February 15, 2004
The Limits Of Technology

Daniel of Crooked Timber trashes 'humint' (human intelligence) and writes "Stick to the satellite photos, thatís my advice, they donít lie." Can he really be that naîve? Granted that human intelligence is extremely slippery, there are many questions satellite photos simply cannot answer. The point was made very clearly on The Simpsons, specifically the episode from the 9th season in which Mr. Burns turns out to have stolen the one and only U.S. trillion-dollar bill fifty years ago. As an FBI Agent says, "We believe Burns still has the bill hidden somewhere in his house, but all we've ascertained from satellite photos is that it's not on the roof."

Posted by Dr. Weevil at February 15, 2004 08:29 AM

Dr W - obvious counter is the Falklands, where the Argentinians developed a number of techniques for fooling ariel surveillance (or WWII, where we Brits used a former magician to orchestrate fake cities, tanks, etc...).

Note that with some ariel info (I think) Germans took completely wrong idea of where the largest invasion force ever assembled was (because of fake tanks, etc, and hiding of real ones) prior to D-day.


Posted by: The Philosophical Cowboy on February 15, 2004 06:19 PM

More recent: Kosovo, where apparently we bombed hundreds of fake tanks ... and a real Chinese Embassy.

Posted by: markm on February 16, 2004 12:34 PM

The answer is, "Yes, he really is that naive". After all, he appears to actually believe that "Scott Ritter got it right", from viewing satellite photos.

The fact that Ritter was singing a completely different song when he had access to better quality and quantity satellite photos doesn't seem to have crossed his mind.

Posted by: Jim Thomason on February 17, 2004 01:34 AM

I am constantly amazed how often the Simpsons can be used to illustrate important points of common sense.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic on February 18, 2004 08:58 AM

Which REALLY goes to show that common sense ain't all that common.....

Posted by: Dean on February 20, 2004 07:14 PM