Investigative journalism needs better tools
Investigative journalism relies upon relatively small-scale investments. This is very appropriate. The work of a single brave researcher can save lives and shed light. This is effective and efficient.
Unfortuately, independent efforts to investigate important claims of giant institutions -- say, the US government, or any major national governments -- are hampered by monopolies upon information that's expensive to obtain.
Large institutions don't want their foreign policies, and often their domestic policies, investigated. For example, the US is the major agressor in world affairs, and the primary instrument of the world's political and business elite. But the US, like any nation, portrays itself rather differently, in a strictly positive light. Independent investigation would be politically inconvenient for this pretense. The monopolies on expensive investigative technology is not accidental.
In particular, claims based on satellite imagery cannot be independently corroborated. As a result, ecologies are exterminated, civilians are killed, governments are toppled, and those in power maintain unassailable position.
In areas under attack by business, there's a similar research gap in time-series image focus. Most claims by the powerful and wealthy are generally just marketing, that is, they aren't true, This could be determined by certified public-interest imaging and analysis.
Changing the game
It's time for investigative journalism to get its own satellites.
Imagine a system of space-based imaging resources, either independently owned or leased, jointly funded by NGO's and serious news organizations, with state-of-the-art analysis.
It's even more important to imagine a rigorous team of investigators and analysts, who take seriously the privacy of those on the ground, and work hard to bring the conclusions and the data to the public.
The US claims that satellite imagery exists to corroboate 'Russian aggression'1 on the border between southern Russia and eastern Ukraine. But it does not presenting this imagery, and when it does, there is still no way to corroborate this information. The US could, in the worst case, launch a 'small nuclear war' based on this 'evidence'. More likely, the US will simply succeed in driving a wedge into Eurasia, making the lives of millions miserable.
Imagine a news consortium that examined a time series of satellite imagery of the Russian boarder, and of troop movements from within the Ukraine. It would be possible to determine who was attacking whom, and either confirm, deny, or add to, the claims of the US and any other government.
A global picture
Best of all, such a system would provide information to the public about global war. The scrutiny, and the analysis, would reduce it. This would lead to demilitarization by the US, and a reallocation of funds. The US currently outspends the rest of the world in weaponry, and between 50% and 80% of the US budget is miltary-related.
But this is not simply a matter of reducing US agression. Every country and civil war struggles to get good press, but because there are always major backers of one side or another, we end up with a propaganda war, and people become tired of trying to find out what is going on. An independent satellite view would change th level of popular engagement in stopping global warfare.
It is possible to integrate a public key with a satellite camera in such a way that people can verify the camera's settings from the raw data, when it is released with analysis.
It is also possible to study multiple claims and realease analysis with all the original, verified imagery, along with mark-up files.
The software to do all this work should be free and open source, so anyone can do this analysis.