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The Self-Appointed Spies Who Use Google Earth to Sniff Out Nukes


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The Self-Appointed Spies Who Use Google Earth to Sniff Out Nukes

Nuclear intelligence isn’t just for government agencies anymore. A motley crew of outside watchdogs has found creative ways to deter proliferation.

David Schmerler, part of a team at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, goes by the nickname “Geolocation Jesus” because of his skills at pinpointing North Korean locations using far-ranging clues, such as Kim Jong Un’s public schedule, the number of skylights in a photographed room, Google Earth, and his knowledge gleaned from watching every North Korean missile propaganda video ever released. Frank Pabian, who works closely on a Stanford University team led by former Los Alamos Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker, is one of the world’s leading imagery analysts and a former American weapons inspector. Then there’s Jacob Bogle, a coin dealer by day and North Korean mapping hobbyist by night who has created one of the world’s most detailed maps of North Korea from his home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In my own research, I’ve found 17 major groups or players actively tracking illicit nuclear activities around the world.