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SYRIA: More questions about alleged nuclear site

Professor William Beeman at the University of Minnesota passed along a note today from "a colleague with a U.S. security clearance" about the mysterious Syrian site targeted in a Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike.

The note raises more questions about the evidence shown last week by U.S. intelligence officials to lawmakers in the House and Senate. 

The author of the note pinpoints irregularities about the photographs. Beeman's source alleges that the CIA "enhanced" some of the images. For example he cites this image:


The lower part of the building, the annex, and the windows pointing south appear much sharper than the rest of the photo, suggesting that they were digitally improved.

The author points to more questions about the photographs of the Syrian site.

  1. Satellite photos of the alleged reactor building show no air defenses or anti-aircraft batteries such as the ones found around the Natanz nuclear site in central Iran.
  2. The satellite images do not show any military checkpoints on roads near the building.
  3. Where are the power lines? The photos show neither electricity lines or substations.
  4. Here is a link to a photo of the North Korean facility that the Syrian site was based on. Look at all the buildings surrounding it. The Syrian site was just one building.

Now compare this photograph of the site:


To this one:


The site looks like a rectangle in the first shot, but more like a square in the second shot. Huh?

Thanks to Beeman, a professor of anthropology and Middle East studies as well as a member of the blogosphere, for allowing us to share his colleague's comments.

— Borzou Daragahi in Amman, Jordan

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, the war in Iraq and the frictions between the West and Islam. You can subscribe by registering at the website here, logging in here and clicking on the World: Mideast newsletter box here.

Comments () | Archives (66)

The last two photos likely look different because they were taken at different angles. The first one is obviously right overhead, while the second one is at an angle. Besides, that wouldn't gain anyone anything. As far as the first one, it looks to me like it was 3D rendered using the image as textures... which is weird, but could account for the sharpness of the lower roof. Disclaimer: This is the opinion of a novice.

I too was puzzled about the lack of utility power.
I scoured Google Earth, and there are no power
lines for miles. And I would guess that most of
the processes inside a nuke facility would require
an awful large supply. I have to imagine the need
for cooling water, etc. and these would require
hundreds of amps of AC. And to anyone that thinks that it's
an issue of visibility vs. resolution limits of GE,
I've found many cases of just residential power that's easily
visible, let alone 3 phase megawatt towers needed for
a facility like this.


Sounds like LA Times is engaged in another hatchet job like
P .Diddy knocked off Tupac.

Those of us who are in intelligence clearly understand what the problem with the picture is.

The first image is a composite and is taken from the fly-through at the beginning of the presentation. It's make with similar technology that google earth and google sketchup use so no, it's not an "actual" photograph.

As for the questions, here are answers:

1. Air Defenses clue in intelligence agencies that something is important. The entire point of this facility was that it was covert. For an extended explanation, see this:

2. See answer to #1

3. Powerlines are not needed unless the reactor intends to produce electricity. And anyway, at one corner of the building there is a single powerline coming in to provide power to the facility.

4. Yongbyon (the DPRK facility) has so many buildings because there is so much going on there. There are two reactors (one uncompleted), a fuel fabrication plant and rreprocessing plant, among other things.

Finally, the square vs rectangle is the result of the angle the to two images were taken. In the first, the shot it almost directly overhead - in the second, it's at an oblique angle. Unlike the movies, not all satellite imagery is straight down.

The question of after touching on the Photos is an important one, but before we jump to any conclusion maybe we should think about the fact that the NRO and CIA are known to digitally downgrade Sat imagery to protect the classified specs of the collection assets

As someone who has worked with satellite imagery before, I can safely say the top image was touched up to bring faint elements into focus. The difference between the bottom two photos is created by (A) the angle of the photo (B) damage to the building, whether by attack or collapse of a section post-attack. Imagery is never "straight-up" and requires a trained eye; this has been true ever since the first photographic reconnaissance flights by balloon in the US Civil War. There are WWII recon photos that still stump trainees in service schools throughout DOD. I'll never forget a photo at which I stared for what seemed an hour, increasingly sure that I was seeing ICBM silos. But not: they were tethered cows in a field, and they had eaten circles of grass around their pinions.

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