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Late last month, former CIA analyst Allen Thomson was clicking through a space news website when he noticed a story about a new orbital tracking site being built near the small city of Kashgar in southwestern China. Curious, he went to Google Earth to find it. He poked around for a while, with no luck. Then he came across something kind of weird.
Thomson, who served in the CIA from 1972 to 1985 and as a consultant to the National Intelligence Council until 1996, has made something of a second career finding odd stuff in public satellite imagery. He discovered these giant grids etched into the Chinese desert in 2011, and a suspected underground missile bunker in Iran in 2008. When the Israeli Air Force destroyed a mysterious facility in Syria the year before, Thomson put together an 812-page dossier on the so-called “Box on the Euphrates.” Old analyst habits die hard, it seems.
But even this old analyst is having trouble ID’ing the objects he found in the overhead images of Kashgar. “I haven’t the faintest clue what it might be — but it’s extensive, the structures are pretty big and funny-looking, and it went up in what I’d call an incredible hurry,” he emails.