Ewen MacAskill – The Guardian May 1, 2008
The CIA published three aerial photographs last week purporting to show a Syrian nuclear reactor, bombed by Israel last September. But are the pictures all that they seem? Doubts about their authenticity have been raised by Professor William Beeman, head of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, who has had a long involvement with the Middle East.
He posted on a Los Angeles Times website a note received from a "colleague with US security clearance" pointing out "irregularities". The unnamed colleague said a picture taken before the bombing
looked as if it had been digitally enhanced, noting that the lower part of the building, the annexe and the windows pointing south appeared much sharper than the rest.
He also questioned why the alleged reactor had no air defences, no military checkpoints and no powerlines. Turning to two shots of the bombed building, he noted that the first showed a rectangular building
and the second a square one
. Were they the same building?
His note has produced lively and detailed exchanges, involving photo technicians, graphic artists and military analysts past and present, including a specialist in aerial reconnaissance. The basic divide is between those who think it is unpatriotic to question the Bush administration and those suspicious that it is a rerun of 2003, when the administration put out misleading intelligence before the Iraq invasion.
Bloggers supportive of the CIA acknowledge that the first picture was digitally enhanced but say that the CIA never claimed last week that it was untouched. As for the discrepancies between pictures two and three, they suggest that the differences between the rectangular shape and the square can be explained by having been taken at different angles.
Beeman told the Guardian he did not know one way or another whether there had been a nuclear reactor in the desert, but he had been concerned last week when the administration put out the pictures. "It was so sloppy and obviously doctored," he said.
"My friend who watches this material carefully in his capacity as an analyst said, 'This does not add up.'”
Last updated 06/05/2008