Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NEXT STEP IN DRONE ORGANIZING - TALKING ABOUT THE SATELLITES & GROUND STATIONS


Someone has subscribed me to the magazine called The Atlantic.  I don't know who it was.  I used to read The Atlantic back in the 1970's while in the military, before I knew much about alternative media sources.  I'd say it's a centrist publication - Clinton and Obama Democratic Party with Cadillac car ads.

The cover story in the edition that arrived in my mailbox today is called Drone Warrior: Has it Become Too Easy for a President to Kill?  The article raises many good questions but then gives Obama a pass at the end by concluding, "Obama's efforts to mitigate the use of drones have already made a big difference in reducing the number of strikes...."

The author of the article, Mark Bowden, also reports on Gorgon Stare.  He writes:

Drones collect three primary packages of data: straight visual; infrared (via a heat-sensing camera that can see through darkness and clouds); and what is called SIGINT (Signals Intelligence), gathered via electronic eavesdropping devices and other sensors.  One such device is known as LIDAR (a combination of the words light and radar), which can map large areas in 3-D.  The optical sensors are so good, and the pixel array so dense, that the device an zoom in clearly on objects only inches wide from well over 15,000 feet above.  With computer enhancement to eliminate distortion and counteract motion, facial-recognition software is very close to being able to pick individuals out of crowds.  Operators do not even have to know exactly where to look.

"We put in the theatre [in 2011] a system called Gorgon Stare," Lt. General Larry James, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, told me.  "Instead of one soda-straw-size view of the world with the camera, we put essentially 10 cameras ganged together, and it gives you a very wide area of view of about four kilometers by four kilometers - about the size of the city of Fairfax, [Virginia] - that you can watch continuously.  Not as much fidelity in terms of what the camera can see, but I can see movement of cars and people - those sorts of things.  Now, instead of staring at a small space, which may be, like, a villa or compound, I can look at a whole city continuously for as long as I am flying that particular [drone] system."
In another part of the article Bowden quotes James Poss, a retired Air Force major general who helped oversee the Predator drone's development.  Poss says he is tired of the fascination with the drone vehicle itself and wants people to understand that cut off from its satellite links and its data processors the drone is basically worthless.  This is an important point because I think many anti-drone activists today concentrate nearly solely on the drone plane and talk (or maybe even know) little about the entire military satellite system in space and/or the downlink station network around the globe that basically fly the drones.

The satellites are very expensive to build and the rockets that launch them into space are not cheap either.  I've taken to calling the satellites that make drones possible the triggers.  It would help the public become more anti-drone if they had a better understanding of just how expensive and deadly this whole system really is.  And once the public has a better understanding just how systems like Gorgon Stare can be used here at home to monitor the American people they will move even more rapidly into opposition.

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