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Cablegate: Prc Claims High Resolution Imagery On Google Earth

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FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1848
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0400
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 6471
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RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 2017
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 023571

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2021
TAGS: PREL PINR TSPA CH
SUBJECT: PRC CLAIMS HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGERY ON GOOGLE EARTH
COULD AID TERRORIST ATTACKS ON CHINA

Classified By: Classified by Deputy Chief of Mission David S. Sedney.
Reasons 1.4 (b/d).

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) China wants the United States Government to take
action to get Google to reduce the resolution of the Google
Earth images of China's military, nuclear, space, energy and
other sensitive government agency installations in order to
deprive terrorists of potentially dangerous information, XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX told
the DCM on XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Beijing request was
based on possible "grave consequences" if terrorists exploit
the information to harm China. Google Earth is a private
company, the DCM reminded XXXXXXXXXXXX was noncommittal on
whether China would directly contact Google or the European
imagery providers and the other sources of high resolution
imagery on the Internet. Other countries have shared similar
concerns with China, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, but he refused to divulge
country names. End Summary.

Google Earth High Resolution Images a Threat to China
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (C) Google Earth is providing high resolution images of
sensitive Chinese facilities over the Internet, thereby
endangering PRC national security, XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX told
the DCM during a XXXXXXXXXXXX meeting. These facilities
include military installations, nuclear test sites, satellite
launch sites, oil production facilities, power generating
plants and important government departments. The resolution
is one meter for most of China, and is as fine as 0.6 meters
in Beijing and Shanghai, allowing anyone with Internet access
to view these facilities in great detail. Moreover, Google
Earth allows users to post information about specific
locations, XXXXXXXXXXXX continued, which means information about
important Chinese agencies and sensitive installations is
effectively being published on the Internet.

"Grave Consequences" if Terrorists Use Imagery
---------------------------------------------

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said China is extremely concerned that
terrorist organizations could access the high resolution
imagery and posted information and present a grave threat to
PRC national security. If terrorists used the imagery from
Google Earth to cause damage to China, there would be "grave
consequences," warned XXXXXXXXXXXX. In the spirit of our sound
bilateral cooperative relationship, particularly on
counterterrorism issues, XXXXXXXXXXXX asked that the United States
place "great importance" on China's concerns, understand the
sensitivity of the matter and take action so that Google will
reduce the resolution of the images of China's sensitive
facilities.

DCM: Google a Private Company, and Not Imagery Source
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (C) The DCM told XXXXXXXXXXXX that he would report the request
to Washington, but noted that Google is a private company.
The DCM said he had no information to offer on what, if any,
role or response the United States Government might have to
the Chinese presentation. The DCM noted that the Chinese
points only asked for a reduction in the resolution and asked
if the Chinese sought any specific level. The DCM also asked
whether XXXXXXXXXXXX had contacted Google directly and, since
Google purchases the imagery as any individual or entity can,
whether China had contacted the satellite imagery providers.

XXXXXXXXXXXX: Other, Unspecified Countries Have Similar Concerns
--------------------------------------------- -------------

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX responded that China is approaching the United
States Government because the issue is directly relevant to
counterterrorism and that while Google is a private company
it operates in the United States "political and legal
environment." China is requesting the United States take
action to prevent the information from being misused to cause
damage to China, XXXXXXXXXXXX reiterated. He offered that China
had been in discussions with other countries with similar
concerns about Google Earth. However, XXXXXXXXXXXX refused to
provide the names of the other countries, noting he was
unable to share the information due to prior agreements with

BEIJING 00023571 002 OF 002

those countries.

Europe the Source of Imagery, But Google Earth is the Key
--------------------------------------------- ------------

5. (C) China will talk to Google about the "technical
details," XXXXXXXXXXXX continued, adding that it is not for the MFA
to determine the appropriate resolution level. China knows
the source data comes from European companies, satellite
operators and the European space agency but XXXXXXXXXXXX said China
sees Google as the problem because it makes the information
easily accessible. When pressed, XXXXXXXXXXXX admitted that
Beijing had not yet contacted the European providers or the
governments associated with the European space program. XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that while China will look at the other Internet
sources of the high resolution imagery, Google,s well known
imagery is of greatest concern.
Randt

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