Washington Post Article: Gunmen used technology as a tactical tool: Mumbai attackers had GPS units, satellite maps.

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Our friend at Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze brought
this Washington
Post article
to our attention in a recent post.

Map-india-pakistan

It appears perpetrators
in the recent Mumbai attacks used geographic tools including GPS and satellite imagery
to plot and execute their scheme. GPS
devices were employed to navigate through ocean waters from Pakistan to the
East Coast of India, enabling the attackers to stay on course despite limited
prior sailing experience, while digital maps of Mumbai and detailed satellite
imagery allowed them to devise a plan of
operation, despite never having set foot in the city.

The leaders of the attacks also allegedly used
voice-recognition software to obscure their accents and distinct dialectical
spellings in order to prevent investigators from identifying their geographic region
of origin.

Catholicgauze concluded his post on the topic by
commenting:

“This continues the trend of geographic technology being used
for the wrong reasons
.”

The wrong reasons?

It’s an interesting contention, and one of great import to
the geographic community. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Google limit
the amount of geographic information made available to the public; both the Ogle Earth and
Google
Earth
blogs have commented on this (Sven of Ogle Earth provides a
particularly convincing retort to one lawyer’s attempted suit against Google
Earth). Adhering somewhat to these demands, Google has removed satellite
imagery from U.S.
military installations on domestic and foreign soil.

It seems to me that, like most new technologies,
sophisticated geographic tools primarily serve to reduce the time and manpower
required to complete a given task, but do not fundamentally change the
equation. In another era, terrorists might have had to recruit an experienced
sailor to their team, a member with an unidentifiable accent, and someone with
a working knowledge of the geographic landscape of Mumbai. Sure, it would have
taken longer. But would those obstacles have prevented them from accomplishing the
mission? Probably not. The simple reality is that terrorists tend to be
rather determined, savvy, and resourceful individuals. And where there’s a will, there’s a way.

But what do you think?

Should some geographic information be
kept off the internet and out of the public arena? What should international investigators be doing,
and what geographic tools should they be using, to better prevent and counteract terrorist
threats?

Do you know of any examples of misuse of geographic
technology, or over-reliance on geographic technology in lieu of traditional
geographic knowledge and skills, that has led to failed ploys or ventures? If
so, please send them along!

Sarah for My Wonderful World

Image courtesy Vivian Salama Wanderlust Blog.
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