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.