The Raw Story
Thursday February 19, 2009
Instead of blanket-wiretapping Americans, maybe the Bush Administration’s intelligence agencies should have spent a little more time with Google Earth.
Until recently, Google Earth prominently displayed an image of a clandestine US airbase that housed unmanned Predator drones in Pakistan. An image appeared to show three drones outside a hangar at the end of a runway, which was then confirmed to be an airfield by a British newspaper.
The newspaper then cited intelligence sources as saying the CIA had been using the base to attack and observe al-Qaeda and Taliban militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
The photograph appears to confirm a seeming slip-of-the-tongue by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who said that the US was launching strikes on Pakistani territory from inside Pakistan (“As I understand it, these [drones] are flown out of a Pakistani base,” she said). Feinstein’s spokesman later asserted she was only repeating something she saw in The Washington Post, but intelligence sources used the opportunity to confirm that the US had indeed been using Pakistani bases.
Exposed: Secret CIA Base For Drone Raids
Google Earth Reveals Secret History of US Base In Pakistan
By Jeremy Page
February 19, 2009 “The Times”
The US was secretly flying unmanned drones from the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan as early as 2006, according to an image of the base from Google Earth.
The image — that is no longer on the site but which was obtained by The News, Pakistan’s English language daily newspaper — shows what appear to be three Predator drones outside a hangar at the end of the runway. The Times also obtained a copy of the image, whose co-ordinates confirm that it is the Shamsi airfield, also known as Bandari, about 200 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta.
An investigation by The Times yesterday revealed that the CIA was secretly using Shamsi to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants around Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
US special forces used the airbase during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, but the Pakistani Government said in 2006 that the Americans had left and both sides have since denied repeatedly that Washington was using Pakistani bases. Pakistan has also demanded that the US cease drone attacks on its tribal area, which have increased over the last year, allegedly killing several “high-value” targets as well as many civilians.
The Google Earth image now suggests that the US began launching Predators from Shamsi – built by Arab sheiks for falconry trips – at least three years ago.