Whatever your position on the American drone attacks in Pakistan (and mine is that they are a horrendous abuse of human rights, for what it’s worth), this Google-Maps project from Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation is a good example of leveraging the power of technology to share information.
As they point out on their site, drone attacks of Pakistan have increased dramatically under Obama. From 2004-2007 there were a total of nine attacks inside Pakistan. In Bush’s last year in office, there were 34. In Obama’s first year, there were 53, and this year we’ve already had 50. And this says nothing about the attacks inside Afghanistan, where at least we’re officially at war. In Pakistan, we’re bombing a supposed ally whose government denies it is allowing this.
I encourage you to check out the map on the Satellite mode, which shows real imagery of the earth. It has a surprisingly close level of detail, and you can see just how isolated the area is: a spindly maze of ridges and crevices, sparsely dotted with small villages. It must be similar to the view the remote-control pilots have on their video screens while they fly these deadly robots. And with the push of a button… boom…
This map was assembled using public information, but this week’s big story (or not – have you heard it mentioned in conversation once this week?) showed another example of information technology exposing the reality of war. Wikileaks published a trove of classified documents which it acquired through its super-encrypted international network. The infrastructure is set up in such a way as to be impervious to simultaneous shutdown in multiple countries, and takes full advantage of the world’s strongest free-speech laws, which are often found in northern Europe. Check out the New Yorker’s profile of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to read more about his background and the network itself, or watch his interview with the TED folks here, where he sort of comes off as the web geek version of 007: