Google Earth Helps Amateur Spies Map North Korea

Annotated map exposes graves, nuke facilities—and swimming pools
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2009 8:24 AM CDT
Google Earth Helps Amateur Spies Map North Korea
An aerial view of a North Korean rocket launch site. Using Google Earth, a network of citizen spies has constructed an annotated map of the secretive nation.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)

Spying on North Korea would seem to be a job for intelligence services, but one PhD student at George Mason University has exposed many of the secrets of the insular regime from his home computer. Piecing together clues from news reports, photos, and eyewitnesses, Curtis Melvin and colleagues have annotated Google Earth's map of North Korea with hundreds of labels, documenting everything from mass graves to a waterslide. "It's democratized intelligence," he tells the Wall Street Journal.

North Korea Uncovered has thousands of categories, marking out "nuclear issues" and dams, but also the country's very few restaurants and more than two dozen lighthouses. Despite the regime's extreme secrecy, Melvin and others have mapped out most of the North's transportation network and electrical grid. It's been so successful that Congress has taken notice; as Sen. Sam Brownback recently said, "Google has made a witness of all of us." (Read more North Korea stories.)

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