37 votes

President Trump tweets sensitive surveillance image of Iran

33 comments

  1. [3]
    Deimos
    Link
    Some really interesting info in this Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/cgbassa/status/1167578706379988992 Great example of how much people can work out just by seeing a photo like this. It...

    Some really interesting info in this Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/cgbassa/status/1167578706379988992

    Great example of how much people can work out just by seeing a photo like this. It reveals far more than the actual contents of the photo.

    31 votes
    1. krg
      Link Parent
      This part reminds me of the beginning of Vertical, which describes the idea of ownership at every level of altitude and depth. There was a portion about citizens tracking spy satellites that...

      Since USA 224 is a classified satellite, orbital elements are not published by CSpOC. Fortunately, amateur satellite observers regularly track it across the sky, allowing its orbit to be determined.

      This part reminds me of the beginning of Vertical, which describes the idea of ownership at every level of altitude and depth. There was a portion about citizens tracking spy satellites that "don't" exist. Pretty interesting book...but it gets a bit too critical-theory-jargon-y for its own good.

      8 votes
  2. [8]
    hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    Slightly offtopic, but I noticed that the surveillance imagery was being compared to some Maxar imagery. Well, Maxar is an imagery provider for OpenStreetMap and... It's not every day you get to...

    Slightly offtopic, but I noticed that the surveillance imagery was being compared to some Maxar imagery.

    Well, Maxar is an imagery provider for OpenStreetMap and...

    It's not every day you get to map a spaceport in Iran.

    16 votes
    1. [7]
      mike10010100
      Link Parent
      Wait, what does this imply? That Maxar is the provider of this intelligence image?

      Wait, what does this imply? That Maxar is the provider of this intelligence image?

      1. [4]
        hungariantoast
        Link Parent
        No, the image Trump tweeted, the intelligence image, seems to have come from a US spy satellite. The NPR article shows an image captured by a satellite belonging to a company called Maxar below...

        No, the image Trump tweeted, the intelligence image, seems to have come from a US spy satellite.

        The NPR article shows an image captured by a satellite belonging to a company called Maxar below the supposed intelligence image.

        Maxar is a commercial company that has their own satellites in orbit. The specific satellite that took the image shown in the NPR article was WorldView-2, which takes a new photo of every place on Earth every single day (more or less), so it's no surprise that they managed to capture the accident.

        The reason the Maxar imagery is important is that we know that WorldView-2 has a 46 centimeter-per-pixel resolution. We can compare this known resolution and its image quality with that of the images from the spy satellite to help determine the capabilities of the US spy satellite (though this is only a piece of the puzzle, and the tweets Deimos linked reveal much more information through different means).

        Either way, the image from the US satellite that Trump tweeted appears to show a 10 centimeter-per-pixel resolution, which is a much better quality than what WorldView-2 can provide. In fact, it's better than anything any commercial satellite company can provide, as far as I know, with Maxar's satellites maxing out at 25 centimeter-per-pixel resolution on their best equipment.

        Then, it's speculated that the 10 centimeter-per-pixel resolution image Trump tweeted isn't even the highest resolution available by the US spy satellite, with the author of those tweets suggesting that the resolution of the US spy satellite could actually increase by a factor of 1.5 compared to the 10 centimeter-per-pixel resolution we've seen, which is astounding.

        9 votes
        1. [3]
          mike10010100
          Link Parent
          Damn, that's incredible. I wonder if he realizes he's giving foreign adversaries sensitive information or if he simply got rid of anyone with brains who was formerly keeping him in check.

          Damn, that's incredible. I wonder if he realizes he's giving foreign adversaries sensitive information or if he simply got rid of anyone with brains who was formerly keeping him in check.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            CALICO
            Link Parent
            I don't think he cares. Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador — WaPo, May 2017
            9 votes
            1. mike10010100
              Link Parent
              Yeah, I keep hoping beyond hope that he isn't a Russian asset. But all evidence points to it.

              Yeah, I keep hoping beyond hope that he isn't a Russian asset.

              But all evidence points to it.

              3 votes
      2. [2]
        Autoxidation
        Link Parent
        No. Maxar owns DigitalGlobe, which owns the WorldView satellites. OpenStreetMap probably gets most of their imagery basemap from them, similar to Google Maps.

        No. Maxar owns DigitalGlobe, which owns the WorldView satellites. OpenStreetMap probably gets most of their imagery basemap from them, similar to Google Maps.

        6 votes
        1. hungariantoast
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Yep, this is pretty much it. There are dozens of ways to accurately provide data to the OpenStreetMap database, but by far the most popular method is by tracing features from satellite or aerial...

          Yep, this is pretty much it. There are dozens of ways to accurately provide data to the OpenStreetMap database, but by far the most popular method is by tracing features from satellite or aerial imagery using an editor like iD or JOSM.

          As for the actual imagery sets that users can use to trace features on, there are thousands of them. The only requirement for being able to use imagery to trace features for OSM is copyright compatibility, but that's actually a bit of a complicated subject.

          My point is, there are thousands of compatible imagery sets that mappers can use for "armchair mapping" (mapping using imagery).

          A few big companies, such as Mapbox, Bing (Microsoft), DigitalGlobe (now Maxar), and Ersi, have agreements with the OpenStreetMap Foundation that allow mappers to use their commercial imagery sets for the purpose of armchair mapping. Because these big companies' imagery sets are by far the most complete (and usually the highest quality), they're the most popular imagery sources for armchair mapping.

          However, there are thousands of imagery sets available. Almost all of them only cover a very specific area, like a city, province, or state. Very few provide global imagery and workable resolutions that can actually be useful to mappers.

          Two really nice projects in the same sphere as OSM are OpenDroneMap and OpenAerialMap, which encourage the use of drones to capture low flying aerial imagery of a user's local area, and then use that very recent, very detailed imagery for armchair mapping, among other things. Unfortunately, drones for this application are still very expensive and the flight times for capturing a suitable amount of imagery typically stretch into multiple hours, sometimes a dozen or more.

          But yeah, the big imagery sets provided by the big companies are definitely the most popular imagery sources for armchair mapping. Most of those big imagery sets (Maxar, Mapbox, Bing) also share a lot of imagery with each other as well and a lot of the shared imagery is sourced from DigitalGlobe (Maxar) satellites, so you're not wrong that most of the imagery in the big imagery sets comes from Maxar one way or another, regardless of whose serving the imagery tiles to the mapper.

          5 votes
  3. Luna
    Link
    Honestly, I'm shocked, both at the fact that this was tweeted out, but also at the detail. The only imagery I've ever seen that was this high quality was from birdseye views in GIS systems, and...

    Honestly, I'm shocked, both at the fact that this was tweeted out, but also at the detail. The only imagery I've ever seen that was this high quality was from birdseye views in GIS systems, and those are taken from low-flying planes. An impressive display of US surveillance capabilities, but a dangerous move nonetheless.

    15 votes
  4. Deimos
    Link
    This CNBC article says that a US defense official confirmed that it was a photo from a briefing today:

    This CNBC article says that a US defense official confirmed that it was a photo from a briefing today:

    A U.S. defense official told CNBC that the picture in Trump's tweet, which appeared to be a snapshot of a physical copy of the satellite image, was included in a Friday intelligence briefing.

    14 votes
  5. [5]
    NaraVara
    Link
    Surely the media, which put such great stock in the importance of email server best practices, will regard this with the gravity it deserves.

    Surely the media, which put such great stock in the importance of email server best practices, will regard this with the gravity it deserves.

    14 votes
    1. Diet_Coke
      Link Parent
      Republicans, who can not abide by the leaking of classified material, will take a stand against these actions I am sure.

      Republicans, who can not abide by the leaking of classified material, will take a stand against these actions I am sure.

      11 votes
    2. [3]
      Neverland
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This and Trump’s entire election prove to me how the conservative messaging machine influences, dare I say directs, the discussion in seemingly all mainstream media. I would love to understand the...

      Surely the media, which put such great stock in the importance of email server best practices, will regard this with the gravity it deserves.

      This and Trump’s entire election prove to me how the conservative messaging machine influences, dare I say directs, the discussion in seemingly all mainstream media.

      I would love to understand the mechanics of it in regards to how they are able to influence the discussion of non-Republican journalists and editors.

      It’s not just prioritization and narrative definition that seems to be influenced, it’s even definitions of words like Socialist, Antifa, and why is everyone suddenly saying “leftist” to describe anyone non-Republican? Where the heck did that come from all of a sudden? I really want to understand the mechanics of influence here.

      11 votes
      1. Loire
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Repetition, repetition, repetition. When it comes down to it, it turns out the lie told most often, will be the lie that sticks. We are apparently not the critical thinking creatures we pretend to...

        Repetition, repetition, repetition. When it comes down to it, it turns out the lie told most often, will be the lie that sticks. We are apparently not the critical thinking creatures we pretend to be.

        The far-right propaganda teams (because lets not pretend like CNN and MSNBC are leftists on any scale other than "relative to Fox") succeed in driving the narrative by hammering messages home relentlessly. Spend a day watching Fox: Fox and Friends will start by presenting the new narrative, introducing it to the flock, some nobodies will come on for America News HQ next and parrot the new idea, then Chris Wallace comes on at lunch to really hammer it all home with an air of gravitas, Watter's World or The Five will be on next to hit the topic with some irreverance, bring the humour to it, then comes Shep to be the token liberal, giving the flock someone to argue against and disbelieve, then Hannity to work you into a rage with his red faced spittling, then Tucker hits the topic with the "Facts and Logic" angle, then Pirro or someone will take you into bed with some more righteous furour.

        They are disciplined in their messaging and will stay on topic long past the other stations. They will organize each and every one of their personalities to parrot the same topic in unison. The Fox viewer has been so insulated to outside perspective that they will never hear any of the facts or perspectives that Fox doesn't decide to shoe them. Fox will go so far as to "edit" tweets before putting them on screen to remove anything compromising to their narrative. They will. They have created an entire ecosystem in order to inundate their viewers with their "truth", and the other news organizations sinply can't conpete with that level of fervent belief.

        10 votes
      2. cmccabe
        Link Parent
        While on a tangent from the thread topic, I think this is one of the most important topics of our time and I hope to see more discussion of it on Tildes. If people are so dazzled by mainstream...

        I really want to understand the mechanics of influence here.

        While on a tangent from the thread topic, I think this is one of the most important topics of our time and I hope to see more discussion of it on Tildes. If people are so dazzled by mainstream media that they can’t think critically about their own government, democracy is in big trouble. Yes, mainstream media has been bad for some time, but independent, investigative journalism is declining fast now and making the situation far worse.

        It would be great to see more articles and discussion about the mechanics of mainstream (corporate) media’s collusion on shaping public dialog.

        5 votes
  6. Autoxidation
    Link
    Man, I work in this field and I cannot believe this was so casually released. The twitter thread @Deimos linked is an excellent example of why information is classified. This is my favorite...

    Man, I work in this field and I cannot believe this was so casually released. The twitter thread @Deimos linked is an excellent example of why information is classified.

    This is my favorite Keyhole article to share.

    12 votes
  7. [14]
    stromm
    Link
    To be honest, this isn't sensitive at all. Every country with modern tech looked at this and said, "yep, not really high res. Basic layout of a site. Proof they are trying to do what they say they...

    To be honest, this isn't sensitive at all.
    Every country with modern tech looked at this and said, "yep, not really high res. Basic layout of a site. Proof they are trying to do what they say they are trying to do".

    The US has cm resolution for things like this. Has for more than 20 years.

    2 votes
    1. [13]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Sounds like you didn’t actually read the twitter thread that points out how much classified information one can infer from a leak like this.

      Sounds like you didn’t actually read the twitter thread that points out how much classified information one can infer from a leak like this.

      9 votes
      1. [9]
        stromm
        Link Parent
        Actually I did. And having family who actually work with this exact type of stuff, I also know that what we're seeing isn't leaking any classified info that's not already out in the public realm....

        Actually I did. And having family who actually work with this exact type of stuff, I also know that what we're seeing isn't leaking any classified info that's not already out in the public realm.

        There is no "oh my god, now our enemies can see how good of an image we can get". Nor a "oh no, they now know the path our satellites can take because if they can see this image, at this angle, then that means it must take X-path". Nor a dozen other things.

        FACT: The US (and many other 1st World military powers) can resolve down to cm resolutions (as of at least 10 years ago). This image isn't near that magnification. While not having seen proof myself, I fully suspect that the US, Russia and a couple other counties can resolve the holy grail of "seeing words on the pages of a book".

        FACT: Even the twitter feed states that a satellite was known to being following "the required path to take this image" 2.4 days earlier. Sats don't hide long anymore...

        FACT:

        3 votes
        1. [7]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          Is this the “my uncle works at Nintendo” argument now? FACT: You’re doing a lot of special pleading to argue around the fact that the dude leaked classified material that’s kept under wraps for a...

          And having family who actually work with this exact type of stuff

          Is this the “my uncle works at Nintendo” argument now?

          FACT: You’re doing a lot of special pleading to argue around the fact that the dude leaked classified material that’s kept under wraps for a variety of reasons.

          4 votes
          1. [6]
            sublime_aenima
            Link Parent
            What classified material did he leak? All you did was link to @gpl’s comment thinking we learned the resolution when in fact the article @Autoxidation from 2012 confirms the 10 cm (although it has...

            What classified material did he leak? All you did was link to @gpl’s comment thinking we learned the resolution when in fact the article @Autoxidation from 2012 confirms the 10 cm (although it has it in inches) resolution these satellites are capable of. Just because most people don’t know something doesn’t make it classified...

            1 vote
            1. Autoxidation
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              It's one thing to say "this tech could enable images to be acquired at X.X cm resolution." It's an entirely different story to confirm capabilities with evidence. You can read the NRO's...

              It's one thing to say "this tech could enable images to be acquired at X.X cm resolution." It's an entirely different story to confirm capabilities with evidence.

              You can read the NRO's unclassified classification guide here (pdf).

              5 votes
            2. [4]
              gpl
              Link Parent
              To be clear (not sure why my comment was linked to) I’m also not under the impression that 10cm capability resolutions was classified information, or at the least that other countries would be...

              To be clear (not sure why my comment was linked to) I’m also not under the impression that 10cm capability resolutions was classified information, or at the least that other countries would be surprised to learn we have it. One possible but of classified information we might have learned is that this particular satellite has this particular capability.

              3 votes
              1. [3]
                sublime_aenima
                Link Parent
                But that’s not classified because it was already known based on the model of satellite it is. The classified parts of the satellite are the communications, which the image tweeted doesn’t disclose.

                But that’s not classified because it was already known based on the model of satellite it is. The classified parts of the satellite are the communications, which the image tweeted doesn’t disclose.

                1. [2]
                  CALICO
                  Link Parent
                  Let me pull some rank here, this is my field. I've largely abstained from this conversation because of that. Classification is strange. You would not believe the sheer volume of mundane sounding...

                  Let me pull some rank here, this is my field. I've largely abstained from this conversation because of that.

                  Classification is strange. You would not believe the sheer volume of mundane sounding shit that's classified, for any number of reasons.

                  Did you know that two Unclassified statements in proximity to each other can raise the Classification Level? That's because in association with each other a link can be made that was obfuscated before then. A simple example can be a program or technology, and a cover term. Both can be littered throughout open source, so the public knows that things exist. But putting the two together allows individuals to say, 'hey! This thing and that thing are the same!'. And suddenly all the information that was compartmentalized into two separate sets of information can be correlated, and a surprising amount of new information can be made explicitly clear.

                  As well, anything that comes from a classified system is, ipso facto classified at the same level of aforementioned system. The only time this is not the case is when the product has been sanitized, and passed through the relevant chain of custody needed to authorize it for a lower classification level and/or public release.

                  Regardless of any arguments on capabilities, which I absolutely will not get into, that napkin analysis Deimos posted is not the only information that has, can be, or will be exposed through this spill.

                  At the risk of sounding like an asshole:
                  No, I can't legally be more specific.
                  No, I won't get into a petty internet argument on this.
                  I outrank you. Statistically speaking, I likely outrank your family members as well.
                  This image is not Unclassified.
                  End of story.

                  13 votes
                  1. Autoxidation
                    Link Parent
                    As an addition to this comment (which I endorse 110%), I would like to point out that unclassifed doesn't mean approved for public release.

                    As an addition to this comment (which I endorse 110%), I would like to point out that unclassifed doesn't mean approved for public release.

                    6 votes
        2. zaarn
          Link Parent
          I doubt it will be possible to read the pages on a book. The atmosphere smudges the image a bit and you can't really get around that in any good way. Telescopes largely cheat because the actual...

          I doubt it will be possible to read the pages on a book. The atmosphere smudges the image a bit and you can't really get around that in any good way. Telescopes largely cheat because the actual target is essentially static relative to the air, so you can clear up the image using a guide star. But a book has no guide star and isn't being held at nanometer accuracy by the human.

          3 votes
      2. [3]
        gpl
        Link Parent
        From that thread it seems like the main thing we learned was an estimate of the resolution these satellites are capable of.

        From that thread it seems like the main thing we learned was an estimate of the resolution these satellites are capable of.

        1. [2]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          Knowing the resolution is no small thing. That’s information you need to have in order to know your leeway for hiding/disguising things. There’s a reason stuff like this is classified in the first...

          Knowing the resolution is no small thing. That’s information you need to have in order to know your leeway for hiding/disguising things.

          There’s a reason stuff like this is classified in the first place. Even if it can technically be inferred or discovered, forcing them to burn resources doing so takes resources away from other things and raises the costs of trying to do sneaky shit.

          10 votes
          1. gpl
            Link Parent
            Sure, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something major. It’s important information nonetheless but I imagine most foreign intelligence agencies had reasonable suspicions such resolution...

            Sure, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something major. It’s important information nonetheless but I imagine most foreign intelligence agencies had reasonable suspicions such resolution was achievable.

            5 votes