See Spy Photos

  • By Tim Brown
  • Posted 02.12.08
  • NOVA

Surveillance images taken by spy planes and satellites have been used to sway public opinion ever since President 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.

Launch Interactive Printable Version

A surveillance-image specialist analyzes photos of Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, and other political hotspots.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Astrospies.

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 and is often clinched with supplementary information, such as that collected by spies on the ground.



© Planetary Visions
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
(Cuba, Nicaragua, Soviet Union 1983, Afghanistan 1998)
© U.S. Government
(Soviet Union 1986)
©Agence France-Presse/CORBIS
(United States, Israel, China, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan 2005)
© Space Imaging—
(Qatar, Iraq, Sudan)
© DigitalGlobe

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