The head of space programmes at Israel’s Ministry of Defence has expressed concern about the relaxation of a 1997 US law prohibiting the sale of clear satellite images of Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Under the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment, images in services such as Google Earth cannot show items smaller than two metres across, which Israel says prevents enemies from using the information to target sensitive sites.
However, the US Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office has now said it will allow the sale of enhanced resolutions of 0.4 metres, telling Reuters news agency that “a number of foreign sources” were already doing so.
The Ministry’s Amnon Harari said this could lead to a potential security issue and appeared surprised by the announcement.
“I don’t think they asked us,” he told Israel’s public radio station Kan. “We are in a process of studying what exactly is written there, what exactly the intentions are, what we can respond to, ultimately. We would always prefer to be photographed at the lowest resolution possible… to be seen blurred, rather than precisely.”
As well as the danger that groups such as Hezbollah could use the information to target key infrastructure, analysts say higher resolution images could help activists track the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.