Now we can add to the list a US base in Pakistan. The Times of London reports on Google's face saving gesture for the US. The ostensible reason is one of security. But the Predator has also been the cause of numerous Pakistani and Afghani civilian deaths. The so-called smart weapon, providing immunity to its American controllers, also allows sloppiness (or ruthlessness).
The US was secretly flying unmanned drones from the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan as early as 2006, according to an image of the base from Google Earth.You can also see the images in greater detail via Cryptome and Eyeball Series.
The image — that is no longer on the site but which was obtained by The News, Pakistan's English language daily newspaper — shows what appear to be three Predator drones outside a hangar at the end of the runway. The Times also obtained a copy of the image, whose co-ordinates confirm that it is the Shamsi airfield, also known as Bandari, about 200 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta.
An investigation by The Times yesterday revealed that the CIA was secretly using Shamsi to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants around Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.
The image of the US drones at Shamsi highlights the extraordinary power — and potential security risks — of Google Earth.
Several governments have asked it to remove or blur images of sensitive locations such as military bases, nuclear reactors and government buildings. Some have also accused the company of helping terrorists, as in 2007, when its images of British military bases were found in the homes of Iraqi insurgents.
Last year India said that the militants who attacked Mumbai in November had used Google Earth to familiarise themselves with their targets. Google Street View, which offers ground-level, 360-degree views, also ran into controversy last year when the Pentagon asked it to remove some online images of military bases in America.