No, the U.S. Hasn’t Kept Satellite Imagery Classified Because of the “Occupation”

September 14, 2020 | Gerald Steinberg
About the author:

Last month, an article appeared in the magazine Foreign Policy under the headline “Israel Can’t Hide Evidence of Its Occupation Anymore,” celebrating a minor change in U.S. regulations concerning the availability of high-resolution satellite images as a victory over “censorship.” But the entire premise of the article is rooted in what might charitably be called a misunderstanding of the issue at hand. Gerald Steinberg, whose research contributed to the original piece of legislation, explains:

A very small country under threat of massive attack from conventional and unconventional forces (particularly Iraq and Syria, at the time), [Israel was] severely limited in deploying defensive and deterrent capabilities, making it vulnerable to a surprise first strike. With the addition of very high-resolution space images available for purchase by potential attackers, including Palestinian and other terror groups, and in real-time, the threat to Israel would have been much higher. . . . Understanding these concerns, the regulations were adopted [in 1996 to prevent highly detailed satellite imagery of Israel from being made public].

Now skip forward 24 years—to July 2020—when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revised the limitations regarding imaging of Israel (from a minimum two meters to 40 centimeters), based on the improvements in technology, new Middle East strategic realities, and greater availability from non-U.S. suppliers.

For those whose main objective in life is to measure Israeli, Palestinian, and (unauthorized) European government construction in the West Bank, there are numerous other and less costly sources.

But the author of the Foreign Policy article is an employee of an organization “dedicated to demonizing Israel,” as Steinberg puts it—and lavishly funded by European governments, as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Open Society Foundation. And so she must find, or manufacture, subjects to keep up a steady output of “disinformation.”

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