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Indian court asked to ban Google Earth
Published on 11 Dec. 2008 12:42 AM IST
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Google Earth should be banned amid suspicions that the online satellite imaging tool was used in planning the attacks that killed more than 170 people in Mumbai last month, an Indian court heard. The demand from Amit Karkhanis, an Indian lawyer, came as a new school of “tech-savvy jihadis” make use of data freely available online and other web-based services to plot and execute their strikes, a phenomenon dubbed “the Google threat” by military commanders. The case filed at the Mumbai High Court alleges that Google Earth and similar services, “aid terrorists in plotting attacks” by supplying detailed bird’s-eye images that are used to acquaint militants with their targets. The British Army is already thought to have taken up the issue with the company. It emerged last year that Iraqi insurgents planning attacks on a British base in Basra had used Google Earth images in which individual buildings inside the camp could be seen clearly. Google replaced the images with photographs that predated the construction of the base. The Indian authorities do not appear to have cracked down so swiftly. Yesterday the layout of India’s most important atomic research facility remained accessible on Google despite officials voicing concern more than a year ago. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), in northeast Mumbai, a city with a population of 18 million, houses at least two nuclear reactors and is regarded as one of India’s highest value targets. Praful Bidwai, a leading anti-proliferation expert, said: “Fly a plane into BARC and you have a Chernobyl on your hands.” Last week India increased security at its main airports after credible intelligence that indicated a plan to hijack an airliner to target a highly populated area in a 9/11-type attack. Islamic terrorists have long used the web for propaganda and training purposes, experts say, and are constantly refining their methods. Officials describe an “online arms race” that has been running for years as terrorists turn innocent internet tools to sinister ends.A recent US Army intelligence paper mulled over the possibility of Twitter, a tool that allows people to update blogs from their mobile phones, being used to co-ordinate terrorist ambushes. “My 11-year-old can use these gizmos,” one intelligence official said. “Are you going to tell me the bad guys can’t?”

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