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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Japanese Government withholds photos taken by expensive satellites, citing security reasons - 24th Sept 2011

The cost-benefit performance of Information Gathering Satellites (IGSs), which the government has launched at a cost of some 800 billion yen in taxpayers money, remains unclear because the photos they have taken and the details of their operations have been withheld.

The government has said that the satellites, which are aimed primarily at monitoring military facilities in North Korea and other countries, also play an important role in gathering information in the event of a massive natural disaster.

Following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Cabinet secretariat that operates the satellites compiled maps showing the situation at disaster-hit areas with images from the satellites. They distributed copies to the Prime Minister's Office, police, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, and other bodies.

The maps show damage from the tsunami such as where roads were cut, according to an explanation by the Cabinet secretariat and according to the government's reply to questions by Hidekatsu Yoshii, a Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives.

The Cabinet secretariat had compiled four such maps by the end of March. Copies of at least one were provided to private companies and are said to have helped them grasp the details of the damage caused by the disaster.

However, the Cabinet secretariat has withheld releasing the satellite images themselves on the grounds that it could adversely affect the security of Japan. Read More