BIg Brother is watching Darfur

Interesting article about a new use for all those satellites we have up there. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has teamed up with Amnesty International and is using satellite imagery to show photographic evidence of Sudan’s villages being completely destroyed (apparently by the Janjaweed, using Sudanese military weapons.)

An excerpt from the Washington Post Story:

Since 2004, the African Union has maintained a modest force of about 7,000 peacekeepers in Darfur, but their mandate expires at the end of this month. The AAAS/Amnesty group hopes that the satellite images it is collecting will provide incontrovertible proof of burning and destruction. Ideally, Sudan then will be forced to accept the United Nations peacekeeping force that the government refused to allow in last year.

“What this satellite technology does, it makes it possible to break down those walls of secrecy. Not only to get information, but to get information in a way that’s irrefutable,” says Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

The images on [31-year old researcher Jeremy] Nelson’s screen were taken by QuickBird, a satellite launched in 2001 by Colorado-based DigitalGlobe, one of two U.S.-based commercial satellite companies. QuickBird’s resolution is good enough to show individual houses and sometimes even cars, and it shoots in color. The other U.S. company, Dulles-based GeoEye, operates two similar satellites with slightly lower resolution. Each of the satellites orbits the planet several times a day; among the three, they reach almost any spot on Earth about once a week. It’s fair to assume that government spy satellites still have the best equipment in orbit. But today, anyone with a big enough checkbook can order spy-quality images. (With some exceptions; a 1997 U.S. law prohibits the collection and release of satellite imagery of Israel with a resolution better than two meters, for example.)

Figured Scottie would appreciate that last. Anyone know the background on that?

Here are some rather arresting before and after shots of the three villages of Bir Kedouas, Ishmas, and Tigla. Pretty convincing. It should shut them up from continuing to claim that nothing is happening, however the fact that the Janjaweed is acting completely under the direction of the Sudanese Government (even though nothing is happening) and not independently as claimed, isn’t proven by these photos.

Either way, not sure if the Sudanese government is going to simply shrug and say, “Hey, you got us, now. We’ll be at the Hague in a couple of weeks. How should we pack?”

Slashdot.

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