Gen. McKenzie's tale about waiting for the Iranians to download a satellite image is bullshit. And David Martin is just lapping it up, asking for seconds. A thread.
Problem 1: The story could not have occurred on the timeline that McKenzie describes. There is a big time gap between when a picture is taken ("collection time") and when the image is available to customers ("delivery time").
The image has to go from the satellite, to a ground station, then to the company, and finally to the customer. In reality, only a very small number of commercial satellite imagery providers like @planet offer images on anything like the timeline implied by McKenzie.
More likely, McKenzie doesn't understand what he's saying because he could have moved his forces after the satellite collected the image. If McKenzie wasted several hours after collection waiting for the image to be *delivered*, he should be relieved of command for incompetence.
Problem 2: Gen. McKenzie claims the satellite image showed "airplanes on the ground and people working" in the last image before he moved them. It's uncommon to see piloted aircraft at Ain Al Asad out in the open and the resolution isn't good enough to see "people working."
But here's the thing. We do often see UAVs and helicopters out in the open. McKenzie did not move those, at least not to a safe distance. They were still parked in the open near the craters. And at least one helicopter was damaged in the strike.
Problem 3: I can't find any evidence that any commercial satellite firm offered for sale a picture from the days before the strike. The most recent pre-strike images from @planetlabs and @airbus were taken December 30, more than a week prior.
You can get a sense of what images were available from a reseller like @ApolloMapping. I just don't see the commercial image that Iran could have purchased, as McKenize claims. I can't prove one doesn't exist, but who sold it? When?
Problem 4: Iran did show high-resolution satellite images of Ain Al Asad from BEFORE and AFTER the strike. The BEFORE image that Iran showed, however, was taken at least 11 days, and very likely more than that, prior to the strike based on the structures that are visible.
It seems very unlikely that Iran possessed a more recent image of the base as Hajizadeh was perfectly willing to show fresh commercial images from AFTER the strike that were only a day old in his briefing.
Generals make up stories all the time. But this one is pernicious because it implicates commercial satellite imagery in an attack on American forces. But for near-real time targeting, Iran is far more likely to use a drone than a month-old satellite image. What's going on here?
After we published images of the damage from attack, I was told some people at @DeptofDefense were pretty upset with me. Then-SecDef Mark Esper initially downplayed the strike, calling the damage "nothing I would describe as major." The images made him seem untruthful.
I would say that it was Esper saying untruthful things that made him seem untruthful. But the bottom line is that we use commercial satellite imagery to hold poweful people accountable. Some powerful people don't like that!
I don't know whether McKenzie made up his tall tale himself or just embellished one that was going around. But it seems like a story someone made up to paint OSINT as aiding the enemy. Just keep in mind, the goal isn't to protect the troops, it's to protect their own asses.

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