US embassy cable - 06BEIJING23571 (original version)

PRC CLAIMS HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGERY ON GOOGLE EARTH COULD AID TERRORIST ATTACKS ON CHINA (original version)

Identifier: 06BEIJING23571
Wikileaks: View 06BEIJING23571 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beijing
Created: 2006-11-07 06:48:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PINR TSPA CH
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
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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
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 0385
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, MFA 
North American and Oceanian Director General Liu Jieyi told 
the DCM on November 6.  DG Liu 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 DG Liu.  DG Liu 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, DG Liu 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, MFA North American and 
Oceanian Affairs Department Director General Liu Jieyi told 
the DCM during a November 6 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, DG Liu 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) DG Liu 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 DG Liu.  In the spirit of our sound 
bilateral cooperative relationship, particularly on 
counterterrorism issues, DG 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 DG Liu 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 the MFA had contacted Google directly and, since 
Google purchases the imagery as any individual or entity can, 
whether China had contacted the satellite imagery providers. 
 
DG Liu: Other, Unspecified Countries Have Similar Concerns 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
4. (C) DG Liu 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, DG Liu reiterated.  He offered that China 
had been in discussions with other countries with similar 
concerns about Google Earth.  However, DG Liu 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," DG Liu 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 DG Liu said China 
sees Google as the problem because it makes the information 
easily accessible.  When pressed, DG Liu admitted that 
Beijing had not yet contacted the European providers or the 
governments associated with the European space program.  DG 
Liu 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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