Last week, researchers at the Federation of American Scientists used satellite imagery to uncover more than 100 suspected nuclear missile silos under construction in western China. Days later, private analysts identified new underground facilities at a Chinese nuclear test site using similar satellite images.
These revelations, coming after the discovery of another Chinese missile field in June, leveraged satellite imagery to disclose some of Beijing’s most closely guarded secrets about its nuclear program.
The proliferation of commercial satellites has upended this near-monopoly on government intelligence gathering.
But these images didn’t come from government intelligence agencies. Instead, they were collected using privately operated commercial satellites and analyzed at think tanks — no high-level security clearances required.
This is not how we used to find out about major national security secrets.
Once upon a time, such findings were almost exclusively in the hands of governments with robust intelligence organizations. The proliferation of commercial satellites has upended this near-monopoly on government intelligence gathering. And this also means leaders now have less freedom — both politically and strategically — to handle this kind of news.
Read the full article from The Washington Post.
More from CNAS
Bad Blood: The TTX for the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
I. Introduction Chairman Gallagher, Ranking Member Krishnamoorthi, distinguished members of the committee and staff, thank you for inviting me to come today to talk about the ...
By Stacie Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser & Andrew Metrick
Russia-China Defense Cooperation
Russia’s war in Ukraine has been a critical test of the depth of Sino-Russian relations. Since Russia’s invasion, China has remained an essential partner for Moscow. Although ...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor & Nicholas Lokker
Our Military Leaders Need a National Security ‘Fast Lane’ to Compete With China
The spy balloon is a wake-up call that highlights the boldness and aggression of China. This should remind Americans to expect more focus and agility from their government’s n...
By General Mike Holmes, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) & Dan Patt
Calling Check: Technology Competition with China
This week Emily Kilcrease, director of the Energy, Economics, and Security program at CNAS, joins The Asia Chessboard podcast from CSIS for a wide ranging discussion on the i...
By Emily Kilcrease