The spy in the palm of your hand

The New York Times has an impressive report on the likelihood that Trump’s claim that a Patriot missile shot down a Houthi Scud at Riyadh was mistaken.

(See https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/04/world/middleeast/saudi-missile-defense.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0)

The report relies on something called the Middlebury Institute, which I’d never heard of, and the institute, in turn, assembled its information from Google satellite images, social media posts of videos and similar open sources.

This is a good news/bad news revelation for military intelligence analysts. For one thing, now it’s comparatively easy for savvy people to determine the actual results of an attack using stand-off weapons. For another thing, now it’s comparatively easy for savvy people to determine the actual results of an attack using stand-off weapons.

I am reminded of the “Battle of the Beams” during the German bombing of England. The Germans used a radio-triggered bombing release, the first ever GPS technique. The British developed a countermeasure that “bent” the trigger beam, inducing the planes to drop their bombs in the countryside instead of on London.

The Germans, with no sources on the ground to report where the bombs fell, never realized their system had been spoofed.

It is easy to think of later examples of offensive efforts that were ruined by lack of targeting data: the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail is an obvious one.

Now, at least in some cases, results are discoverable.

Of course, you have to be smart enough to assess the evidence. WBD isn’t that smart.

Are American military officers? Past experience suggests they are not.

COMMENTS