Noted investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has an article in the current issue of The New Yorker that revisits the night-time Israeli bombing raid of an installation in Syria on September 6, 2007. He concludes that the bombed building was likely not an incipient nuclear project, but possibly a chemical weapons project, and that North Korean construction workers likely were present on site.
There is one very interesting passage where Hersh himself engages in forensic neogeography!
The satellite operated by DigitalGlobe, the Colorado firm that supplied [Institute for Science and International Security’s (ISIS) David] Albright’s images, is for hire; anyone can order the satellite to photograph specific coördinates, a process that can cost anywhere from several hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The company displays the results of these requests on its Web page, but not the identity of the customer. On five occasions between August 5th and August 27th of last year—before the Israeli bombing—DigitalGlobe was paid to take a tight image of the targeted building in Syria.
Clearly, whoever ordered the images likely had some involvement in plans for the attack. DigitalGlobe does about sixty per cent of its business with the U.S. government, but those contracts are for unclassified work, such as mapping. The government’s own military and intelligence satellite system, with an unmatched ability to achieve what analysts call “highly granular images,” could have supplied superior versions of the target sites. Israel has at least two military satellite systems, but, according to Allen Thomson, a former C.I.A. analyst, DigitalGlobe’s satellite has advantages for reconnaissance, making Israel a logical customer. (“Customer anonymity is crucial to us,” Chuck Herring, a spokesman for DigitalGlobe, said. “I don’t know who placed the order and couldn’t disclose it if I did.”) It is also possible that Israel or the United States ordered the imagery in order to have something unclassified to pass to the press if needed. If the Bush Administration had been aggressively coöperating with Israel before the attack, why would Israel have to turn to a commercial firm?
The whole article is worth a read. (ISIS’s Albright claims his quote was taken out of context by Hersh, BTW.)