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Some Israel Satellite Images Banned

July 24, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. government has banned American satellite-imaging companies from taking certain high-resolution images of Israel, State Department officials said Friday.

They said Israel feared its enemies might obtain images from U.S. satellites equipped with new, ``one meter″ resolution cameras so use of these cameras over Israel has been banned. Israel is the only country to receive such an exemption.

The new cameras have one meter (39.37 inch) resolution capability. This new technology lets cameras from outer space produce images of objects at least one square meter wide (1.2 square yards). At present cameras can provide two meter (2.4 square yards) resolution.

Department officials informed the companies of the decision at a meeting Wednesday that also was attended by representatives from the Commerce Department.

The companies included Earthwatch Inc., of Longmont, Colo., Space Imaging Inc., of Thornton, Colo., and Orbimage of Dulles, Va., which plan to launch satellites equipped with the new cameras.

Under rules spelled out at the meeting, the companies can zero in on the rest of the world at one meter resolution but the old two meter technology has to be used with Israel.

The U.S. decision was first reported in the Wall Street Journal. According to the newspaper, two-meter images can identify objects as small as a tank. With one-meter images, something as small as a box of rifles is visible.

The State Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that prohibiting one-meter imaging of Israel achieves a balance among economic development, national security and foreign policy while respecting Israel’s security.

They did not say how the government will police the satellite companies, but it could prosecute them if they are found to violate the ban.

The administration decision marks a step away from the ``open skies″ policy that the United States and other countries have agreed to for more than three decades.

Satellite imaging is a $300 million a year business.

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