The ability of the United States to gather overhead
imagery of targets in foreign nations has evolved dramatically
over the last sixty years. Modified bombers and fighters used
in World War II and the early years of the Cold War gave way
to specialized reconnaissance aircraft, such as the U-2 and
SR-71, and to a variety of satellite systems. The capabilities
of satellite systems have also evolved dramatically over the
last four decades - from satellites that returned film days
or weeks after the images were obtained to satellites that return
their imagery virtually instantaneously. In addition, the details
that could be extracted from those images has also risen sharply
over the years, as the resolution of the imagery produced by
the satellites has improved dramatically. (Note
Today the United States maintains a variety of
aerial and space systems that yield imagery of foreign territory.
Aerial systems included manned aircraft such as the U-2 as well
as the as the Predator and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs). Space systems include the advanced KH-11 electro-optical
satellites, the ONYX radar imagery satellite, and, possibly,
one or more MISTY stealth satellites. (Note 2)
Not only has there been an evolution in the capabilities
of U.S. overhead imagery systems, but there has also been an
evolution of policy with regard to the public release of such
imagery - particularly with regard to the release of satellite
imagery. At one time, the very "fact of" satellite
reconnaissance was classified. Despite the acknowledgment of
a satellite reconnaissance effort in 1978 and the existence
of the National Reconnaissance Office in 1992, it was not until
1995 that the U.S. first released imagery obtained by the CORONA
satellites that operated during the 1960-1972 period as well
as images obtained by the ARGON and LANYARD systems that operated
in the early 1960s. (Note 3)
The Clinton administration, on occasion, released
imagery obtained by advanced KH-11 satellites, although in degraded
form - so as not to reveal the full capabilities of the satellites,
particularly their resolution. The selective releases were associated
with U.S. military operations - including strikes against terrorist
training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in
the Sudan (in response to the attacks on the U.S. embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania), strikes against Yugoslavian targets
in support of U.S. operations in the Balkans, and the air strikes
against Iraqi targets that constituted Operation Desert Fox.
The images released were those used by Pentagon briefers to
illustrate U.S. aerial attacks and their consequences. (Note
From the fall of 2002 through April 2003, the
White House, Defense Department, and State Department released
over seventy images, most obtained by satellite, of portions
of Iraq. One objective, in the time before the beginning of
military operations, was to provide evidence to support U.S.
claims about the nature of Saddam Hussein's regime as well as
claims about Iraq's failure to comply with U.N. resolutions
concerning its weapons of mass destruction programs. Once military
operations began, Defense Department and Central Command briefings
made extensive use of overhead, including satellite, imagery
to provide pre- and post-attack views of targets attacked by
coalition air forces.
The overhead imagery presented here is a selection
of pre-war and wartime imagery, and falls into six categories:
presidential and other palaces; weapons of mass destruction
sites; other military targets; command, control, and communications
sites; security and guard facilities; and civilian sites.
Imagery of Presidential Palaces and VIP Facilities
Saddam's numerous presidential palaces, reportedly
more than 50, were used by the Bush administration to illustrate
their argument that Iraq's president was diverting resources
that belonged to the Iraqi people to support an exceedingly
ostentatious life style. There was also concern that they might
be used to conceal documentation concerning Iraqi weapons of
mass destruction programs, and the U.N. inspection regime that
commenced in late 2002 provided for inspections of such facilities.
Image 1 and Image
2 show two presidential palaces in Baghdad - Abu Ghurayb
(located near what is now Baghdad International Airport), and
Al-Salam, which was built over the site of a Republican Guards
headquarters that was destroyed during the first Gulf War (and
where after the fall of the regime "locals tossed grenades
in [the] ponds ... and set fire to the main house"). Image
3, which appeared in the 1999 State Department publication,
Saddam Hussein's Iraq, shows Saddamiat al Tharthar, an
extensive lakeside vacation resort, located 85 miles west of
Bahgdad. Its grounds contain stadiums, an amusement park, special
hospitals, and over 600 homes for government officials. (Note
Image 1: Abu Ghurayb Presidential
Image 2: Baghdad Al Salam
Image 3: Saddamiat al
The final two images are pre-and post strike images
of a VIP facility in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's ancestral home.
Image 4: Regime VIP Facility,
Image 5: Regime VIP Facility,
Weapons of Mass Destruction Sites
The rationale for U.N. inspections of Iraqi facilities,
and then for U.S. military action, was the concern that despite
the disarmament commitment it made at the conclusion of the
1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq was not in full compliance -- that
it continued to maintain the infrastructure and programs to
produce weapons of mass destruction and was reconstituting those
programs following the departure of U.N. inspectors in late
In the fall of 2002, at the same time that the
U.S. brought its concerns to the U.N. Security Council and argued
that action needed to be taken to completely eliminate Iraqi
holdings of, and its ability to produce, WMD, the CIA released
an unclassified version of its new National Intelligence Estimate
on Iraqi WMD, which contained several satellite images of Iraqi
facilities of concern. Images were also released at the time
President Bush gave an October 7 speech on the Iraqi issue and
the following day as part of a Defense Department briefing on
Iraqi denial and deception. (Note 6)
Image 6 shows changes in the status
of the Al Furat facility between December 1998 and September
2002. Construction of the building in the image was suspended
in 1991 and resumed in 2001. The building was originally intended
to house a centrifuge enrichment cascade operation supporting
Iraq's uranium enrichment program. (Note 7)
Image 7 and Image
8 are of two components of a facility at Habbaniyah,
located about 36 miles northwest of Baghdad. Fallujah II was
one of Iraq's principal chemical weapons precursor facilities
before the Gulf War. In 2000 and 2001, intelligence reports
indicated that Iraq upgraded the facility and brought in new
chemical reactor vessels and shipping containers with a large
amount of production equipment. The Fallujah III Castor Oil
Production Plant (Image 8) was described by the CIA as "situated
on a large complex with an historical connection to Iraq's CW
program" and also of concern with respect to its biological
weapons potential. Image 9 is
the "Abu Ghurayb BW Facility," which Iraq claimed
was a baby milk factory. U.S. intelligence had classified it
as biological warfare facility since 1988, and Image 9 is one
of several (including some from commercial satellites) presented
in the DoD briefing in October 2002 on Iraqi denial and deception.
Image 6: Al Furat Manufacturing
Image 7: Fallujah II
Image 8 : Fallujah III
Image 9: Abu Ghurayb BW
The next three images concern Iraqi missile activities.
The image (Image 10) of the Al
Mamoun plant, the CIA reported, showed that "the Iraqis
... have rebuilt structures damaged during the Gulf War and
dismantled by UNSCOM that originally were built to manufacture
propellant motors for the Badr-2000 program." The Nassr
Engineering Establishment Manufacturing Facility, shown in Image
11, was destroyed during Operation Desert Fox. It had
produced centrifuge and electro-magnetic isotope separation
components prior to Desert Storm, according to the IAEA. Imagery
interpreters concluded that the right portion of the image shows
the "subsequent reconstruction of machining buildings assessed
to be capable of producing precision components for centrifuges
and missiles." Image 12 was
described by John Yurechko, the DIA Defense Intelligence Officer
for Information Operations and Denial and Deception, as indicating
testing facilities for both short-range missiles and a missile
with a much greater range, and noted that "Iraq recently
has taken some measures to conceal some of the activities at
this site." (Note 9)
Image 10: Al Mamoun Solid-Propellant
Image 11: Nassr Engineering
Establishment Manufacturing Facility
Image 12: Al Rafah/Shayit
On February 5, 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell
addressed the U.N. Security Council on the issue of Iraq and
disarmament. He presented a combination of imagery and signals
intelligence intended to persuade the council members and others
that Iraq had not disarmed and was seeking to deceive the U.N.
and its inspectors. The imagery presented (images 13-16 below),
Powell stated, provided evidence of Iraq's failure - including
images of sanitization of ammunition dumps, and of chemical
weapons being moved from a storage site.
Thus, Image 13,
Powell charged, showed unmistakable signs of arrangements associated
with a chemical weapons facility - a security bunker and a decontamination
vehicle. Image 14, showed a cargo
truck preparing to move missile components, according to Powell,
while Image 15 showed a truck
caravan appearing two days before inspection resumed, a caravan
"we almost never see at this facility." The final
image, obtained in May 2002, (Image 16)
shows trucks at the Al Mussayyib chemical complex along with
a decontamination vehicle. Powell reported that human intelligence
reporting confirmed that "movement of chemical weapons
occurred at this site at this time." (Note
Image 13: Sanitization
of Ammunition Dump at Taji
Image 14: Pre-inspection:
Al Fatah Missile Removal
Image 15: Pre-inspection:
Material Removal, Amiryah Serum and Vaccine Institute
Image 16: Chemical weapons
The great majority of the imagery released of
terrorist and other military sites in Iraq was released as part
of Defense Department or Central Command briefings after the
beginning of hostilities. The exceptions (images 17-18) concern
terrorist facilities. Image 17
shows the headquarters of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), also
known as the National Liberation Army of Iran and classified
as a terrorist group by the State Department, which describes
it as "following a philosophy that mixes Marxism and Islam,"
and having "developed into the largest and most active
armed Iranian dissident group." The group maintains both
tanks and artillery on the border with Iran. As part of the
2003 Gulf War military operation, the U.S. bombed the bases
of the MEK. (Note 11)
Image 18 was shown
to the U.N. Security Council during Colin Powell's February
5, 2003 presentation. Powell described it as showing a terrorist
poison and explosive factory in Iraq, operated by an Islamic
terrorist group, Ansar al-Islam, with ties to Al-Qaeda. Image
19 and Image 20 show the
status of the camp before and after air strikes in late March.
At a Pentagon briefing General Richard Myers described image
20 as an "image of the former terrorist camp - training
camp at Khurmal" and went on to say that "I stress
'former' since it is no longer an active terrorist camp. We
struck this camp in northeastern Iraq early last week with several
dozen Tomahawk missiles and precision air strikes ..."
Image 17: MEK Headquarters
Image 18: Terrorist Poison
and Explosive Factory
Image 19: Terrorist Camp
- Pre Strike
Image 20: Terrorist Camp
- Post Strike
The remaining images represent pre-and post- strike
of a military headquarters compound (Image
21), a division and brigade installation (Image
22 and Image 23), and
a missile facility at Mosul (Image 24
and Image 25).
Image 22: Division and
Bridge Installation - Pre Strike
Image 23: Division and
Brigade Installation - Post Strike
Image 24: Missile Facility,
Mosul - Pre Strike
Image 25: Missile Facility,
Mosul - Post Strike
Command, Control, and Communications
A prime objective of the coalition strategy in
the war was to decapitate the Iraqi regime - as illustrated
by the March 19 attack on a facility where it had been reported
that Saddam Hussein and his sons were located. (Note
13) In addition to seeking to eliminate the primary leadership
of the Iraqi regime, in the expectation that their deaths would
severely reduce the ability to the Iraqi military and security
forces to resist coalition military activities, the coalition
also targeted command, control, and communication (C3) facilities
- so that even if Iraqi leaders survived the attacks they, and
their key subordinates, would be unable to exercise coherent
command of their forces.
The images below represent pre- and post-strike
images of regime C3 facilities at a number of locations - Saddam
International Airport, Baghdad, and Tikrit.
Image 26: TV & Communications
Facility: - Pre & Post- Strike
Image 27: Regime Command
and Control Facility Saddam International Airport: Pre-Strike
Image 28: Regime Command
and Control Facility, Saddam International Airport: Post-Strike
Image 29: Command and
Control Facility, Tikrit: Pre & Post- Strike
Image 30: Military Command
and Control Facility: Pre & Post-Strike
Image 31: Regime Command
and Control Facility, Baghdad: Pre-Strike
Image 32: Regime Command
and Control Facility, Baghdad: Post-Strike
and Intelligence Facilities
A key element of the ability of the Iraqi regime
to survive was its extensive use of security and intelligence
organizations. Indeed, the regime maintained five different
such organizations which were involved in intelligence collection,
denial and deception activities, acquisition of prohibited weapons
material, suppression of dissent, and counterintelligence. The
organizations were also used to watch each other, to prevent
them from supporting a coup. (Note 14)
The images below represent pre- and post-strike
images on two of the most important of these organizations -
the Special Security Organization and the Iraqi Intelligence
Service. The Special Security Organization (SSO) was headed
since 1992 by Saddam's son, Qusay, and had 5,000 members. Its
responsibilities included providing presidential security, securing
presidential facilities, supervising other security and intelligence
organizations, monitoring government ministries and the leadership
of the armed forces, supervising internal security operations
against Kurdish and Shi'a opposition, purchasing foreign arms
and technology, and directing efforts to conceal Iraqi WMD programs.
Image 33: SSO, Baghdad,
Image 34: SSO, Baghdad,
The Iraqi Intelligence Service (al Mukhabarat)
or General Intelligence was partially an internal agency. Its
functions included, but were not limited to, monitoring the
Ba'ath Party, counterespionage, eliminating opposition to the
regime, monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq, monitoring foreigners
in Iraq. (Note 16)
Image 35: Iraqi Intelligence
Service, Baghdad - Pre strike
Image 36: Iraqi Intelligence
Service, Baghdad - Post strike
Imagery of civilian areas was used to illustrate
three arguments made by the Bush administration - Iraqi deception
with regard to matters in addition to WMD, its attempts to use
civilian and civilian areas as shields to prevent attacks on
military equipment, and its willingness to extinguish groups
considered a threat to the regime. Most of the imagery below
(images 38-43) were released as part of pre-war publications
or a DoD briefing.
One image (Image 37)
is a pre-war image of the petroleum facility at Basrah - Iraq's
second largest city and a key coalition objective.
Image 37: Basrah Petroleum
One image relates to Iraqi charges from the 1991
Persian Gulf War that allied forces had bombed a mosque - the
top of which U.S. imagery (Image 38)
shows to have been cleanly cut off.
The State Department's Apparatus of Lies
reports that the dome was deliberately removed on February 11,
1991 and points out that there was no damage to the area surrounding
the dome. (Note 17)
Image 38: Al Basrah Mosque
Another two images (Image
39 and Image 40) show
the ancient citadel at Kirkuk before and after Iraqi military
operations devastated the area. According to a 1999 State Department
publication, Saddam Hussein's Iraq: "in the 1970s and 1980s,
the Iraqi regime destroyed over 3,000 Kurdish villages. The
destruction Kurdish and Turkomen homes is still going on ...
as evidenced [by] the destruction by Iraqi forces of civilian
homes in the citadel of Kirkuk." (Note 18)
Image 39: Ancient citadel
before clearing operation Kirkuk, Iraq; Regime Destroys
Kurdish Neighborhood (Before: September 1997)
Image 40: Ancient citadel
before clearing operation Kirkuk, Iraq; Regime Destroys
Kurdish Neighborhood (After: July 1998)
Three images (41,
42 and 43)
show military equipment dispersed to civilian locations - including
a mosque, a historical site, and a water treatment facility.
Image 41: Mosque collocated
with ammunition depot, Iraq
Image 42: Military Aircraft
dispersed during Operation Desert Storm to Historical
Site Near Tallil, Iraq
Image 43: Water Treatment
Facility (SRBM Hide site): Pre & Post- Strike
1. See William E. Burrows, Deep
Black: Space Espionage and National Security (New York:
Random House, 1986).
2. Jeffrey T. Richelson, The
U.S. Intelligence Community (Boulder, Co.: Westview, 1999),
3. Dwayne A. Day, John M. Logsdon,
and Brian Latell (eds.), Eye in the Sky: The Story of the
Corona Spy Satellites (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1998),
4. The imagery is archived on
the DoD web site - http://www.defenselink.mil.
Some of the imagery can be found in the National Security Archive
briefing book, U.S.
Satellite Imagery, 1960-1999, April 14, 1999.
5. "Inside Baghdad,"
Time, March 14, 2003, pp. 58-59; "Pinpointing Baghdad,"
Time, March 31, 2003, pp. 48-49; "With Nothing Left,
Looters blow up the fish in Saddam's ponds," April 15,
"Photos bolster U.S. campaign against Iraq's Hussein,"
September 14, 1999, http://www.cnn.com;
U.S. Department of State, Saddam
Hussein's Iraq (Washington, D.C., 1999), not paginated.
6. Central Intelligence Agency,
Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs, (Washington,
D.C: CIA, 2002); DoD, Iraqi Denial and Deception for Weapons
of Mass Destruction & Ballistic Missile Programs, October
8, 2002, http://www.defenselink.mil;
President George W. Bush, "Remarks by the President on
Iraq, Cincinnati Museum Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal,"
October 7, 2002, http://www.whitehouse.gov.
7. "Declassified intelligence
photos of Iraqi nuclear weapons-related facilities/Al Furat,"
October 9, 2002, http://brownback.senate.gov.
http://www.globalsecurity.org; Central Intelligence Agency,
Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs, p.11; DoD,
Iraqi Denial and Deception for Weapons of Mass Destruction
& Ballistic Missile Programs, slide 14; "Abu Ghurabyb,
Project 600," http://www.fas.org.
9. Central Intelligence Agency,
Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs, p.21; "Declassified
intelligence photos of Iraqi nuclear weapons-related programs/Nassr,"
October 9, 2002, http://brownback.senate.gov;
Dr. John Yurechko, "DoD Briefing on Iraqi Denial and Deception,"
October 8, 2002, p. 10. http://www.defenselink.mil.
10. Secretary Colin L. Powell,
"Remarks to the United Nations Security Council,"
February 5, 2003, http://www.state.gov,
pp. 5-6, 11-12.
11. U.S. Department of State,
Patterns of Global Terrorism (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 2001), p. 65; Douglas Jehl, "U.S.
Bombs Iranian Guerilla Forces Based in Iraq," New York
Times, April 17, 2003, pp. B1, B2.
12. Secretary of State Colin
L. Powell, "Failing to Disarm," Presentation to the
UN Security Council, February 5, 2003, http://www.state.gov;
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld and General Richard Myers,
"DoD News Briefing, April 1, 2003," http://www.defenselink.mil
13. Evan Thomas and Daniel Klaidman,
"The War Room," Newsweek, March 31, 2003, pp.
14. Ibrahim al-Marashi, "Iraq's
Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis,"
Middle East Review of International Affairs 6, 3 (September
2003), pp. 1-13.
15. Ibid., p.3.
16. Ibid, pp. 5-6; see also Melinda
Liu, Rob Nordland, and Evan Thomas, "The Saddam Files,"
Newsweek, April 28, 2003.
17. U.S. Department of State,
Apparatus of Lies: Saddam's Disinformation and Propaganda,
1990-2003 (Washington, D.C.: 2003), p. 25.
18. U.S. Department of State,
Hussein's Iraq, not paginated.