Google has been accused of compromising U.S. national security – by allowing aerial shots of secret military bases to be viewed by the general public through its online Maps computer program.
The search engine giant has come under fire after web users found once again that they can search for military bases, and then zoom in to see airstrips and possible top-secret military drones.
The discovery of a hidden airstrip at Yucca Lake in Nevada, which is used for testing the R-170 drones similar to the one lost in Iran last week, has raised further concern.
Cedric Leighton, a retired Air Force colonel, said: ‘Iranians would be most interested in operational bases because that tells them how we fly our surveillance missions.
‘Google is making public what was once the sole province of the military and intelligence community, making this a brave new world for the intel agencies as well,’ he told FoxNews.com.
Aviation website Flight Global claimed to have discovered the secret Yukka Lake venue, which shows satellite images of either a Predator or Reaper drone on the airstrip.
It said: ‘The satellite image, taken in early 2011 and available on Google Maps, appears to show a roughly 5,200 ft asphalt runway and what appears to be a General Atomics MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper UAV being towed on the parking ramp.
‘The airfield has four hangars of varying sizes, including a hangar with clamshell doors that is characteristic of US UAV operations.
‘Details of the airfield, including a parking lot, security perimeter and ongoing construction are clearly visible.’
The detail makes it extremely easy for foreign powers to look up satellite images to inspect secret U.S. spy planes.The website added that an earlier image, showing what appear to be a Pilatus PC-12 and Beechcraft King Air parked on the ramp, ‘fuelled speculation’ it was used by defence firm Lockheed Martin.
Leighton added that he believed Google had the right to show the images to the public, but they should decide not to because they comprise military operations.
He added that the U.S. military had previously blocked Google employees from taking images at bases for Google Earth, which requires more close-up photography.
The publication of satellite imagery of top secret bases is a hot topic, with previous discoveries revealing the exact location of one in Denver.
And in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, crystal clear photographs showed Predator drones sitting on a parking ramp at Shamsi Airfield.
Dr. John Michener, chief scientist at security firm Casaba, said Google should be allowed to show spy plane imagery as national laws do not apply above the atmosphere.
He said: ‘Get used to it. You know when the satellites are overhead. You can take countermeasures to hide portable stuff.’
He added that it would become problematic if the government started filtering through ‘deep-packet inspections’, which would mean inserting code onto the web that would block access to secret images, and that Google could then start encrypting its images.