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The Mystery Of Satellite Evidence In The Giuliana Sgrena Shooting

Two disjointed stories on the shooting of Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena and her Italian intelligence officer escort Nicola] Calipari are being examined on top weblogs this weekend. I've yet to see anyone tie the two together.

Michelle Malkin (and others like LGF and Captian Ed) notes CBS's reporting on the US satellite recording of the checkpoint shooting:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US satellite reportedly recorded a checkpoint shooting in Iraq last month, enabling investigators to reconstruct how fast a car carrying a top Italian intelligence official and a freed hostage was traveling when US troops opened fire.

The report, which aired Thursday on CBS News, said US investigators concluded from the recording that the car was traveling at a speed of more than 60 miles (96 km) per hour.

Giuliana Sgrena has said the car was traveling at a normal speed of about 30 miles an hour when the soldiers opened fired, wounding her and killing Nicola Calipari, the Italian agent who had just secured her release from a month's captivity.

Rusty Shackelford is immediatly skeptical of the satellite story, citing the inherent difficulty in measuring speed from satellite images.

Then comes news that the released version of the official US report was sloppily redacted, allowing anyone marginally competent with Adobe Acrobat can see all the redacted information [download via Corriere della Sera]. The unredacted version of the official report should provide an excellent opportunity to verify the satellite story, but the term "satellite" appears nowhere in the report and every mention of "speed" indicates that speed was calculated using standard crime scene forensic techniques. If there really is satellite proof that Sgrena's car was going 60 mph, you'd expect to find some passing mention of it in the official report, right? Even if the satellite data itself is classified, if it was as exculpatory as CBS claims it certainly would be alluded to in the official report.

It's worth noting that CBS is the only one reporting the existence of satellite proof of the speed of Sgrena's car. That story, absent additional proof, appears to be collapsing quickly.

Update: Maybe the L.A. Times gets the story right, inspite of itself.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Mystery Of Satellite Evidence In The Giuliana Sgrena Shooting:

» Say Anything linked with Sgrena’s Car Was Speeding

» The Politburo Diktat linked with Just the Facts, Ma'am

» TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime linked with De-Classified Report on Sgrena Shooting

» Joust The Facts linked with Recent Giuliana Sgrena Developments

» Legal XXX linked with Linky Dinky Two

» Right Wing Nut House linked with SGRENA'S LIES WILL NOW COST LIVES

» Myopic Zeal linked with Giuliana Sgrena Satellite “Evidence”

» JackLewis.net linked with Sgrena's Satellite

Comments (15)

Satellite data or no, it ma... (Below threshold)

Satellite data or no, it made no sense for them to go blasting down Route Irish. When I first heard of this incident, I was surprised that anyone in the car was left alive.

"The attack density for the period 1 November 2004 to 12 March 2005 is 11.25 attacks per mile, or a minimum of one attack per day along Route Irish since November."

So, you're an experienced Italian officer and you drive up quickly to a checkpoint (CP 541 where there had been numerous attacks in the past)?

Sgrena needs to place the blame where it lays, the driver of her car.

I had a similar question th... (Below threshold)

I had a similar question this morning, after looking at the report. I thought it seemed quite strange that the information would not have been included in the report. But I disagree that that would mean the LAT got it right.

Let's say they had an advance copy of the report, and that's why they cut out the reference to the satellite recording. Shouldn't they have told us?

To take an analogy: let's say that CBS runs a story about Bush's TANG service based upon documents from a similarly anonymous source. Now, in real life, the LAT splashed that information all over their front page. But lets say they had had a reason to doubt the documents' authenticity. What would be the appropriate course -- just not mention the CBS report? Or report the CBS News allegations, and also report the facts that undercut those allegations? I think the latter is clearly the correct course.

And so it is here. If the LAT had a specific reason to doubt the satellite story, they should have reported it and then debunked it.

Rusty Shackleford (<a href=... (Below threshold)

Rusty Shackleford (Jawa) is indeed skeptical, but his knowledge of physics and satellite imagery leaves a lot to be desired.

He states that speed = distance x time; this is a very basic physics equation, but he got it wrong: Speed = distance / time.

OK, so maybe he was just in a hurry. But he also states that the only way to determine the speed is from two different pictures taken at two different points in time. He finds it unlikely that the same satellite would have bothered to take two pictures of the same vehicle.

But it doesn't have to be two pictures. A single exposure has a "shutter-time" that will, particularly at night, result in a little blurring of a moving object. By knowing the shutter time and measuring the length of the blur, an incredibly accurate measurement of speed can be conducted.

I have doubts about Rusty's doubts.

I don't know anything about... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I don't know anything about Satelite images, but I think the dumbest thing the Italians did was to not coordinate anything with the US.

Ponytailed Consevative has ... (Below threshold)

Ponytailed Consevative has it exactly correct. As a photographer I can atest to doing this many times with race car photos and other similar swiftly moving objects.

Shackleford is clueless and should move onto something he is more knowledgable about.

"He [carpani] told Sergeant... (Below threshold)

"He [carpani] told Sergeant First Class Feliciano that he heard shots from somewhere, and that he panicked and started speeding, trying to get to the airport as quickly as possible. Mr. Carpani further told Sergeant First Class Feliciano that he continued to speed down the ramp, and that he was in a hurry to get to the airport."

Any questions?

Just a damn tragedy.

Interesting to see what the Italians haveto say on the matter.

I agree we should be skepti... (Below threshold)

I agree we should be skeptical, but it is not unusual that this road would be watched; the Bagdad airport road is infamous for being one of the most frequently targeted roads in Iraq.

Also, it's not clear that the people preparing the official report necessarily had access to the satellite imagery. But again, we should seek more proof.

The italian report will say... (Below threshold)

The italian report will say that:

- it was not a checkpoint, it was a "blocking position" which has no engagement rules, it's basically a free fire situation.

- the time between illuminating the car with the spotlight and opening the fire was less than 3 seconds.

- most of the testimony from the troops were contradictory and inaccurate, they didn't even remember where the position was

- the US report is full of inventions not corroborated by facts and testimonies

- the US CIA post was informed of the operation, the route and the type of car.

- the italian SISMI had specifically asked to contact the checkpoint to inform them of the car arrival and it was told that there was no checkpoint

- after insisting the checkpoint was indeed contacted but it was too late

- Mr. Carpani never spoke to Sgt. Feliciano. That was a self-serving fabrication.

Additionally the italian report will include "contextual" information (on video as well) about US troops having fun with the dead body of iraqis killed (by mistake) in their cars.

Having said this, I also know that Ms. Sgrena is full of shit. I suspect that it is the troops' fault because they are basically young, incompetent, and have become cold blooded killers in a very nasty environment, and it's also the italians' fault because they have underevaluates the risks of not making absolutely sure that everyone at all levels was informed.

Wrong Leo it was not the tr... (Below threshold)

Wrong Leo it was not the troops fault, the report states they successfully stopped 30-40 cars before the incident, that says a lot. I think the car must have been going very fast and/or the driver must have been distracted and was not paying enough attention.


1. Roadblocks have no requirement for signs / markings or speed bumps, if in use accidents like this one could probably be avoided.

2. For reasons yet unclear the Turret Gunner did not manage to fire directly into the engine.

The Gunner was required to man a handheld spotlight and when time came to fire he had to drop the light, man his MG and traverse it from his left to his right in order to fire, the time it took *speculative* to switch could have been a benefiting factor.

One point. The claim is 3 s... (Below threshold)

One point. The claim is 3 seconds warning. How far did their car travel in 3 seconds?
Not to be pedantic but:
1hour/60 minutes =1
1 minute/60seconds =1
1mile/5280 feet =1

Assuming 60mph.
We have 60mile/1 hour X5280 feet/1mile=316800 feet/hour

316800feet/1hourX (1hour/60minutes)X(1 minute/60seconds)=88feet/second

88 feet/second X 3 seconds= 264 feet.

So, change the warning from 3 seconds to 264 feet. Or, if you believe her changing story, at 30mph you still have over 100 feet.
They were warned in a war zone known for bomb-laden vehicles and didn't stop in either over 100 feet (their story) or over 250 feet (the military's story).

Who's at fault again?
As for

Here's more bias in reporti... (Below threshold)

Here's more bias in reporting this story, this time from an AP headline...

Y'know I was just wondering... (Below threshold)

Y'know I was just wondering...perhaps the Italians are bitching because they don't have CSI on RAI?

Purest speculation, but sup... (Below threshold)

Purest speculation, but suppose someone had previously hidden a GPS tracking device on the Italian's vehicle? That would provide "satellite recorded" speed information like the CBS source seems to claim. And if such a device had been used I'm sure the Pentagon would be reluctant to discuss it. (They may not even have known about it.)

I think it was AWACS radar ... (Below threshold)

I think it was AWACS radar data, not satellite imagery at all.

The most telling part of the report is where they indicate that the satellites "recorded" the data. Satellites don't record - they image, buffer, and transfer to ground stations. The other part of the report that leads me to believe this is AWACS data is where they say they had to analyze it to get the results. AWACS radar sweeps are recorded to tape on the aircraft, analyzed in real-time to look for threats, and analyzed later to look for patterns.

AWACS records full sweep information, meaning that everything within the sensor horizon gets stored. That's why it took some time to analyze - I imagine the officer in charge saying "do we have any way of telling how far it moved," and someone saying "yeah, well, we had AWACS in the air nearby." At that point, they simply had to track down the tapes for that night. I'm guessing the first and second radar sweeps showed the car at two locations, and some simple math showed the speed of the vehicle.

The odds of this being drone or satellite images is small. It was rainy that night, so with lots of moisture in the air, satellite infrared would have been impaired. I think it's much MUCH more likely that the CBS reporter was unaware of the broader usage of the term "imagery," and parsed it as "pictures."

Just a note on the issue of... (Below threshold)

Just a note on the issue of why "satellite" isn't mentioned in the report. From what I could see of the copy of the report available, when they refer at one point to the estimated speed of the vehicle as it crosses the "warning line" they refer to an annex. That annex is not available in the download. That annex would have the details as to how that speed was determined. Perhaps the CBS source had access to that annex and that is where the report comes from. All the speculation about the possibility that a satellite could be used to make such a calculation should be set to rest. In a war zone like Iraq where we have so many soldiers we will have layers of overhead reconnaisance going on all over the country ranging from UAVs to AWACS to Navy assets that could be over the country at that time to the SAR spoken above to all different types of Satellites (imagery, infrared, radar, etc)...had any of these or more than one captured parts of the incident, such speed calculations could easily be made. The question is whether, in fact, any of those airborne assets DID capture the incident, and the answer lies in that annex which is referred to in the report.






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