Friday, March 16, 2012

George Clooney: The New Ethics of Satellite Surveillance

George Clooney believes that he has found evidence of the Sudanese government murdering its own citizens.

Using images from space satellites, the Hollywood actor, with help from the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), documented crimes against humanity taking place in sub-Saharan Africa.

"It is absolutely without question a war crime that we saw firsthand," the actor told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while presenting his findings on Wednesday.

While Clooney's efforts are patently good, are they ethical?

No project like this has ever been done before, and so Clooney and his partners are making the rules as they go, albeit rules within the strictures of international law.

SSP is a collaboration between the non-profit Enough Project, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and DigitalGlobe Inc. (NYSE: DG), a publicly-traded space imagery company. The whole enterprise is funded by Clooney and his Not on Our Watch organization.

"This is a collaboration that in itself is revolutionary. No one could do it alone," said Nathaniel Raymond, the Director of Operations for the SSP.

Using field reporting from the Enough Project and DigitalGlobe's satellite images, which are directed and interpreted by Harvard, SSP monitors what it sees as an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan that started with the Second Civil War in 1983, bred the genocide in Darfur and essentially continued uninterrupted as it developed into the ethnic conflict surrounding South Sudan's independence.

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