Aerial Photography Tool for Terror – or Paranoia?

BankTower
US Bank Tower, Downtown Los Angeles, via Google Maps

Aerial photography and Google maps have become a flash point for people who need a tangible target for their terrorism-related paranoia and fear. In March, we posted on Joel Anderson, the California State Assemblyman who is trying to get a law on the books that would blur out images of medical facilities, schools and government institutions in online mapping tools. Now, there’s another outspoken critic to add to the mix.

CNN.com reports that Pennsylvania piano tuner Scott Portzline is lobbying the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Homeland Security Secretary for the same cause. Portzline has apparently spent a lot of time figuring out how he’d attack a nuclear plant, so he thinks it’s fairly easy to do with information gathered on the internet. From the article:

“What we’re seeing here is a guard shack,” Portzline said, pointing to a rooftop structure. “This is a communications device for the nuclear plant.”

He added, “This particular building is the air intake for the control room. And there’s some nasty thing you could do to disable the people in the control room. So this type of information should not be available. I look at this and just say, ‘Wow.’ “

Interestingly, operators of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant that is close to Portzline’s home aren’t as worried as he is: “Our security programs are designed and tested to defend against (an attacker) that has insider information — even more information then is available on the Internet,” said Ralph DeSantis, spokesman for AmerGen, which operates the plant. “In addition to that, our physical security is constantly changing… so what you see one day won’t be the same as the next day.”

As noted security consultant and hysteria debunker, Bruce Schneier (read Refuse to be Terrorized), writes on his blog in response to this story:

Yes, and the same technology that allows people to call their friends can be used by terrorists to choose targets and plan attacks. And the same technology that allows people to commute to work can be used by terrorists to plan and execute attacks. And the same technology that allows you to read this blog post…repeat until tired.

Article via CNN.com

Read Bruce Schneier’s “Fear of Aerial Images” here.

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