Israeli nuclear facility expansion revealed by archaeologists’ satellite law solution | RNZ News8 Aprile 2021
WorldPoliticsPacificTe Ao MāoriSportBusinessCountryLocal Democracy ReportingComment & AnalysisIn DepthWeatherWORLD6 Apr 2021Israeli nuclear facility expansion revealed by archaeologists’ satellite law solution5:50 pm on 6 April 2021 Share this Share on TwitterShare on FacebookShare via emailShare on RedditShare on Linked InIt was late one evening in 2017 when somewhere in the minds of Dr Michael Fradley and his colleague Dr Andrea Zerbini a light flickered on.The Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Centre. Photo: Wikimedia Commons: American Reconnaissance Satellite KH-4 CORONAThe two Oxford University archaeologists often found they worked better after hours, once the office had emptied and with no phone calls or emails to distract them.Both specialists in the Middle East, the pair were two years into a project involving satellite imagery of Israel and the West Bank when they noticed something odd.”From the start, we knew that there was a problem,” Fradley said.They were trying to access photos taken over Israel but noticed they were all blurry, and not high enough quality to make out any of the details on the ground they were looking for.The blurry satellite imagery of IsraelThey didn’t know it then, but Fradley and Zerbini had run into an obscure US regulation known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment, which compelled the US government to blur satellite imagery exclusively over Israel and the Palestinian Territories.During the Cold War, the United States’ satellite program was as much a political instrument as it was a practical one. And at the time, lobbying of the US Congress by Israel, which argues allowing open access to satellite pictures endangers its national security, led to the passing of the little-known amendment at the end of the millennium.With many of the world’s largest commercially available satellite systems having long been owned by American companies, this has meant for decades satellite imagery over Israel on websites like Google Earth has been blurred out.To the minds of the two researchers, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of information about the problem on the internet, and the situation presented an interesting challenge.So, over many evenings in 2017, the pair got to work as they tried to find a workaround to accessing the detailed satellite imagery needed for their archaeological research.Working from their modest office on campus, they trawled what felt like every corner of the web, skimming through reams of declassified reports and endless newspaper clippings.Suddenly Fradley and Zerbini found themselves in territory that was at once familiar and unfamiliar – the work gave them the same thrill of the hunt for new knowledge.But it also gave them a feeling they were part of something subversive. They had become quasi-internet sleuths looking for answers on a subject that was very different to their day jobs.