Spy Satellites

"Damn the Torpedoes," by Loring Wirbel, from p. 134 of the June 6, 1994, [WWW]Electronic Engineering Times:

... the little-noted launch of a gargantuan satellite from Cape Canaveral on May 3.

The $1.5 billion satellite is a joint project of the NSA and the National Reconaissance Office (NRO). At five tons, it is heavy enough to have required every bit of thrust its Titan IV launcher could provide -- and despite the boost, it still did enough damage to the launch-pad water main to render the facility unusable for two months.

The satellite is variously known as Mentor, Jeroboam and Big Bertha, and it has an antenna larger than a football field to carry out "hyper-spectral analysis" -- Reconnaissance buzzwords for real-time analysis of communications in a very wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum ...

Mentor surprised space analysts by moving into a geostationary orbit. Geostationary orbit allows the satellite to "park" over a certain sector of the earth.

This first satellite in a planned series was heading for the Ural Mountains in Russia at last notice. Additional launches planned for late 1994 will park future Mentors over the Western Hemisphere.

According to John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists, those satellites will likely be controlled from Buckley Field (Aurora, Colorado), an NSA/Reconnaissance downlink base slated to become this hemisphere's largest intelligence base in the 1990s.

Multiple Mentors will make it easy for technical intellicence agencies to perform an unannounced "breakout" from their pledges to refrain from domestic surveillance. That is in addition to mandated use of Clipper and the Digital Signature Standard -- a requirement that will give the NSA and National Reconaissance Office the capability in theory, if not in practice -- to monitor all Internet and National Information Infrastructure traffic anywhere in the world. Given the ambitions of the NSA and Reconaissance, Clipper's opponents may have confined their arguments to too limited a scope.