Syria PhotoShop Angle: Thin Gruel

Frankly, I’m a bit surprised to see this LA Times blog post (which suggests that the Syria intel briefing photos were doctored) gaining traction. The first example is a still from the presentation video’s opening shot, which begins as a satellite image but dials in until it becomes a computer-generated model based on the photographic evidence. How do you know it’s a computer-generated model? Because the same image is clearly described as such not long afterward, at the 1:58 mark of the video. So, yeah, it’s a doctored photo, but no one was suggesting otherwise.

As for the second example, which compares two post-strike satellite images of the site, it’s true that the first appears more rectangular than the second. But the second appears to have been taken after initial cleanup work — including possibly bulldozing the front section of the destroyed building — began. It was also taken from a lower angle, with the shadows on opposite sides of the building, thereby complicating any visual comparison.

It’s obvious that in the age of PhotoShop, no visual evidence is ever conclusively beyond suspicion. But there are enough legitimate questions to pursue about the Syrian site (the lack of air defense, the lack of a cooling tower, the lack of a plutonium reprocessing facility) and what they say about its purpose, without jumping on such thin gruel.

Update: On the other hand, this Nelson Report (via Steve Clemons) raises some doubts about the authenticity of the photo evidence of a North Korean official’s presence in Syria, as well as his identity. It also mentions some resentment on Capitol Hill about how the briefing was made public immediately following a presentation to Congress at which experts were barred due to security clearances.

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