from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 103
November 21, 2004


Although the government has sought to discourage distribution of one year-old satellite imagery of the Iraqi city of Fallujah because it is marked "limited distribution" (Secrecy News, 11/17/04), comparable or superior imagery from one week ago is available to the public without restriction.

Space Imaging's IKONOS satellite acquired imagery of Fallujah on November 14. One of the images, showing the southern section of the city, is posted here:

"I noticed some destroyed buildings, very little traffic except for a US military convoy," one analyst said of the latest image. "I also could see how difficult it must have been to go 'house to house' in this maze of a town."


The announcement by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) last week that it will withdraw various categories of information from the public domain (SN, 11/18/04) is beginning to arouse concern from those who rely on government mapping products.

"This is serious stuff, much moreso than the FOIA imagery exclusion issues you raised some months ago," writes SN reader K.

"Map librarians in particular are going to go absolutely ape[crazy] when they read the fine print that 'ONCs, TPCs, etc.' [i.e. navigation/planning charts] will be withdrawn from public sale at FAA. These are basic elements of the international map coverage held in government depository libraries all over the country, and even throughout the world."

"Just so you know, the ONCs are 1:1,000,000 scale charts/maps which are the only cartographic depiction of the entire world in the English language at this scale. Concretely it is a set of about 350 charts; there are other digital variants, both raster and vector, which presumably would also be affected by this recall. The vector variation of this product is called VMAP-0, formerly 'Digital Chart of the World' and is the only public-domain product of its kind covering the whole world. The other chart product mentioned, TPCs, is also a global scale product of 1:500,000 scale charts. It's twice as detailed as an ONC, and therefore there are four times as many sheets (ca. 1200)."

"As much as I hate to admit it, NGA does have at least one superficially valid argument for doing what it is suggesting--the idea that their foreign partners are reluctant or refusing to cooperate in supplying highly copyrighted (but not security-restricted) data. It's true, and I could cite you a hundred concrete examples."

"But there are alternative responses to the heavy-handed total withdrawal from public access."

"As for their other cited reasons -- 'protecting their data integrity' (as if someone is going to hack the NGA server and mess with their map data) or even more dubiously, the veiled 'GWOT' [global war on terrorism] defense ('preventing unfettered access to air facility data by those intending harm to the United States') -- they are very troubling."

"If they really believe it, then the second Bush administration needs to close down all our country's map libraries and shut down the Internet."

For now, some of the unclassified NGA products that are to be withdrawn from public access remain available from commercial vendors such as East View Geospatial:


War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance, updated November 15, 2004:

U.S. Military Overseas Basing: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress, November 17, 2004:

Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, updated November 8, 2004:

Sudan: The Darfur Crisis and the Status of the North-South Negotiations, October 22, 2004 (1.5 MB PDF file):

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests, updated November 12, 2004:


The existence of a huge secret underground complex in the Serbian capital of Belgrade was disclosed earlier this month following an investigation into the deaths of two soldiers who were guarding its entrance.

More like a city than a mere bunker, the structure was reported to occupy six levels over two square miles. It was built in the 1960s as a military shelter for Yugoslav officials.

See "Labyrinth City Under Dedinje" from the Belgrade newspaper Vecernje Novosti, November 13, 2004 (translated by FBIS):


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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