Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Google forced to remove pictures of secret military bases from Street View

By Jason Lewis, Mail on Sunday Security Editor

Google was last night forced to remove images of some of Britain’s most sensitive military and security bases from its Street View service.

The website admitted that it had ignored signs warning that photographing the sites breached the Official Secrets Act.

The installations included Special Boat Service and Special Air Service bases, a Government atomic weapons research centre, top-secret Government eavesdropping centres and MI5 headquarters across Britain.

SBS Poole

Secret's out: Google Street View picture of the SBS base in Poole, Dorset, with a sign warning that photography is banned under the Official Secrets Act

Loughside

MI5's Loughside station, visible through the trees from this Belfast housing estate

Some of the locations could be useful to terrorists or hostile foreign governments – and are so secret we cannot report what they are.

The Google map site previously contained information only on major British cities, but now has images of almost every street.

Among the locations which can be examined is RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate.

Also featured is Hanslope Park near Milton Keynes, known as Her Majesty’s Government Communications Centre (HMGCC). It is home to MI6 officers who analyse data from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham and Menwith Hill.

The vehicle entrance into Thames House, MI5 headquarters in Westminster, is another highlighted location.

And on a quiet Belfast housing estate, a glimpse through the trees highlights the Security Service’s new Loughside headquarters, where MI5 monitors Irish dissident terror groups.

A view of the SAS Counter Terrorism training centre in Pontrilas, Herefordshire, shows an aircraft used for special forces exercises.

The outside of the new ORION Laser Research Facility at Aldermaston, the atomic weapons research centre in Berkshire, is also on display.

Bizarrely, a picture of the SBS depot in Poole, Dorset, includes a warning sign.

Highlighted in red are the words: ‘Prohibited place within the meaning of the Official Secrets Act. Loitering, photography, sketching forbidden.’

Last night a Google spokesman said: ‘If mistakes are made we will remove the images. We’re unaware of any official concerns about security, but are happy to discuss any issues as they arise.’