By William E. Burrows:
Mankind has been captivated by flying at least since the beginning of recorded history and no doubt long before that. I suppose Freudians would call it "bird envy." The story of Daedalus in Greek mythology is well known. So is that of his son, Icarus, who became humanity's first known aerial casualty as a result of "leaving his wing man," as Hollywood script writers would call it.
Whatever else lured Daedalus and the mortals who came after him into the air, from the Montgolfiers to the Wright brothers to Bleriot, Korolev, Earhart and beyond -- and there were a great many complex reasons, spiritual as well as practical -observation of terra firma was among the most compelling. Whether the flier is a hawk searching for lunch or a reconnaissance pilot searching for the enemy, height gives tremendous advantage because it extends the view. All things being equal -- chiefly clarity of vision -- advantage increases in proportion to altitude. That is why balloons were used by Napoleon's army in Egypt and by the Army of the Potomac, why military aircraft were first used for observation, and why RAND Corporation engineers assigned the same role to satellites as early as 1946: eleven years before one actually flew.1
Practical space-based intelligence collection was conceived in the first flushes of the Cold War and was increasingly driven by it as both sides' positions hardened. Obvious civilian uses of space imagery, such as weather prediction and resource monitoring, had been postulated in concrete terms for years.2 Tiros, the first weather satellite, was launched successfully for the first time in April 1960. The first Earth Resources Technology Satellite, later named Landsat, was put in orbit in July 1972.
But it was national security, not civilian applications, that drove remote sensing. The brief reference to the military potential of Earth observation in that 1946 RAND report was followed by a spate of more detailed studies, including RAND's "Utility of a Satellite Vehicle for Reconnaissance," a 139-page, detailed engineering study of rocketing a television camera into orbit that was issued in April 1951 (during the Korean War). Throughout that decade, a multi-faceted project called Weapon System 117L, which was to spawn three different types of generic Earth observation techniques, was pushed hard. This occurred for two reasons:
First, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, its proxies, and the People's Republic of China, spread from Berlin to the Bering Strait, giving Communism control of a land mass -- what Sir Halford Mackinder called the World Island -- that extended across eleven of the twenty-four times zones. More to the point, that vast area was essentially an intelligence void. Brutal, paranoid regimes protected their secrets with pervasive repression behind tightly sealed frontiers.
"Our knowledge of what was going on inside the U.S.S.R. was desperately weak", Dr. George B. Kistiakowsky, the Harvard chemist who became Dwight Eisenhower's science adviser, recalled in an interview in 1981. "Much information had originally come from German engineers who had worked in the U.S.S.R. But they were never trusted very much by the Russians], and as the Soviets got better at nuclear weapons and guided missiles, the Germans were separated and finally allowed to emigrate to the West," he said. Spies who were dropped out of the sky or who landed by submarine were "intercepted and liquidated," Kistiakowsky added, and most defectors were all but worthless. "Generally, it was pitiful. It was clear that the time of Mata Hari had passed."3
In addition, fear of a devastating surprise attack began to take hold in Washington as one threatening event followed another with seeming
relentlessness: the successful testing of a Soviet atomic bomb in 1949 and a hydrogen bomb four years later; the production of long-range bombers; then the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile capability. The first three Sputniks were less important for the technology they carried than for the fact that they demonstrated that the Soviets had the capacity to loft heavy warheads over the Arctic to the heart of North America. They seemed to demonstrate that, for all his bombast, Nikita Khrushchev's threats were not idle.
"This was at a time when the Pearl Harbor surprise attack was still very much on everyone's mind," Richard M. Bissell Jr., who was to direct satellite reconnaissance against the Soviet Union after the U-2 program ended, would recall.4
The "Pearl Harbor" mentality in fact had driven reconnaissance almost as far back as the beginning of the Truman presidency, with both his and Ike's taking extraordinary measures to steal glimpses over the Iron Curtain. During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, aerial reconnaissance missions along the Communist periphery were flown almost continuously. However splendid the U-2 -- and it was splendid indeed -- the brunt of the penetrations fell to birds that lumbered rather than soared.
In many instances, frustrated planners sent converted bombers and other modified aircraft deep inside Communist territory to photograph military installations, ferret radar, and eavesdrop on communication. This was done at great risk to the crews, some of which paid with their lives for the data they sought.5
What was not appreciated in the heat of the moment was that the Soviet Union also had a "Pearl Harbor" mentality and, the Kremlin's inherent paranoia notwithstanding, with good reason. Unlike the United States, the U.S.S.R. was betrayed when the Nazis invaded in 1941 after signing a non-aggression pact with the Kremlin only two years earlier. The United States emerged from World War II in justifiable grief for the 450,000 men and women it lost in combat. Yet no bomb fell on the continental United States
and the war itself lifted the country out of the Depression. The Soviet Union, by contrast, lost some 27 million in the Great Patriotic War and suffered unspeakable hardship and devastation. It lost twice as many people in the siege of Leningrad alone as all American casualties combined. As the Cold War deepened, it found itself ringed by Western military and intelligence bases, including the one here, and facing an opponent that had no apparent qualm about using nuclear weapons.
For all the U-2s, RB-29S, RB-50s, RB-47S and 57s and assorted Navy aircraft accomplished, they had an obvious drawback: they were potentially vulnerable to aircraft and rocket attack. This in turn forced the United States to use them with great prudence. Crossing the breadth of U.S.S.R., for example, would invite disaster and it was therefore done with great reluctance. The first time a U-2 was sent on a true crosscountry mission, as you know, Powers was shot down. As you also know, Eisenhower and the national intelligence apparatus not only anticipated that day, but were amazed that the operation lasted as long as it did.3
In anticipation of that day, and also because coverage from Earth orbit would vastly increase the intelligence "take" while maximizing the safety of the unmanned platform, the RAND Corporation and other organizations, including the Air Force's Air Research and Development Command, began intensive studies on space reconnaissance. Serious satellite studies began with that 1946 RAND study, which showed that it was technically feasible to launch Earth satellites and that using them for reconnaissance -as "observation aircraft" -- would be an obvious mission .7
That first RAND report was followed by many others, beginning in 1947, that went into considerable engineering detail about possible reconnaissance systems, including weather reconnaissance. The 1947 study, led by James E. Lipp, the head of RAND's Missile Division, specifically mentioned the merits
of space photography. "A satellite traveling over the poles, with a period one complete orbit of about one and a half hours," it noted, "would scan the oceans at least once every day...."8
There are an almost infinite number of orbits, each best suited for a particular function. It was known before the space age even began, for example, that a satellite that orbits at a distance of 22,300 miles above the Equator will stay over the same spot on Earth all the time. It is said to be in a geostationary orbit, which is particularly well suited tostening to communication traffic across large regions, monitoring missile telemetry, and watching for a ballistic missile attack with infrared heat sensors. One of the satellites that will shortly be mentioned was to be the first to play the role of attack watchman. On the other hand, a satellite that flies low over the poles has the whole planet turn under it on every orbit, which is perfect for being able to photograph anything. Thus, high-inclination orbits at low altitude -typically 100-125 miles -- are photo-reconnaissance orbits.
In July 1956 -- at about the time the first U-2 penetrated the Soviet Union -- the various reconnaissance satellite studies came together in a single program: Weapon System-117L. Under its terms, the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company and various subcontractors were to develop Earth observation satellites in three distinct programs:
- CORONA, which would use satellites called Discoverer to take standard photographs and then fire the capsules that contained them out of orbit so they could descend into the atmosphere under parachutes and be snatched in mid-air by aircraft trailing trapezes;
* SAMOS, in which photographs would be taken, processed, line-scanned by a videcon camera and sent by radio signal to ground stations in a way similar to television transmission. This program, which was plagued by inordinate trouble at first, would eventually realize the space spy's old Buck Rogers dream. They would provide so-called near-real-time imagery. That is,intelligence pictures would be ready for use within ninety minutes of having been taken;
*MIDAS, the Missile Defense Alarm System, would use supercooled infrared sensors at the end of powerful telescopes parked out at geostationary orbit to warn of a missile attack against the United States and its allies by tracking the heat plumes made by the missiles. It would also observe missile tests in the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere. MIDAS's successors, spacecraft in the ambiguously-named Defense Support Program, would be so sophisticated that their computers could tell what sort of missile had been launched by the "signature" of its heat plume.9
The technology proved extremely difficult to master and involved several steps. The easiest was getting the spacecraft to orbit, which required the brute power of a ballistic missile and a series of straightforward engineering calculations. The wild card in all launches was, and remains, the dependability of the rockets themselves, however. While the Swiss watch analogy has been worked to death, it is fair to say that liquid fueled rockets, particularly when used in multiple-stages, are immensely complicated and potentially explosive devices. Designing cameras that would take clear, high-resolution pictures from 100 miles or higher was even more difficult. More difficult still was keeping the satellite absolutely steady so the pictures would not blur and then getting them back down.
The technology, however, paled in comparison to the politics. The history of post war strategic reconnaissance is one of intense rivalry between the armed services and, to a greater extent, between the Air Force and the CIA. For years the soldiers and civilians were embroiled in running battles over which was going to control the satellites and their intelligence "product," or "take" as they are called in the business.
"You can have no idea how big this is," Major General George J. Keegan Jr. told me in June 1984. "Reconnaissance and its elements have become an immense source of power and control. It's at the center of the maelstrom."10 Keegan certainly knew. As head of Air Force intelligence in the 1970s, he engaged in a protracted, bloody battle with the CIA over how intelligence that came down from space was to be interpreted.
It was and remains a source of power and control because it determines how the enemy is perceived and therefore what the response should be. Controlling the spacecraft and selecting their targets determines what gets photographed. Controlling the interpretation of the photographs determines what is deemed to be a threat and what can be played down or ignored. Controlling access to the data determines whether a given interpretation is challenged or not. Controlling what the president or Congress or the prime minister or the premier or the first secretary sees determines whether there will be a response and, if so, what it will be. Implicit in all this is the fact that controlling the intelligence collection process -- shaping the perception of the threat -- can heavily determine military appropriations. All of the great battles between the CIA and the Air Force, in fact, were fought during lean years.
Not unnaturally, Air Force generals tend to swell the number of planes and ICBMs in the enemy's possession, while admirals do the same with submarines and carriers and army officers do it with tanks, tactical missiles, and regiments under arms. If the threat is not exactly invented in each case, certainly the evidence tends to be interpreted in a way that emphasizes or exaggerates enemy strength with the expectation that it will help fatten the war chest. Reports of vast numbers of Soviet bombers in the early and mid-1950s, for example, helped to win a variety of fighter-interceptors and bombers for the Air Force before the so-called "bomber gap" (followed by the "missile gap") was shown by both U-2 and space reconnaissance to be a myth.
Knowing this tendency only too well, Eisenhower was adamant that the military, and specifically the Air Force, neither operate the spacecraft nor
have decisive control over the targets to be photographed and the interpretation and analysis of those photographs. Ike, who would warn of the "military-industrial complex" in his farewell address in February 1961, insisted that the reconnaissance establishment be run by civilians.
The heart of that multi-faceted establishment was the National Reconnaissance Program. At its heart was (and is) the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO, which was formally conceived in Eisenhower's office on the morning of August 25, 1960. The first fully successful space reconnaissance flight had taken place exactly a week earlier. That morning the President and his top advisers, including CIA Director Allen Dulles, were stunned by photographs showing 1.5 million square miles of Soviet and East European territory, including sixty-four air bases and twenty-six new SAM sites taken by a spy satellite called Discoverer 14, which was part of the CORONA program.11
Until its existence was officially made public on September 18, 1992, the NRO operated under the guise of the Air Force's Office of Space Systems in the Pentagon and was the most secret, or blackest, organization in the intelligence community.12 The NRO is responsible for the development and operation of all U.S. reconnaissance satellites and strategic reconnaissance aircraft such as the U-2 and its supersonic replacement, the SR-71A. But the operative word is "National." The director of the NRO was for years an under secretary of Defense and the deputy director has come from the CIA, both of them civilians. The Director of Central Intelligence, working with a committee of representatives of the armed services and other relevant agencies, decides on collection priorities and the frequency of coverage.l3
The invention of the NRO effectively took the Air Force out of the technical intelligence collection loop. But that did not end interservice rivalry or rancor between the air generals and the CIA, which some of the generals (including Keegan) despised for what they took to be meddling and a relentless attempt to extend its domain. In December 1963, for example, Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, head of the Air Force Systems Command, wrote an angry letter to Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis E. LeMay complaining
about the CIA's establishing its own Foreign Missile and Space Analysis Center (FMSAC). Analysis of enemy missiles and space activities was taken by both men to be the exclusive purview of their own service, and most emphatically not in the civilian sector.
"We can no more rely upon CIA for critical technical intelligence than we can rely on CIA for target intelligence," Schriever complained. "CIA must be restrained from duplicating and eroding DOD (Department of Defense] technical intelligence capabilities which are vital to military technology just as CIA has been restrained from duplicating DOD strategic bombing intelligence."14
Amrom H. Ratz, who with Merton E. Davies, pioneered space reconnaissance research at RAND, wrote a report in i959 recommending that the Air Force develop its own weather satellite: a "cloud-spotter" that would tell a reconnaissance satellite heading toward a target covered by a blanket of clouds, "not now, Jack, save yourself for the next orbit." But Katz -- a truly zany character with a wry sense of humor -- was so leery of stepping onto the civilian weathermen's turf, that he further suggested calling the spacecraft a "Cloud Reconnaissance Satellite." "If we claim this is a weather or meteorological satellite," he predicted, "various political and jurisdictional hackles at NASA and DOD, and US Weather Bureau levels will rise to the occasion. This we really don't need. We feel that sleeping hackles should be left lying." 15
As late as 1984, Keegan remained convinced that the CIA glossed over or simply ignored satellite photographs by the score that showed a massive bomb shelter construction program going on in the Soviet Union. The CIA ignored the evidence, he said, because the White House wanted the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. SALT's linchpin was the ABM treaty, which prohibits deployment of all but a handful of anti-ballistic missiles. That, in turn, rested on the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, which had it that each side held the other hostage, knowing that neither would survive an all-out nuclear exchange. But if one side did indeed believe it could survive such a war, it would be tempted to strike first and
use ABMs to intercept enemy warheads, riding out the explosions of any that penetrated the shield. Treaty or no treaty, Keegan maintained, the men in the Kremlin believed that bomb shelters would be decisive in the event of war, allowing them to go for the jugular and survive the consequences.
"There were incredible photographs of civil defenses of-all types going up all over the Soviet Union," he recalled. "They showed the basements of every new apartment house under construction, with the foundations being made up of massive civil defense shelters -- blast doors, reinforced walls -- as good photographs as you could find anywhere." Satellite imagery showed that seventy-five shelter-command posts, each the size of the Pentagon, had been dug along the Moscow beltway and then covered. "Filled and covered with what?" Keegan asked, rhetorically. "One with 100 feet of reinforced concrete and 400 feet of earth fill," he answered. That," Keegan continued, "is two or three times the strength of the Hoover Dam." He went on to criticize then-Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby who, he asserted, lied about the existence of the shelters because he wanted the arms control agreements.16 Colby claimed several years later that he could recall no such intelligence.17
Space reconnaissance began with the flight of Discoverer 14, which flew within four months of Powers' being shot down. The first twelve Discoverers went awry between February 28, 1959 and June 29, 1960. Some never made it to orbit. One misfired on the launch pad. Two went into useless orbits. Three had camera failures. One came down near Spitsbergen and was presumably never found. It was, in Bissell's words, "a most heartbreaking business."18 Then why press on?
"The answer lay in the overwhelming intelligence needs of the period," according to the CIA's own history of Corona. "There had been major changes in intelligence estimates of Soviet nuclear capabilities and of the
scope of the Soviet missile program on the basis of the results of the relatively small number of U-2 missions approved for the summer of 1957. However, by 1959, the great 'missile gap' controversy was very much in the fore. The Soviets had tested ICBMs at ranges of 5,000 miles, proving that they had a capability of building and operating them. What was not known was where they were deploying them operationally, and in what numbers. In the preparation of the National Intelligence Estimate on Guided Missiles in the fall of 1959, the various intelligence agencies held widely diverse views on Soviet missile strength. Nineteen Sixty ushered in an election year in which the missile gap had become a grave political issue, and the President was scheduled to meet with Soviet leaders that spring without -- it appeared -- the benefit of hard intelligence data. The U-2 had improved our knowledge of the Soviet Union, but it could not provide area coverage and the answers to the critical questions, and it was increasingly becoming less an intelligence asset than a political liability. It was judged to be only a matter of time until one was shot down -- with the program coming to an end as an almost certain consequence.19
Discoverer's role as a reconnaissance satellite was in fact an open secret by the time that fourteenth flight was made. The spacecraft's' name was a double entendre. Although they were supposed to "discover" military secrets, the cover story had it that they were designed to "discover" scientific truth: that they were to support the manned Mercury program, including by carrying animals. In fact, only one Discoverer -- number three -actually carried living creatures. What happened to four "trained" black mice, each with a tiny radio on its back, warrants a digression taken from the CIA's own account of the episode:
"Just before the first try at launch, telemetry indicated a lack of mouse activity. It was thought at first that the little fellows were merely asleep, so a technician was sent up in a cherry-picker to arouse them. He banged on the side of the vehicle a Lockheed Agena which carried the rodents instead of a camera and tried catcalls, but to no avail. When the capsule was opened, the mice were found to be dead. The cages had been sprayed with krylon to cover rough edges; the mice had found it tastier than their formula; and that
was that." When Discoverer 3 was finally launched with a "back-up crew," a malfunction sent it and the mice to the bottom of the Pacific .20
Meanwhile the Air Force, now locked in battle with the CIA, embarked on a public relations campaign that led to confusion about what could be released to the public and what could not be released. Thus one respected space writer was told that Discoverer's prime contractor was the Lockheed Missiles and Space Division at Sunnyvale, California, for example; that the spacecraft flew a polar orbit with a low perigee; and that they would maintain three-axis stabilization through the use of a horizon scanner made by Detroit Controls, gyroscopes made by Reeves Instruments, and small steering jets manufactured by the Bendix Aviation Corporation. Having described orbital parameters and technical details that would lead any knowledgeable reader to conclude that Discoverer was a photographic reconnaissance satellite -- all of it provided by the Department of Defense -the author also passed on the official charade, describing Discoverer's mission as obtaining "valuable data on environmental conditions" for the manned space program.21
Aviation Week matter-of-factly chronicled the birth of U.S. space reconnaissance even before it began. A spate of detailed articles, including one in the February 8, 1960 issue that provided details of how the "advanced reconnaissance systems" were to be flown, ran throughout 1960 and into the following year. 22 In August 1960, the magazine reported the successful splashdown of Discoverer 13 near Oahu, noting that "Successful recovery came as a close examination of the satellite reconnaissance concept and its technical feasibility was in progress...."
General Schriever, then head of the Air Force's Air Research and Development Command, was reported to have "indicated" that the mission's success would benefit both reconnaissance and the Mercury manned spaceflight programs. 23 In an article complete with a diagram of Discoverer's guidance and control system and a picture of its innards (less camera), Aviation Week reported in January 1961 that "Major guidance and control system components projected for the Air Force's reconnaissance (Samos) and
missile detection (Midas) satellites are undergoing extensive flighttesting in the Discoverer test satellites."24
The Russians were not fooled by the cover, either. Neither was The New York Times. An article by an apparachik named Grigori Zhukov in the Soviet journal International Affairs in the autumn of 1960 correctly named the three observation satellites then under development, including Discoverer, and declared that "espionage satellites" were illegal. "American plans of space espionage are incompatible with the generally recognized principles and rules of international law," he said, adding that the Soviet Union had "everything necessary to paralyze United States military espionage both in the air and in outer space."25 "Air" was an allusion to the recent downing of Powers. But asserting that such capability extended to space was balderdash, at least in 1960. In any case, Zhukov's own country was well along on its own reconnaissance satellite by then.
Responding to the splashdown of Discoverer 13's capsule in the Pacific exactly one week before Discoverer 14's was snatched out of the air, The Times trumpeted the fact that it was an "important step toward the development of reconnaissance satellites that will be able to spy from space."
Discoverer 14's success was followed by others that opened a floodgate of hard intelligence on Soviet and Chinese military forces, from main battle tanks to submarines to bombers to ballistic missiles. Both nation's nuclear weapons programs would eventually be assessed down to locating uranium mines, tallying what was extracted, and calculating how much electricity it took to process and reprocess it into bomb-grade uranium and plutonium. (The last was accomplished by locating and measuring the power cables that linked the generating and reprocessing plants.) The overall space-based photo-reconnaissance program, functioning under the code-name "Keyhole," was filling in the large gaps that necessarily had been left by limited aerial penetration.4
Here, to take just one example among thousands, is an extract from a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 1961, barely a year after Discoverer 14 returned those first fuzzy pictures:
Through KEYHOLE photography over the past three months, we have positively identified three ICBM complexes under construction. Two are near Yur'ya and Yoshkar-Ola, in a region several hundred miles northeast of Moscow, and the third is near Verkhnyaya Salda in the Urals. The paired, road-served pads at these complexes closely resemble those at Tyuratam Area C. Near Kostroma, in the same general region but closer to Moscow, the photography revealed a new clearing suitable for a pair of pads, and we believe this is possibly a fourth complex similar to the others.26
By that time, the U.S. space reconnaissance program and everything connected with it had been made deep black: absolutely secret, in military and intelligence jargon.
On August 26, 1960, the day after the NRO's seed was planted, Eisenhower issued a memorandum to the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and others on the Executive Branch's highest level concerning a "TALENT-KEYHOLE Security Control System" for the handling of matters relating to aerial and space reconnaissance. "Access," the President wrote, "is to be on a 'must know' basis related to major national security needs.27 The few who were to be "indoctrinated" into the secret order -- who were to receive Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearances that went beyond Top Secret, were absolutely forbidden to share what they knew with anyone outside the tight-knit fraternity.5
Similarly, the NRO itself was so heavily shrouded in secrecy that its very name was unutterable by the initiated; even its emblem, a satellite orbiting Earth, was classified. Where outsiders were concerned, it did not exist. There were at least six reasons for pulling the shroud over space reconnaissance:
- The United States did not want to embarrass the Soviet Union by publicizing the fact that it was conducting blatant spy flights over Soviet territory, thereby needlessly running the risk of provoking an attack against its satellites at some point;
- Technical secrets had to be protected to maintain the program's effectiveness. To have provided an adversary (or certain allies) with information on how the system worked would have been to help it or them foil the system by camouflage or other means, making the whole exercise pointless;
- It was considered necessary to protect the budget from public scrutiny. Cutting edge technology involved intense development and attendant mistakes, which were necessarily expensive. By 1986, the NRO's budget was roughly $3.9 billion a year and climbing, with imaging satellites alone costing upward of $1 billion apiece.28 It's current budget, which remains classified, is roughly $7 billion.29 To invite scrutiny of the operation, it was felt, would have been to invite an attack in Congress and consequent embarrassment and disruption;
- In the same vein, secrecy enhanced bureaucratic control, enabling the military services and the CIA to protect their programs from one another and from outside interference;
Department of Defense lawyers pointed out that deliberately making public even one space reconnaissance photograph would open a floodgate of requests for more material through the Freedom of Information Act, which became law in 1966. Answering such requests would in itself consume immense amounts of time and resources. As a result, scenes that were photographed by satellites and which the intelligence community wanted to make public -- showing Soviet activity in Nicaragua in 1982,
for example -- would be rephotographed by aircraft before they were shown; 30
- Most important from a political standpoint, disclosure of reconnaissance satellite data had the potential of drastically reducing the President's ability to make viable foreign policy if the world in effect looked over his shoulder and second-guessed him as he tried to shape or respond to events. No president, Republican or Democrat, wanted to be hamstrung by citizens who could claim with at least some justification that overhead imagery proved that he was lying, stretching the truth, or simply ignorant about a given development.
Appropriately, the first President to so much as mention space reconnaissance in public was Lyndon Johnson, the space program's biggest booster. "I wouldn't want to be quoted on this," LBJ told a small group of educators in Nashville in March 1967, "but we've spent thirty-five or forty billion dollars on the space program. And if nothing else had come out of it except the knowledge we've gained from space photography, it would be worth ten times what the whole program has cost. Because tonight we know how many missiles the enemy has and, it turned out, our guesses were way off. We were doing things we didn't need to do. We were building things we didn't need to build. We were harboring fears we didn't need to harbor . "31
Indeed, overhead imaging had by then become an institutional staple for both sides' political and military programs. Reconnaissance and surveillance -- the former is active, while the latter amounts to passively observing -- would have three basic functions for both sides during the remainder of the Cold War: technical intelligence collection; targeting; and arms control monitoring and verification.
Technical intelligence collection, or TECHINT, has to do with the collection by machines of any information that is of military, political, or economic value. This extends from determining the range of a given bomber or cruise missile to the deployment of a regiment or division to wheat production in the Ukraine.
It should be noted that while the subject under discussion is limited to photographic or imaging reconnaissance, there was and remains no such limitation in the intelligence collection process itself. Both sides listened as well as watched. In fact they listened more than they watched. The U.S. eavesdropping program, which functions under the overall rubric of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, uses its own satellites to monitor foreign communication traffic in a variety of ways, ferret radar, tap into missile telemetry, measure the capability of radio signals, and more.
The best-known of the eavesdroppers (but not the first) was code-named Rhyolite and was initially launched on a fully operational mission in June 1970.6 Parked 22,300 miles out, Rhyolite used its seventy-foot-wide antenna to monitor thousands of telephone calls at a time, including those made by Soviet generals on their car phones, walkie-talkie traffic, and the missile telemetry. 32 Rhyolite intercepts, and those of its successors such as Aquacade, Chalet, Magnum, and now Orion were and continue to be processed and analyzed at the National Security Agency at Ft.Meade in Maryland.
Ironically, the paucity of photographic and signals intelligence data in the late 1950s would turn into to a deluge within twenty years, as more sophisticated and powerful platforms were launched. Managing the flood of data would itself become a nightmare.
The second basic reconnaissance mission concerned targeting. Not only did fixed military sites such as air and naval bases and missile complexes have to be pinpointed with a high degree of accuracy, but important moving targets such as warships on the high seas and army units on land had to be updated as well. The fixed-site data went into the Strategic Air Command's Strategic Library Bombing Index, a constantly updated encyclopedia of targets.
Finally, it is fair to say that there would have been no arms control agreements without both sides being able to monitor and verify the treaties. Monitoring and verification are not the same. Monitoring is the process of looking and listening: in the case of ballistic missiles, for example, of counting their launchers. Verification has to do with deciding whether the other side is living up to the terms of the treaty. It is therefore political. Monitoring may show that the opposition has two more IRBM launchers than is permitted by the treaty. Verification is the process of deciding whether such a violation should be ignored or challenged.
I carried a knife with a four-inch blade onto the plane that brought me here, for example. It was spotted -- monitored -- by the detection machine at Newark Airport. Even though that knife could be used to threaten or kill a hostage in a hijacking, the person who operated the detection machine let me keep it because, looking at me, she judged that I am just a harmless professor and did not think it worthwhile to challenge me, possibly delaying takeoff in the process. She determined that I was not going to threaten the other passengers with the knife. That was a political decision. Without monitoring machines at airports, safe air travel would be all but impossible; without them in low Earth orbit, so would arms control.
While Grigori Zhukov was feigning righteous indignation because U.S. satellites were photographing the Soviet Union in increasing detail, some of his countrymen were hurrying to launch their own reconnaissance satellites. Sergei Korolev, the genius who was responsible for the R-7 rocket that sent the first Sputniks to space, was trying to adapt the Vostok man-carrying satellite to photographic reconnaissance by 1958.7
Using Vostok as a reconnaissance satellite and a variation of the proven R-7 as its booster not only shortened the time it took to develop the system, but it reduced the number of mishaps. Like the sphere that carried Yuri Gagarin to space on July 12, 1961, Vostok's reconnaissance version was plugged into an equipment and retro-rocket section from which it would separate before parachuting to Earth.
Unlike the Discoverers and the man-carrying Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft, Vostoks came down on the steppes of Central Asia, not on the high seas. Like Discoverer, Vostok reconnaissance satellites -- named Zenit, or Zeneth -- used standard format cameras from which exposed film was spooled onto a take-up reel in an adjacent part of the satellite. Like Discoverer, the first launch attempt, on December 11, 1961, failed. In the case of Zenit, it was because the booster's third stage did not ignite, leaving the spacecraft to plummet into the wilderness between Novosibirsk and Yakutsk. Like Discoverer 2, the spacecraft that disappeared near Spitsbergen, the first Zenit was never found. The first successful launch came on April 26, 1962, when "Cosmos 4," as its cover was called, was sent into orbit. Complaints about the illegality of space reconnaissance faded with the Soviet Union's new capability.
And finally, like Discoverer, Zenit flew under the guise of a research vehicle. "Cosmos-7," which reached orbit on July 28, 1962 for a four-day photo-reconnaissance mission, was advertised as carrying "scientific equipment intended for continuing space research." Resolution at first was between ten and fifteen meters but soon reached the point at which individual automobiles could be identified. Vasily Mishin, Kololev's deputy, even bragged that the satellites could distinguish between particular makes of cars in the Pentagon parking lot.33
So could their American counterparts make such distinctions in Russian parking lots. Mishin would have had no way of knowing it, of course, but U.S. reconnaissance satellites calibrated their cameras on the white lines painted in the parking lot of the American Embassy in Moscow.34
Much has been made, and rightly so, of the role played by the U-2s that located the Soviet missiles in Cuba in the early autumn of 1962. Less well known, however, is the part played by both sides' reconnaissance satellites in that conflict. The Discoverers allowed military planners in Washington to make reasonable estimates of Soviet bomber and ICBM capability. As noted, guesses on the number of Soviet bombers and missiles turned into hard data by October 1962, with over-estimates falling by the wayside. By the same token, the Zenits (in addition to openly available data) left no doubt that the United States was absolutely serious about having the missiles removed and had the muscle to back its resolve. A look at the launch record of the time indicates that the men in the Kremlin were desperate to see what the United States was doing.
"Cosmos 9" went up on September 27 and spent four days in a low altitude, high-inclination orbit before returning four days later. "Cosmos 10" went up on October 17 -- two days after the confrontation formally began -- and returned on the 21st. The photographs that floated down after the missions, together with massive media coverage, left no doubt as to where President Kennedy stood. Khrushchev backed down.
American space reconnaissance technology established a lead in 1960 that it never relinquished. In December 1976, one of the prime components of the Buck Rogers school of astronautics went into operation. It was a reconnaissance satellite variously called the KH-11 (after its camera system),
Kennan (later versions were called Crystal), or 5501, depending on what compartment the person who had access to it was in. 8
The KH-11 could have been called Son of SAMOS because it realized the old dream. It did not drop "buckets" of film out of the sky, but instead used charge-couple devices -- essentially thousands of microscopic photo light meters -- at the end of a powerful telescope to digitally relay imagery to Earth in near real-time.9 Because the system is digital, the imagery can be manipulated to fill in holes, add dimensions, and subtract extraneous data. It can be told to search an image for a particular object or describe the part of an object obscured by cloud cover when only part of it has been imaged.35 The KH-11 best resolution, as well as that of an improved version now flying, is six inches. 10
Another of the reconnaissance establishment's oldest dreams was realized a decade later when a satellite went up that could collect imagery at night and through cloud cover. This happened in December 1987 when the first in a
series of synthetic aperture radar satellites, first named Indigo, then Lacrosse, and now something else, went into orbit.11
The military reconnaissance satellites spawned civilian counterparts: Landsat in the United; SPOT (System Probetoire d'Observation de la Terre) in France; and dedicated Cosmos and Pecypc (Resource) spacecraft in the U.S.S.R. The last, typically, is a virtual carbon copy of Zenit.36 That keeps costs down. Landsat's resolution was deliberately held to thirty meters, both to avoid charges of espionage by Third World countries and others that use its service for resource management, monitoring the environment, and various civil programs, and to prevent them from targeting the United States. I would like to turn to the civilian sector -- the "white" systems -- here because they are now merging with the black ones into a politically-painted shade of gray.
As the first reports of a major accident at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor complex in Ukraine began to come in at the end of April 1986, news organizations throughout Europe and North America began to scramble to verify the event. Proof soon turned up in the form of a videotape that showed the reactor facility, together with a large adjacent cooling pond. The tape had been made in Sweden using imagery sent down from Landsat 5, which just happened to have passed over Chernobyl immediately after the explosion. Although the stricken reactor could not be picked out with the
naked eye, the spacecraft's infrared sensor showed two apparent "hot spots," leading some television news broadcasts to report, erroneously, that there had been two meltdowns. Be that as it may, television news audiences around the world had an eagle's eye view of the accident, which was incontrovertible, and newspaper and magazine readers soon had the same.38
Whatever Chernobyl meant to the unlucky people of the region and beyond in terms of radioactive contamination, it amounted to undeniable proof that the accident had happened and that it was of major proportion. The pictures would disprove the most vehement denials and undoubtedly contributed directly to Moscow's early and detailed admission that the accident had occurred. "Those images proved to be the only independent means by which Europe and the world could pierce the veil of Soviet secrecy," Mark E. Brender of ABC News in Washington observed."39
In addition, a new remote sensing satellite with a powerful camera took to the sky within a few months of the accident. It was neither American nor Russian. SPOT was launched by the French civilian space agency, CNES, in collaboration with private interests in France, Sweden, and Belgium. It racheted up the civilian resolution sweepstakes by bringing ten meters to bear. And unlike the Americans and Russians, who had a gentleman's agreement not to embarrass each other by showing off their military systems' capability, SPOT Image Corporation, true to the Gaullist tradition, made its own rules and became a loose cannon.
Chernobyl was a public relations bonanza for SPOT Image, which quickly sold sensational high-resolution color imagery to the world's news media. On May 1, 1986, for example, NBC Nightly News used color-enhanced SPOT photographs that showed a plume of hot, contaminated air pouring out of the ruptured core and through what passed for the WER power reactor's containment structure.
There was nothing the United States could do to prevent SPOT Image from selling whatever pictures it wanted, though it is clear that some agreement exists between the United States Government and SPOT Image to avoid
photographing sensitive Western targets. In that regard, both SPOT and Landsat imagery was used during the Persian Gulf War by the U.S. and its allies but was not made public. Where the news media were concerned, SPOT and Landsat went off the air, thereby depriving Iraq of a potentially devastating space reconnaissance capability.
SPOT also photographed other nation's military installations. And they happened to be Soviet. SPOT imagery captured a submarine base on the Berents Sea, for example, and a laser development site, the Tyuratam space launch facility, the huge northern fleet headquarters at Severomorsk, and the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.40 Even the Pentagon became a regular SPOT client. It bought a black and white photograph of a large phased array ballistic missile early warning radar under construction at Pechora, for example, and ran it in the 1987 edition of its annual inventory of the Soviet arsenal, Soviet Military Power (page 49).
Nor was propaganda the Pentagon's only motive for buying French imagery. It was purchasing it in considerable quantity because the ten-meter resolution was militarily useful and therefore supplemented the Keyhole data, which were tremendously expensive to collect. In many cases, ten-meter resolution was perfectly adequate. A vice president of SPOT Image vice president who briefed a Defense Intelligence Agency conference in Maryland in 1987, for example, showed pictures of an Iraqi tank depot that had been attacked by Iranian forces the day before. The Iraqis denied that the attack had taken place, while the Iranians claimed that it was more devastating than was the case. "You can see the integrity of the tanks in terms of those which haven't been hit, and those which have," he said. At a maximum of $1,800 a picture, such images were a true bargain.41
Pentagonians would have been deeply ambivalent about the avalanche of unprecedented data on Soviet facilities flowing into the public domain because of SPOT. On the one hand, it drew attention to Soviet military and space capabilities, which was useful for informing the public and increasing appropriations. On the other, SPOT's camera could just as easily be pointed indirections that Washington would find discomforting. The underlying point,
however, is that SPOT broke the resolution barrier once and for all and in the process started a chain reaction that is now accelerating.
Even the cash-strapped Russians got into the act even before the first flushes of perestroika. Representatives of Soyuzcarta, a trading company that was set up specifically to market space imagery, passed out sales brochures at a photogrammetry and remote sensing colloquium in Leipzig during the first week of September 1987. The Russians said that black and white prints taken by their KFA-1000 space camera were available for only $722 each ($888 for color). The KFA-1000 also managed to push the resolution race down to six meters, and possibly five. 42
France responded in 1989 by announcing that it was planning a satellite that would use synthetic aperture radar to provide all-weather and night capability at resolutions of between two and fifty meters.43 Three years later SPOT Image revealed plans for SPOT 5, which is scheduled to provide five-meter resolution at the turn of the century.44 If French space agency explained why it is important to monitor soybeans, timber stands, or soil erosion in the middle of the night or through cloud cover it went unreported.
In 1992 it was the Russians' turn again, this time with the advent of commercial two-meter imagery from the advanced KVR-1000 camera. The availability of these high-resolution pictures has been spotty, reflecting apparent concern about their military uses. A request by a Lawrence Livermore researcher for KVR-1000 imagery of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility, the city of Sarajevo, and the Chinese nuclear test area at Lop Nor were denied by the Russians on national security grounds.45
For its part, the nation that pioneered space-based Earth observation and remained on the advanced edge in military systems, wallowed in the civilian sector. Landsat was turned over to a firm, the Earth Observation Satellite Company (Eosat) in 1985 at the insistence of the Reagan Administration. The ensuing years were very troubled for the program, which floundered on a sea of unprofitability and indifference or hostility on the part of a number of government agencies, including Commerce, NASA, and the Air Force. With
Eosat unable to finance the construction and operation of the satellites with funds from picture sales -- its French and Russian competition was and remains government-subsidized -- Landsat development and operations remained in government hands while the company continued to market imagery.
Given the nature of the competition, it was finally decided to provide Landsat 6, which was launched on October 5, 1993, with fifteen-meter resolution. That was still not competitive with the European and Russian satellites. But it turned out to be moot because the multimillion dollar spacecraft vanished shortly after launch and later turned up at the bottom of the Pacific.46
Whatever Landsat's dreary prospects, the end of the Cold War signaled a revolution in the dissemination of increasingly high quality space-based imagery, with the old rigorously-guarded security system opening under economic pressure both in the United States and elsewhere.
By the spring of 1994, China, India, Israel, Japan, and South Africa were flying observation satellites or were close to doing so, and Canada, North Korea and Taiwan appeared eager to follow suit.47 France, in conjunction with a handful of European partners, was poised to launch a dedicated military reconnaissance satellite called Helios and had a radar reconnaissance model on the drawing board. Space-based observation for war and peace -- all but combined in single platforms -- was in the early stages of a revolutionary change. Dual-use technology transfer now had an analog: dual-use space data transfer.
While Landsat foundered as a virtual orphan, post-cold war layoffs loomed in the aerospace industry, calling to mind the grim ghosts of the fabled Ph.D.s who drove taxis during the post Apollo shakeout. Meanwhile, the Electronic Industries Association was predicting that the remote sensing market in all of its permutations was going to grow from $12.5 billion to $17.16 billion during the following decade. Companies such as Lockheed Missiles and Space reacted by pressuring Congress and the White House to radically
loosen security restrictions on space reconnaissance systems.48 A Lockheed-Martin vice president told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that his company's satellite, the Commercial Remote Sensing System (CRSS), could "sustain" more than 700 jobs.49 John McMahon, the president of the company, warned the committee that "The question for the future is not whether there will be one-meter satellite imagery available commercially -- it will happen -- but rather will it be provided by U.S. companies or other foreign sources ." 50
Accordingly, the White House approved a radical policy change on March 9, 1994 that allowed U.S. companies to build and launch private observation satellites that would return imagery with one-meter or better resolution. Lockheed-Martin and other firms, including a three-company consortium that named itself Eyeglass, announced plans to produce what would amount to private spy satellites.51 Space reconnaissance was coming in from the cold after thirty-five years.
The planet is now entering an age of what is literally selfexamination on an unprecedented scale. I would like to concentrate on this development's military and political dimensions. One-meter resolution imagery, an expensive proposition when the purchase of a $1 billion-or-so satellite is included, can pay off for a southern nation (as Third World countries are now being called) that wants to collect intelligence or fix targets. It is a very poor investment for counting heads of lettuce or following schools of tuna.
As space-based reconnaissance and surveillance proliferate, so do the rules by which the developers of the technology spread it around. The French Government responded to President Clinton's directive by announcing that it, too, would be willing to sell imaging satellites to other countries, but only to
"friendly" ones and with the proviso that it can switch off the spacecraft whenever its chooses to do so.52
Space Imaging International, Lockheed-Martin's marketing subsidiary, then proposed to build an observation satellite for Germany (potentially cutting into the Helios deal with France). Unlike other reconnaissance satellites built for foreign governments, which are supposed to remain under U.S. control, Space Imaging said that it in effect wanted to hand over the satellite's keys with the spacecraft itself. It would only reserve the right to take over operation of the platform during extreme emergencies and, for good measure, it promised to make Germany agree to restrict it to German use.53 Other satellite sales to foreign purchasers are supposed to be decided by the government on a case by case basis. Before it became defunct, Eyeglass International, which wanted to form an alliance with a Saudi Arabian company, guaranteed that it would not take satellite pictures of Israel.54 The idea in all cases is that the transfer of data to undesirables can be effectively curtailed by applying stringent rules as to who is to get what.
This will have a familiar ring to anyone who follows superweapon proliferation. The Department of Commerce tried to apply similar standards to weapon technology transfers throughout the last two decades of the Cold War with distinctly limited success. For one thing, the barriers were porous, especially where such ambiguous technologies as computers and rocket technology were concerned. For another, the definition of "undesirable" can be ambiguous and, what is more, it changes. We learned that much -- or should have -- after backing Iraq in the 1980-1988 war with Iran. During that war, not uncoincidentally, we shared reconnaissance satellite data with the Iraqis that taught them to conceal mobile Scuds and other weapons during Desert Storm.
Far more important, nations that were excluded from the superweapon club by its founding members not only painstakingly developed an indigenous capacity to create their own versions of what the industrial giants had, but started international cartels to produce and market them. Saddam Hussein was the beneficiary of Condor missile technology, to take only one example,
that was bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, designed by Germans in Switzerland and Egypt, and tested in Argentina.55 Iraq, India, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa proved that any resourceful nation that is determined to acquire nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles can do so.
Similarly, high resolution imagery of any city or region fits equally well into land-use, environmental, intelligence, or target folders. A request for high-resolution imagery of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, ostensibly to be used for photogrammetry -- map-making -- could in fact be headed for the target folder of a country that wants to dislodge the Chinese from that stretch of ocean and the oil beneath it. Japan is at the top of that list and is not only developing its own reconnaissance and surveillance satellites, but has had offers from U.S. firms to provide still others. 56
None of this will be a problem in the short term because those who sell the spacecraft will be able to monitor how they are used and intervene if they are not used according to the sales contract. Yet there is an obvious long-term problem. If the whole point of investing in a reconnaissance satellite is to achieve flexible, independent, operation -- to be able to collect whatever data is required for national security -- then buyers can be expected to resist overriding restrictions in the long run and try to thwart them. The ultimate way of getting around the restrictions is to either have a supplier provide a fully independent system or to create it indigenously.
And those systems will have to operate in real-time if they are to be fully useful. The biggest challenge facing the collectors of space-based reconnaissance in the next century will be the fluid nature of the targets. "... in the past, when the Soviets started building a new family of missile silos it was reasonable to task our collection resources against these locations with fairly long intervals between collects. That kind of construction took a while, and silos don't move very far once they've been dug," Jeffrey K. Harris, the director of the NRO, has noted. "In today's environment, and tomorrow's, the rate of change will not wait for such long intervals between tasking. Mobile missiles and guerrillas are -- no kidding -- very hard to locate. And
once you do locate them, they're gone in a flash and locating them again means starting all over."57
Certainly that was true in the Persian Gulf War, which the Air Force has repeatedly characterized as the "first space war" because of heavy reliance on space systems such as reconnaissance, communication, and ballistic missile early warning satellites. Indeed, during a four-day period preceding Desert Storm, the Army and the Air Force waged their own battle over whether the electro-optical platforms were going to update maps of the area for the Army or send down intelligence for the Air Force and Navy. General Schwarzkopf got his maps.58
Real-time intelligence has become so important that the U.S. military has contracted with SPOT for a $5 million "Eagle Vision" system that will allow ground units in the field to pull in SPOT imagery almost instantaneously. The Army used SPOT imagery extensively during the Gulf War but it took several days to relay the photographs from space to Washington and then, by plane, to Saudi Arabia. Eagle Vision trailers sprouting three-and-a-halfmeter antennas will allow field commanders to watch the enemy on television as it deploys and take suitable countermeasures.59
Real-time capability will spread in the next millennium, first through imagery sales and, eventually, through the satellites themselves. And it will be more difficult to control by the very nature of its speed. While France has decided not to sell imagery with a resolution greater than five meters because it considers it militarily useful, it is feared that Russia will go even better than a meter.60 Faced with so many layoffs -- an estimated 95,000 -- that the very integrity of its space operations are in doubt, the CIA has concluded that Russia could very well begin selling imagery with three-quarters of a meter resolution. While Soyuzcarta's customers have to wait from three to nine months or more to get specially-taken pictures (as opposed to those pulled off the shelf), the sharper imagery comes from real-time reconnaissance. That, of course, could be delivered quickly.61 And doing so will put pressure on the reluctant French to abandon their principles to the requirements of the marketplace.
Overall, I think that the commercialization and subsequent proliferation of space-based reconnaissance and surveillance systems carries more reason for hope than for despair, though the crystal ball is as cloudy as ever.
To believe that truth will out is to believe that multiple eyes in space will exert a profound, perhaps ultimately decisive, influence on political and military affairs. If space observation can be used for nefarious purposes, those doing so can in turn be observed with similar systems and then thwarted in a number of ways.
Nor is it likely that possession of such systems or their data will force the art of camouflage and concealment to the point at which troublemakers, outlaws, warlords, and butchers can effectively mask their deeds. Having said that Iraq was able to hide its mobile Scud launchers because it had prior access to reconnaissance imagery, I should add that such access did almost nothing to save that country's overall war-making capability from severe and highly effective attack. Even hiding nuclear and missile development facilities under ground and in caves did not protect them from the skilled photo-interpreter's eye and from the computer's prodigious capacity to scan, scrutinize, and make associations.
I believe that broad access to such imagery will go far in keeping politicians and generals more honest than they are at present. I mentioned earlier that the most compelling reason for keeping space reconnaissance data secret is the compulsion to assure the president's or any leader's ability to conduct foreign policy without being contradicted by photographs. On the other hand, the mere possibility that such photographs could be taken and appear in the news media should help to inhibit blatantly false or irresponsible political action. No leader would want to risk being proven a liar by cameras in space for saying, for example, that a foreign military threat was imminent when such an accusation was demonstrably false. I believe the availability of
space imagery in near-real-time will have a long-term stabilizing effect on the conduct of international relations.
At the end of the political extreme there are the instances of mass murder and devastation that are perpetrated by governments which are not easily otherwise held accountable for their actions. An event that took place in the Kasaba/Konjevic Polje area of Bosnia in mid-July, just after the enclave of Srebrenica had been overrun by Bosnian Serbs, should help make the point. Far from being an isolated event, what happened was all too common in the conflict there, and typical of others that extend from Cambodia to Rwanda. What was not common was the fact that the event -- a massacre -- was photographed from space before and after it happened.
On July 13 or 14 a U.S. reconnaissance satellite downlinked imagery showing several hundred people gathered at a soccer field in the area. A U-2 sent over the area a few days later returned with photographs showing two "recently disturbed" sections of soil which were not in the satellite pictures, together with clearly visible heavy vehicle tracks that went between the overturned earth and a road. Photo-interpreters concluded that the people -- men and boys of military age -- had been gunned down by their captors and then trucked the short distance to their mass grave.
A sixty-three-year-old Bosnian Muslim man who said he had been left for dead under the corpses and then escaped from the Serbs was reported to have corroborated what the imagery indicated. It was further corroborated by David Rohde of The Christian Science Monitor who reported seeing excrement, dried blood and bullet holes in a nearby building and part of a human leg protruding from the freshly dug soil. The eye witness descriptions provided a "ground truth," in the language of remote sensing.
The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine K. Albright, showed both the satellite and U-2 pictures to a closed session of the Security Council, prompting one of its members to call them "quite persuasive." A story about the mass killing appeared in The New York Times on August 10, followed by a second, complete with one of the U-2 pictures, the next day. One
official was emphatic in explaining that release of the pictures "put some pressure on the Serbs and shows people we are watching them."62 One intelligence expert reacted by saying that what the Serbs probably learned from the experience was to drop their victims down mine shafts instead of burying them."63 But groups can be photographed near mine shafts, too, as well as at other extermination sites. They were photographed in proximity of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp's gas chambers and crematoriums in August 1944 by U.S. reconnaissance planes operating out of Italy.64
The institutional use of space imagery for such purposes could have a salutary effect in reducing genocide and other atrocities if those who want to commit them know that there is a real possibility the events will be recorded by machines they can't see but which can see them quite clearly. And the more such machines there are, the more difficult it will be to conceal foul play from public scrutiny. Overhead reconnaissance is far from perfect and it always will be. Inspired technical collection systems inspire inspired countermeasures and they always will. But the eyes in the sky have always had the advantage and I believe they always will.
1. Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship (SM-11827), Santa Monica: Douglas Aircraft Company, May 2, 1946, p. 10. The Santa Monica Engineering Group that produced the report became the Rand Corporation in 1948.
2. J. E. Lipp, et. al., "Utility of a Satellite Vehicle for Reconnaissance," R-217, Santa Monica: The RAND Corporation, April 1951.
3. Discussion with the author on August 12, 1981.
4. Discussion with the author on May 23, 1984.
5. William E. Burrows, "Beyond the Iron Curtain," Air & Space, September 1994, pp. 27-35.
6. James R. Killian Jr., Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1977, p. 84.
7. Douglas Aircraft Company, Santa Monica Plant, Engineering Division, "Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship," SM-11827, May 2, 1946, p. 10.
8. Merton E. Davies and William R. Harris, RAND's Role in the Evolution of Balloon and Satellite Observation Systems and Related U.S. Space Technology, R-3692-RC, Santa Monica: The RAND Corporation, September 1988, p. 14. For weather reconnaissance, see: "Inquiry into the Feasibility of Weather Reconnaissance From a Satellite Vehicle," R-218, Santa Monica: the RAND Corporation, April 1951.
9. Jeffrey T. Richelson, America's Secret Eyes in Space, New York: Ballinger, 1990, pp. 26, 41, 65-66, 77-78, 112 (Corona); pp. 44, 48, 49-53, 60 (SAMOS); pp. 29, 49-50, 55 (MIDAS).
10. Author interview on June 2, 1984.
11. Kevin C. Ruffner, ed., CORONA: America's First Satellite Program, Washington: Center for the Study of Intelligence, CIA, 1995, p. 2.
12. Department of Defense, Memorandum for Correspondents, No. 264-M, September 18, 1992.
13. Ibid. Enabling documents include a letter of agreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence dated September 6, 1961 and Department of Defense Directive TS 5105.23, National Reconnaissance Office, of June 14, 1962 as superseded by a second directive of March 27, 1964.
14. Letter from Gen. Schriever to Gen. LeMay of December 26, 1963, a copy of which is in the possession of the author.
15. Amrom H. Katz, "An Air Force Weather Satellite -- Why and How," SOFS-STRAT-RECCE-1, Santa Monica: the RAND Corporation, March 31, 1959, p. 5.
16. Author interview.
17. Author interview on April 17, 1984.
18. Author interview.
19. CORONA, op. cit. p. 20.
20. CORONA, op. cit., p. 17.
21. Eric Burgess, Long-Range Ballistic Missiles, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1961, pp. 217-19.
22. "Agena B to Put Samos, Midas in Orbit," Aviation Week, February 8, 1960, p. 73.
23. "First Capsule Recovered From Satellite," Aviation Week, August 22, 1960, p. 33.
24. "Discoverer Tests Samos, Midas Guidance," Aviation Week, January 16, 1961, p. 88.
25. James Oberg, "The First Soviet Spy Satellite," AIR FORCE Magazine, July 1995, p. 82.
26. Corona: America's First Satellite Program p. 137.
27. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum for the Secretary of State, et. al., Corona: America's First Satellite Program, op. cit., p. 75.
28. Federation of American Scientists estimate in 1985 dollars.
29. From a knowledgeable source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
30. B. R. Inman, "Introduction," Michael Krepon, et. al., eds., Commercial Observation Satellites and International Security, London: MacMillan Press, 1990, p. 5
31. "Satellite Spying Cited by Johnson," The New York Times, March 17, 1967.
32. James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1982, pp. 195-98; Jeffrey T. Richelson, American Espionage and the Soviet Target, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1987, pp. 224-27, Robert Lindsey, The Falcon and the Snowman, New York: Pocket Books, 1979, pp. 61-62.
33. The First Soviet Spy Satellite, op. cit., pp. 82-83.
34. Author interview with Merton E. Davies on January 4, 1989.
35. Deep Black, op. cit., pp. 225-29.
36. A. E. Lazarev, et. al., Cosmos, St. Petersburg: Gedrometazdat, 1993, pp. 51-52 (in Russian).
37. Kit Johnston and Linda Billings, "The Image Analysts," Washington Journalism Review, November 1987, pp. 38 and 40.
38. "Deadly Meltdown," Time, May 12, 1986, pp. 38-39 and "Stark Fallout," U.S. News & World Report, May 12, 1986, p. 19, for example.
39. Mark E. Brender, "Remote sensing and the First Amendment," pace Policy, November 1987, p. 293.
40. "Spot Photographs Secret Base For USSR Nuclear Submarines," Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 20, 1987, pp. 18-19; "Soviet Strategic Laser Sites Imaged by French Spot Satellite," Aviation Week & Space Technology, October 26, 1987, pp. 26-27; "Soviet Space Shuttle Facilities At Tyuratam Imaged by French Spot," Aviation Week & Space Technology, September 1, 1986, pp. 42-43; "French Spot Satellite Shows Soviet Northern Fleet Facilities," Aviation Week & Space Technology, March 2, 1987, pp. 44-45; "Photos Said to Show New Activity At Main Soviet Nuclear Test Site," The New York Times, August 4, 1986.
41. "Private Cameras in Space Stir U.S. Security Fears," The New York Times, August 25, 1987.
42. Memorandum from F. J. Doyle, Senior Advisor for Cartography, U.S. Department of the Interior, on Soyuz Karta and USSR Space Photography, September 14, 1987.
43. "France Defines Satellite To Complement Spot Series," Aviation Week & Space Technology, October 23, 1989, p. 48.
44. "Spot Image Plans Better Resolution On Next Generation of Satellites," Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 15, 1992, p. 94.
45. Vipin Gupta, "New Satellite Images for Sale: the Opportunities and Risks Ahead," UCRL-ID-118140, CSTS-47-94, Center for Security and Technology Studies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, September 28, 1994, p. 4.
46. "Landsat 6 Launch Sends Ripples," Space News, October 18-24, 1993, p. 10.
47. "High Resolution Imagery Seen As Threat, Opportunity," Aviation Week & Space Technology, May 23, 1994, p. 51.
48. "In Orbit," Aviation Week & Space Technology, October 31, 1994.
49. "Lawmakers Warn Clinton on Satellite Imagery Sales," Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 22, 1993, p. 38.
50. "Lockheed Plans To Market Spy-Quality Imagery," Space News, June 14-20, 1993.
51. "Image Policy Opens New Market for U.S.," Space News, March 14-20, 1994.
52. "Spy Satellites for Sale," Space News, March 13-19, 1995.
53. "Lockheed Offers Spy Satellite to Germany," Space News, April 3-9, 1995.
54. "Eyeglass To refrain From Photographing Israel, Space News, November 7-13, 1994, p. 3.
55. William E. Burrows and Robert Windrem, Critical Mass, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994, pp. 466-80.
56. "JDA Seeks Spy Satellite Imagery," Space News, May 15-21, 1995, p. 8.
57. Jeffrey K. Harris, "The Future of Space Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance," address to the National Space Club, June 20, 1995.
58. Interview with an individual who requested anonymity.
59. "U.S. Military To Receive First Mobile SPOT Station," Space News, May 2-8, 1994, p. 4.
60. "Spy Satellites for Sale," Space News, March 123-19, 1995
61. "High-Resolution Imagery Seen As Threat, Opportunity," Aviation Week & Space Technology, May 23, 1994, p. 51; "95,000 Russian Layoffs, Launch Breakdown Feared," Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 15, 1993, p. 27.
62. "Spy Photos Indicate Mass Grave At Serb-Held Town, U.S. Says," The New York Times, August 10, 1995; "U.S. Seeks to Prove Mass Killings," The New York Times, August 11, 1995. Rohde's account: "From Overrun Enclave, New Evidence of Mass Killings," The New York Times, August 19, 1995.
63. A highly knowledgeable source.
64. Col. Roy M. Stanley II, World War II Photo Intelligence, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981, p. 349.