Sunday, May 01, 2005

Satellite Images of Sgrena's Checkpoint Approach

This site reported Thursday that the Pentagon had satellite images showing the Sgrena auto travelling at over 60mph at it approached the checkpoint. The full story was produced by CBS news Thursday evening using animation rather than the actual satellite video which remains under Pentagon control.

Some fellow bloggers have voiced skepticism (not the least of which, Jawa Report) concerning the validity of said report. I have therefor endeavored to research this starting first with the probability that a satellite would have recorded this event and then the premise that a military satellite would be capable of determining distance and speed.

The governments report is here

Rusty at Jawa questions "what is a satellite doing observing a remote stretch of Bahgdad highway". The answer is simple, first the road in question is considered the most dangerous in Iraq, it would have only been natural to concentrate ones "surveillance" of that area, second, it was the route that had been only minutes earlier taken by John Negroponte (8:00PM) arguably the highest ranking American official in country at the time. It would be quite plausible to expect that stretch of road to be closely monitored.

From a reader: Certain surveilance satellites would be capable of 3 frames per second but not neccessarily. It is just a probable that the video was taken by a drone or other aircraft as this area would have been almost continuously surveiled.....

"The car was spotted at 137 yards away, the soldiers opened fire at 46 yards away." These are specific distance measurements. Assuming that the military didn't just make them up, pictures would have been snapped at least at those two positions giving them their points of reference.

In 2003 there were at least 6 American spy satellites monitoring Iraq, there would likely be at least that now.

Lastly, a report by of all sources al Jazeera gives us some insight into the Italians frame of mind.

The CBS television network reported yesterday that satellite data had shown the car had been travelling at about 60mph. But the report claimed Italian investigators had refused to accept that the U.S. soldiers were justified in shooting so quickly, and had argued that the checkpoint had not been clearly marked.

Note, the Italians do not dispute the authenticity of the satellite video nor the contention that it shows Sgrena's car to be travelling at 60+ mph. They only contend that the Americans acted inappropriately even under those circumstances and also that the checkpoint wasn't clearly identified.

Update I: This according to CQ: Reports say the experts who drafted the Italian report will also claim that a three-second warning given by the US troops was not enough time for the car to stop.First, the three-second warning does not reflect on American action nearly as much as it indicates the rate of speed that Calipari's car approached the checkpoint.

That is exactly right, the stopping distance for a car travelling at 30mph is 23 meters, well within the 91 meters the car travelled from time of warning to shots fired. The stopping distance at 65mph is 85 meters. This would indicate not only the high rate of speed but also that the car did not attempt to stop immediately upon being warned.

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