(cross-posted at Daily Kos and Euro Tribune)

This morning’s Roman daily “Il Messaggero” has this tidbit, another stab at U.S.-Rest of the World relations. Actually, there are two articles, one in the form of an editorial (“Google only “protects” the White House”), starting on page 1 and continuing on to page 13, and one on page 17. For those of you who read Italian, “Il Messaggero” does publish their paper online. If you want to read the editorial, click on the page 1 box, which brings up the whole article; the page 13 link does not.

Much more truth, sometimes, can be hidden in the details. And in this matter there is one that is particularly striking and makes one think of George Orwell, but not the one of the notorious “1984” (which was the future, but seems like prehistory), but rather that of the Web of the Animals. Remember? The story where, once they freed themselves of man’s tantrums and fallibility, all sites finally become equal. But some are more equal than others. Ah yes, in this marvelous world map something curious happens. If you search for a military base in Italy, you find it; and you even find the secret residence of the Prime Minister, the one where, in the event of serious danger, he should find refuge with his family, in maximum security. I don’t know if you can see the photos on the fireplace mantle or the wallpaper, but you can see where it is and, probably, also easily study the best route to get there. If, on the other hand, you search for the official residence of his friend, the President of the United States, for example, you will see it hidden by electronic “patches”, in the name of national security. Beyond the question on the value of friendship, another, more dramatic one, arises: why is national security valid for some countries (just one, it seems), and not for the others? Or have they all become colonies, so that it is possible for women to go around bare-breasted, since the inhabitants aren’t real human beings, but almost animals? And, while we’re on animals, why do some continue to be obstinately more equal than the others?

The article I’ve translated below is on page 17.

Google censors the White House
Instead, full satellite photos for Palazzo Chigi

Fears of attacks behind the photo touch-ups
The view of Villa Certosa is perfectly clear

NEW YORK – The world starts from a “patch” in Washington. Everything else is the empire’s suburbs. That is, the planet seen from above, through the electronic eyes of the U.S. satellites, with a variable security geometry. Maximum for the buildings of North American power, minimum for the foreign official residences and foreign parliaments. At least this is the conclusion that is seemingly implied by the new extraordinary geo-planetary of the world’s most widespread and powerful search engine, Google. A new window devoted to the satellite maps of all corners of the world conveniently hides the roof of the White House – covered with an electronic “patch” – and the Capitol dome, Washington’s Parliament, which appears in low resolution, from the eyes of terrorists or foreign enemies. On the other hand, the visual accessibility for the Quirinal, Palazzo Chigi and Montecitorio in Rome, and for Berlusconi’s Villa Certosa in Sardinia, is perfect. The same thing goes for the Kremlin, the Zarzuela in Spain, Downing Street in London, and the Elysée in Paris.

Google’s obvious blunder, which has alarmed the safety apparatus of many European countries, is due to the fact, American experts explain, that the search engine has obtained the satellite images from private U.S. companies that have to comply with the recommendations of Homeland Security and the new intelligence service led by former ambassador Negroponte.

This is the reason for the partial blackout of the White House and Congress. The patches make it impossible to detect the details on the roof of George Bush’s residence. With a simple software, if there were no cover-up, it would be possible to enlarge the image of the White House and establish precisely how many men and how many weapons are being used for the protection of the residence. The same goes for the Congress. However, incredibly, Google’s maps do not provide the same cover for the Pentagon or the FBI, while the CIA is not even on the list of sites.

The first alarm bell on the evident United States-Rest of the World discrepancy was sounded in Spain. The daily El Mundo showed how through Google’s satellite images it was possible to access the roofs of the Zarzuela, the royal family’s residence, and the seat of the Spanish government, as well. Two sensitive targets that the similar Spanish satellite maps have appropriately covered up.

Italy’s situation is similar. Berlusconi’s villa in Punta Lada, Sardinia, declared last December by the Council of Ministers an “alternative seat of maximum security for the safety of the Prime Minister and his family, collaborators, and the continuity of government activity,” has not been “patched” in any way. This also goes for St. Peter’s, Palazzo Chigi, Palazzo Madama, or military targets such as the Aviano base, the De Gennaro barracks in Forlì, or the Via Vincenzo Monti barracks in Milan. Also available for intrusive or ill-intentioned eyes are Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, the British Prime Minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street, Jacques Chirac’s Elysée in Paris, and Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

(emphasis in text mine)

Hmmm.. . I’d say there’s some ill-content brewing in Italy.

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