[Air-L] Map of WikiLeaks "Vital Facilities"
zook at uky.edu
Tue Dec 7 15:40:27 PST 2010
More information (including the actual maps) is at
One of the most interesting, and perhaps controversial, bits of information
from the recent release of the Wikileaks US embassy cables has been the list
of locations deemed vital to US security. Since this information is now in
the public domain, we were interested in visualizing the data.
The first step was to take the rather messy data and identify individual
entries. In some cases it was no more specific then "Indonesia: Tin Mine and
Plant", it other cases it named a pipeline, a port or city in which an
undersea cable made landfall. Using the worldatlas.com geocoder (as well as
some Wikipedia entries), we located an approximate latitude and longitude
for each of the locations mentioned in the cables.
We wish to emphasize that the locations in our mashup are only for the
cities in which these critical facilities are located, and not the actual
facilities themselves. In some cases the location in the map is no more
detailed then the country. Given this relatively inaccuracy, this map does
not present a security threat. Moreover, all the data sets used for this
geo-codding are openly available on the Internet and could easily be
replicated by anyone.
Our purpose is to visualize (at a relatively high scale) the patterns
exhibited by this particular data set illustrated below. The categories in
the legend are our own classifications based on the information provided by
It is interesting to note that the vast majority of these facilities are not
directly military related. Even the ones that we mark as military are
industrial related military rather than actual bases. Instead the list seems
to focus on non-military topics such as telecommunications, energy related
facilities and pharmaceuticals. Much of the list is also focused on supplies
of important raw materials (Bauxite, Chromite, and Rare Earth Minerals) as
well as the ability to move products through ports and shipping channels.
These data offer a fascinating insight into the ways that the national
security priorities of the United States span the entire globe. This global
web of essential facilities goes a long way to explain the fact that the US
Department of Defense has more military facilities around the world than all
other nations combined. The globalization of the world economy means that
facilities that are vital to the communication, health, and economic needs
of the U.S. are scattered across the planet; and this ultimately means that
the U.S. (as well as other developed and developing countries) have to
contend with new and changing notions of what "security" means in the 21st
Dr. Matthew Zook, Ph.D.
Department of Geography
University of Kentucky
More information about the Air-L