The latest digital technology is making real-time coverage and swift uplinking available to anyone, anywhere. Even the most remote and, in theory, operationally secure locations are now transparent. Nik Gowing reports
The profound impact of digital images and eye-witness accounts is exhilarating for those of us working for major global news channels like BBC World. It is increasingly ominous for those responsible for managing crises in government, the military and security agencies, and in the corporate world.
Ministers, commanders officials and executives can no longer assume they have control of data gathering and information release. But most are in denial.
The capacity to challenge official claims
Last summer, during the war with Hezbollah, Israeli military censorship was undermined by Israelis with cameras, mobile phones and blogs who challenged the official versions of fighting put out by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The IDF explanation was often belated and could not counter the imagery.
Most of these 'amateur' dispatches included graphic eye-witness accounts. Most significantly, many challenged the official version, in the first couple of hours, that there had been a 'power surge' on the underground. They confirmed there had indeed been bomb explosions with large numbers of casualties. They changed public perceptions and undermined the credibility of the police and ministerial versions as they emerged.
Predictions of vulnerability
In February 2006, the then British Defence Secretary, John Reid, spoke publicly of the new "uneven battlefield of one-sided scrutiny". Simultaneously, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a similar admission of official inadequacy. Reid and Rumsfeld both had the same message: "We all need to get smarter and understand this [real-time information] battlespace better".
They are right.
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