then or now? Which gives better information and site awareness prior to on-site visitation, then or now? And like I said before, no matter what, the soil scientist still has to go to the field to review and verify what they understood to be true from the information compiled in office.

    If you ask any soil scientist whether or not their job is more efficient, produce more and more accurate now compared to then. They will say, now. Unless it’s an ole guy who hates change.

    The same applies to terrorist or others. So what they have to make field visits. It’s really irrelevant.


  8. Yes, KoS. I know a handful of scientists who use Google Earth for various reasons, and they’re quite pleased with it. What scientists can do with it, to communicate their datasets and analysis to the ‘average joe’, is quite phenominal — and they enjoy having that capability tremendously. (What’s the point in growing up to be a scientist, if the end-result isn’t to educate and inform the ‘average joe’?)

    I especially like the fact that this man in the video claims to use Google Earth to some benefit, while I see his men lobbing a home-built rocket indiscriminately — something which they could probably do with or without Google Earth, or even a map. The reporter was even able to confirm for us that the rocket didn’t hit its intended mark and there was no collateral damage.

    I don’t know, I guess if the Mexicans or Canadians started lobbing rockets indiscriminately over the border into our territory, then perhaps you’d get a sense of what they’re actually doing vs. what they claim they’re doing.

    I’m sure they’d love to give the impression that Google Earth is the source for their madness, KoS. I’m sure they’d love it if we as a society wouldn’t be able to have our own uses for such data from above.

  9. It’s not GE solely. Unfortunately GE steals most of the lime-light. I’m just as guilty of focusing on GE, since this is a GE blog. What I’m trying to spell out isn’t GE specific, rather industry wide.

    The example I used of the soil scientists is not GE specific, rather in the generic. I know of no soil scientists using GE to do their work. It’s not usefully. Plus there are a ton of ways to get the info out the public without the use of GE. There is more to the world than GE. And you wonder why people call you a “fan-boy”

    Also the example was to show how over time ones job does become easier, more efficient, so on and so forth as the technology and data improves.

    Now the response to the economic and society comment was GE specific.

    It’s our industry overall, remember there is more than GE. The industry is evolving, as technology always does. What worries me the most, is the blindness and nativity of rushing forward, be dam the consequences. And there are always consequences. Yet it seems consequences are of no concern when it’s ones own pet niche. A little selfishness on peoples part.

    I think you are giving them too much credit in your last paragraph. I really doubt they are thinking that deeply. Also, I think people are over stating the importance of all this. I remember life just fine before the internet or even GE or similar programs. If it all disappeared tomorrow from public view, we would survive and only notice a small bump in the road.

    Plus do you really think they have shown their true capabilities? I doubt it. Especially given the US helped train and arm a few of those groups. Let alone what other assistance they are being provided from elsewhere.

    Alot of people don’t think like Americans, ie, short vs long term planning. Most are long term planners. They have no problem waiting decades and decades in order to accomplish something. Very unlike us, we want it now, not later.

    Ooo and one more thing. Keep in mind our long-running argument. I wasn’t focusing on this one particular example of rocket lobbing. I’m talking about the big picture here. Just like you said earlier, “haven’t we been saying this the entire time”. Which implies, it’s not about this one post or example. Right? There is more than rocket lobbing? Or that’s the sole means of attack now?

    But keep living in the little dream world. And keep beating the chest and thinking how smart y’all are. Neotards, hahhaah, good one in the other post. I’d much rather be a neotard(if I was one) than a retard any day.

    Maybe a radical green group should try and have the internet shut down. It does contribute alot to man-made greenhouse gases. ;) Also it would solve the so called censorship problem. Thinking of censorship, I bet if we listed a bunch of items, there would be something on the list one would deem worthwhile of censorship. I doubt anyone applies their standards across the entire board.


  10. Thank you for all your clarifications, KoS. Really. I’m always satisfied to gain a clearer understanding of where it is in your mind you are coming from.

  11. Essentially, a terrorist could easily develop a plan to take down a substantial amount of infrastructure within a metropolitan area here in the states from a half a world away, planning the operation to great detail before ground reconnaissance ever got underway. It may very well be viewed as criminal how Google can acquire such technology from the United States Military for substantial profitable gain only to ultimately wreak havoc on the American people. Israel on merely a training camp.

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