Spy Photos
Launch interactive

Spy Photos

Surveillance images taken by spy planes and satellites have been used to sway public opinion ever since President John F. Kennedy declassified U-2 images of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba four decades ago. Since then, the release of such photographs—sometimes officially sanctioned, sometimes not—has played a crucial role in geopolitics, never more intensely than in recent years. In this interactive satellite map of the world, examine a series of influential images released between 1962 and 2005.—Tim Brown

Tim Brown is a senior fellow at, a nonprofit think tank that supports the use of space technology to enhance international peace and security. The author stresses that successful identification of objects and activities in images like the ones appearing in this feature requires the trained eye of an expert (see, for example, Master of the Surveillance Image) and is often clinched with supplementary information, such as that collected by spies on the ground. Note: This feature has been updated from its original version on NOVA's Spies That Fly Web site.

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© | Created December 2007