Monday, August 22, 2005

Panic stations at the National Post

Al-Qaeda is out to destroy us through our satellites. So warns the National Post in a front-page story today.

Western civilization depends on its communications satellites, weather satellites, GPS satellites, and spy satellites—yes, there is a SIGINT link to this story—and Al-Qaeda is poised to knock them out. Access to just a couple of nuclear bombs and the rockets to lift them to orbital altitudes would really mess up our satellites, with disastrous consequences for everyone.

And that's not the only way to do us in. Just destroying the GPS satellites, "an attractive but complicated target," would mean the end of life as we know it: "While GPS could be destroyed bird by bird, with lasers or RF beams, the ground stations make better targets, with the same result—24 lumps of scrap metal orbiting a dark, cold, silent planet."

(So look out, Schriever Air Force Base, if the mutant Sea Bass with frickin' laser beams don't take out GPS, Al and the boys will be coming for you.)

Alternatively, just a few dozen space launchers and a whole lot of ball bearings...

I mean, WTF? Except for one dubious claim in the second-last sentence of the article—terrorists in the Chechnya area purportedly "have the capacity for hijacking satellites" (and, who knows, maybe someday it will occur to them to demonstrate such a capability)—there isn't a shred of evidence cited to support the article's central claim that Al-Qaeda is after our sats.

Hasn't the National Post got anything better to do than write crummy Tom Clancy plots?

And speaking of Tom Clancy, at least he sometimes gets some of the technology right. This piece of dreck falls for the Omniscient SIGINT Agencies mythology.

  • "Echelon, satellite-based and operated by the National Security Agency, gives the United States the capacity to monitor every cellphone conversation and e-mail exchange in the world."

  • "The U.S. National Security Agency is guaranteed access to Canadian domestic conversations—yours, mine—as well as access to conversations in other countries by a 1948 agreement called UKUSA."

  • The TRUMPET satellites "were launched by the U.S. exclusively to monitor cellphones." I particularly enjoyed this bit: "Some SIGINTs fly low and others high, and when a Trumpet is in a low orbit you can actually see it coming up over the horizon."

  • It has always been my opinion that the National Post is run by, written by, and presumably subscribed to primarily by ignoramuses, but, damn, this has to set a new record in the annals of the abominable.


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I agree! A sham of an article...

    August 29, 2005 12:02 am  
    Blogger Bill Robinson said...

    Hey, a comment!

    I believe yours is the first comment anyone has left on my blog, and it's a favourable one too.


    (Now I'm off to reconfigure the settings on this blog-thing: I thought it was supposed to tell me when somebody had left a comment...)

    September 07, 2005 2:07 am  

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