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December 22, 2016
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December 2, 2011
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March 1, 1985
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ST"T ~ Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 -? i pRT I CI,B OlI P>GE~9 On the evening of June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold was flying his private plane near the Cascade Mountains in Washington State when he saw a sight he was never to forget. As he recounted later. he spotted nine very bright objects flying in what ap- peared to be a chain formation. Each about the size of a DC-3 transport plane, the objects passed within several miles of Arnold's plane at a very high speed. Arnold had never seen anything like it, and later, in trying to describe how the objects flew. he used the simile "like sau- cers skipping across water." That interesting turn of phrase some- how became "flying saucers" in news- paperese (although Arnold himself never used the term), and thus was born an expression that later passed into the lan- guage. More importantly, Arnold's sight- ing,'the first such incident in a long list of similar sightings that went on for years. set oft the flying saucer craze-the be- lief, still held by many, that alien space- ships regularly visit this planet. But only a handful of people knew ex- actly what Arnold had seen. They knew that he had inadvertently spotted Amer- ica's most secret intelligence operation. How all this came to be is a story of some complexity. It is fundamentally a story of human ingenuity, for the private pilot's accidental peek into the murky world of espionage afforded only a tiny view of the most important part of that world, technical intelligence. And it is technical intelligence, still in its infancy that day back in 1947, that has come to dominate all modern espionage. The effect has been revolutionary: The United States has constructed an elab- orate technical spying system-this country's chief eyes and ears-un- dreamed of in the long history of the world's second-oldest profession. Kenneth Arnold knew nothing of this when he accidentally stumbled across part of the secret 38 years ago. Nor did he know that he had seen, at least in part, the collective genius of a Japanese bal- loonist, an irascible American aircraft de- signer, and a college dropout who was determined to prove the experts wrong. PEiQTHOUSE March 19$5 r:~ Together, they helped to develop an unrivaled system that has not only come to assume virtually all the functions of American intelligence, but has caused the traditional cloak-and-dagger human spy to all but disappear. That quaint practi- tioner of espionage has been supplanted by a huge web of electronic and other technical systems that promise fulfill- ment of the ancient dream of all espio- nage: specific, unequivocal, and de- tailed intelligence, safely beyond the reach of anyone trying to intercept it. So much for the dream-the reality is quite something else. For however won- drous and all-encompassing modern in- telligence technology might be, it has proven unable to answer intelligence questions with certitude. And ironically enough, the more detailed, accurate, and sweeping these technical systems, the more arguments they seem to incite about just what they are seeing (and whether they have seen everything worth seeing). What has happened ~s what no one could have ant~c~pated rn 1947-mclud- mg. as we shall see. the creation of the hying saucer craze Modern techn,cal intelf~gence was born in the great BnUSh aerial reconnaissance and photo-interpretation operaUOn of World War II By comparison. U S tech- nical ~nte!l~gence at the beginning of the war was somewhere ~n the Dark Ages A crash program put the United States ~n the forefront of aerial reconnaissance al- most overn,ght The key to that ach~eve- menl lay m the American bases ranging Germany and German-occupied lerri- i tory From those bases: the Americans could fly missions and return. That ad- vantage disappeared with the advent of the Cold? War. even the newest-model planes had no hope o1 carrying out unes- corted strategic reconnaissance m~s- s1ons (journeys several thousand.m~les long) over Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The Red Air Force was large and alert, backed by ground-based radar. it was capable of checkmating any recon- na~ssance overflight. Yef the need for such reconnaissance was growing more acute The answer. obviously. was some sort of airborne platform that could overfly the vast d~s- tances of the Soviet Union out of range of fighter planes. take pictures. and re- turn safely to base. The most advanced U.S reconnaissance aircraft o1 the post- war period. the RB-47 (essenf~ally a souped-up reconnaissance version of the B-47 let bomber). carved seven prec~- s~on cameras. which. operating autp- mahcally could photograph one million square m~~es of territory during a ihree- hour flight. recording a step 490 miles wide by 2 700 miles long But the Soviet Union s most important strategic iac~lrt~es-their largest military a~rf~elCs nuclear testing saes. major ~n- dustnes etc -lay thousands of miles in- IanC however ~mpresswe the RB-47 s capab~l~t~es ~t could not possibly get p~c- tures of those saes without overflying the Soviet interior And that. given the for- m~oable Soviet defenses. was not 1eas~- ble How. then, could ~t be done? Irk 1933. Re~k~ch~ Rada was named head of the Japanese military s Sc~enhf~c Lab- oratory. which (among other ass~gn- ments) was trying to solve the problem df how ro bomb enemy targets at rnter- Continental ranges No foreseeable de- velopmen? in airplane technology seemed capable of producing such an aircraft. so Rada hit upon an innovative idea Bal- loons would be armed with bombs and th2n sent to drift into enemy territory. where the bombs would be automal~cally released. Alter Pearl Harbor, Rada was eager to demonstrate that his idea would work. With. prevailing winds unique to Japan. he discovered that a balloon launched from Japan s east coast could drift 6.200 miles to the United States' west coast. Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 _CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 /~ Next. Racy deve~oped an ~ngen~ous au- tomaUC s~~stcm `or the balloon that ;copped ballast 'o keep the bal'~oon at a Constant al;?udp Curing the `light. then loosed an ~..^?cenc~a~y or other type o1 bomb as the banoon settled to earth somewhere ~n the United States The Rar,a designed balloons were launched eastward m me fall of 1944. Operation Fu-Gb as the Japanese called ~t was on As the v,~orld s'irs' miercont~nen;al mil- rtary attack Fu-Go was not a gl~ttenng success- although ~t did cause some panic ~n Amencan ~ntell~gence which clamped down a ngnt Ind of secrecy m order to prevent the Japanese from learning whether ;heu balloon attacks were successful The first balloons be- gan iloat~nd over the UniteC States in November 1944. and by Apnl of the fol- lowmg year. when ;he Japanese gave up Fu-Go a total of 285 balloons had been spotted Most had been intercepted over the ocean or malfunctioned, although one woman and her five children were killed ~n Oregon when a Fu-Go bomb ex- ploded. The Japanese had launched nearly 4.000 of the balloons toward the U S mainland, and, gwen the fact that only a small percentage o` them ever reached their ;arge; Fu-Go was a failure. The failure. however, was only m mili- tary terms. From an rntell~gence stand- po~nt. Fu-Go was asuccess-at least to in a diffused rainbow of colors. More sig- nificantly, in the context of the curious role Skyhook was to play later on, the balloon also changed shape as it rode into less dense air and its helium gas filled out. The balloon would change from an ice- cream-cone shape to anear-circle; then, as it moved violently in the winds of the upper atmosphere, it would become al- most saucer-shaped. The tendency of Skyhook to change shape, especially into the form of what appeared to be a saucer, caused a major and unanticipated headache in the Moby Dick program. One of the initial test flights of Skyhook in 1941 was spotted by Ken- neth Arnold, and the flying saucer scare was on. As the people running Moby Dick were aware, the sightings almost per- fectly described what happened to the Skyhook balloon as it encountered the strong winds of the upper atmosphere: The balloon flattened out in the shape of a saucer and was yanked around vio- lently, while reflecting sunlight in shades of blue, red, and green. In other words, a classic flying saucer (or, later, "UFO") report. The flying saucer scare became seri- ous. In 1948, an Air Force pilot was killed while chasing a mysterious UFO (ac- tually aSkyhook test flight), and there was no end of reported UFO sightings. The difficulty was that no one who knew any- thing about Moby Dick could discuss the program publicly, for by that time it had A stable, safe platform was needed, something that not only would be imper- vious to the Soviet air-defense system, but also would not risk the lives of valu- able pilots. Soviet defenses were begin- ning to exact a high price for intelligence- gathering flights. By 1948, 40 American planes had been shot down while flying along or across the Iron Curtain, forcing reconnaissance missions to become in- creasingly cautious. The trend was ob- vious: As Soviet radars and MIG fighters improved, the American spy planes would become increasingly endangered. The possibility of a complete cutoff of American reconnaissance of the Soviet Union presented an especially stark problem: Ii there were no reconnais- sance, how would it be known that Rus- sian intercontinental bombers or missiles had been launched against the United States? It was the fear of a Soviet surprise at- tack-and the realization that American intelligence had no real capability for de- tecting it-that led President Eisenhower in 1954 to appoint a special panel of ex- perts to come up with a solution. The panel had a number of subcom- mittees examining the problem of de- tecting asurprise attack, the most im- portant of which was the group studying U.S. intelligence capabilities. The sub- committee included a remarkable char- acternamed Edwin H. Land, the inventor, founder, and president of Polaroid. A no- toriously reticent man (he has only given two press conferences in 35 years), Land was in the classic tradition of the great American tinkerer/inventor. He had dropped out of Harvard during 1937; then he taught himself the intricacies of polar- , ized light, mostly by holing up in a room at the New York Public Library and read- ', ing his way through anything about the subject he could get his hands on. Land went into business for himself in an old Massachusetts garage, ultimately devel- oping 530 patents-including his most famous, the self-developing camera. Po- laroid, the name he coined to describe the process, became an American household word. Land was very much in the "can do" spirit of American inventiveness, and to him, the problem of getting intelligence on the Soviet Union was soluble-pro- vided that the customary bureaucratic inertia was overcome, along with the re- luctance of experts, who decreed that taking clear pictures from heights of about 70,000 feet was impossible. Land's insis- tence was no small factor in the panel's final conclusion that the solution to the problem of American intelligence was strategic reconnaissance, using a stable platform that could overfly targets above 70,000 feet and take detailed photo- graphs. the Hmencaris. ~u~ ~r u~ w~~C~ r~ ~~~ ~ ~ ?~~" ~ lion. Operating from secret launching the germ of an idea on how to get Intel- sites in Europe (where they precipitated I~gence on the Soviet Union. ,: - another UFO scare), Skyhook balloons - The idea was born in the series of in- ~ were launched into the prevailing winds telligence reports prepared by the Army sweeping west to east over the Soviet and Navy on the Fu-Go flights. One glar- Union. They were hooked up with Gam- ing fact stood out in those reports: The eras and radio gear; when they reached Japanese had managed to fly by remote Japan after a flight across the Soviet control a very stable airborne platform at heartland, a radio signal sent from the distances of over 6,000 miles. Instead of round would tell Skyhook to detach its bombs, what if such balloons were armed 9 strument package. (Later, Air Force pi- with cameras? Could similar types of bal- lots developed a special trapezelike hook, loons be launched into prevailing winds attached to car o planes, which cau ht sweeping over the Soviet Union? the balloon's shroud lines and recap- By coincidence, the Air Force was run- lured the entire Skyhook, ready to tie Wing an extensive meteorological re- flown another day.) search program at the time called Moby Ultimately, Moby Dick was a failure. Dick. Operated in conjunction with the Man of the balloons crashed in the So- Navy's Office of Naval Research, Moby viet Union, and those few which made Dick aimed to uncover some of the mys- the entire flight produced spotty results. teries of the upper atmosphere, where fu- Im rovements in Soviet air-defense ra- lure aircraft (and missiles) were to oper- darp-balloons, because of their large ate. The program used the latest in high- surface area, make perfect radar tar- altitude weather-research balloons, a ets-eventual) s elled the end of Mob large gasbag called Skyhook. The first g. y p y models were about 300 cubic feet in size Drck. The last balloon flight over the So- and capable of rising to over 120,000 feet. viet Union took place in 1958. The high altitude was made possible by Despite its ultimate failure, a number use of an innovative, partially transparent of valuable lessons were learned from plastic material, which reflected the sun Moby Dick. Most importantly, it proved that overflights of the Soviet Union were possible and that reconnaissance pic- lures could be taken from high altitudes. The central problem remained, however: Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 Land had vowed the photographic problem could be solved, but what about the platform? That seemed to be a more knotty problem, but the panel noted that a number of high-performance test air- craft might possibly be converted into such platforms-assuming that consid- erable technological problems were solved. At that point, the panel had the good fortune to encounter Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, of Lockheed-a man who was already a legend in the airplane-design business. He had made his mark with a number of aeronautical miracles, among them the first American jet fighter, the F- 80 "Shooting Star," which in 1945 took an unheard-of total of 141 days from design to production. Johnson did not suffer fools gladly, and his independent style, hands-on philos- ophy, and disregard for bureaucratic convention were nervously tolerated by Lockheed executives, a number of whom Johnson did not hesitate to upbraid when he thought they were interfering in his projects. (Once, when asked the secret of his success, Johnson snapped, "I get a few good men and drown the rest.") Lockheed had the sense to leave its brilliant, if somewhat foul-tempered, de- signer alone. Johnson spent most of his time in what was officially known as Air velopment up to that point in the history of espionage. Here at last was the per- fect spy: It could fty at the then astonish- ing altitude of 90,000 feet and snap de- tailed reconnaissance pictures, safely out of the reach of any known let fighter, mis- sile, or other hazard. But only a few people connected with the U-2 knew that fcr all of its marvelous qualities. the plane had an Achilles' heel: a tendency to flame out at high altitudes. Flameout-the stalling of jet engines in thin air because of the lack of oxygen- was of special concern to the U-2 pilots. for it meant they had to glide down to a lower altitude, then restart the engine. But the U-2's fuel, a specially refined kero- sene, was difficult to ignite. The pilots often would have to drop even lower, to approximately 30,000 feet, in order to get sufficient oxygen for restarting the en- gines. And 30,000 feet was where jet fighters and surface-to-air missiles could easily attack. That is precisely what haDD to ~i- lot Francis Ga~~f Powers on the aft rn on '~, ~f AAav 5 1960. When he suddenly re- -_ .. _. _..------. rin .,t_ Powers at that point was ov rflvina the c or ~~~1 Icrrial city of Sverdlovsk. nno .a ~ _---J ... ..f n..e_ln_~II titude to restart his enoine hP would come Force Plant No. 42 (on the edge of the desert at Lockheed's Palmdale, Califor- nia, plant), working out designs that were literally made by hand to his specifica- lions. Plant No. 42 was more familiarly known around Lockheed as the "Skunk 1Norks," after the mysterious still in the "Li'I Abner" comic strip that produced the famous Kickapoo Joy Juice. Among the projects Johnson was working on in 1954 was a test airplane known innocuously as Utility-2, used to test engines and other systems at high altitudes, where the next generation of jet fighters was expected to operate. One of Johnson's more innovative designs, Util- ity-2 was difficult to describe: something of aglider-sailplane with turbojets, long, ` light wings, and a needlelike shape. AI- . though it had a phenomenal 4,000-mile range, it looked unlike any other plane ever to take to the air. But no matter how odd it looked, the ', panel realized that Utility-2-soon most often referred to by its nickname, U-2- was that perfect reconnaissance plat- form they had been seeking. Johnson promised he could make the U-2 into a spy plane. And hooked up with a new Land invention-special long-focus cameras that could scan continuously through seven apertures-Johnson's U- 2was the most astounding technical de- into missile ranoe Powers dropped to tit , n ....... ..~., ...L by ~ Russian surface-to-air missile. The Powers incident did not com letely t 1 oro ram tha nlane rs_still used to this day for overflights of poorly defended areas-but ~t did shatter t e American confidence in the U-2 as the final answer to the problem of obtainin strategic intelligence on the Soviet Unon. However an even more ama71nn substi- tute was bein ro ead~ed. Just before dawn on April 1, 1960, a Thor-Able rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a 290-pound satellite in its nose. Called TIROS (tele- vision and infrared observation satellite), the satellite basically was designed to photograph cloud formations from above-fulfilling along-standing dream of meteorologists, who had claimed for years that high-altitude observation was required in order to make accurate fore- casts. Additionally, the scientists hoped that observation of weather patterns on earth would afford early warning of major weather disasters, including hurricanes and typhoons. But TIROS was also a bold experiment in espionage, designed to test whether a high-orbiting satellite-far from radar, missiles, and fighters-could carry out photographic reconnaissance. There was some question whether such reconnais- sance, hundreds of miles up in spac?, could duplicate the U-2's capabilities: some experts argued that because so much of the earth's surface was socked in by weather systems at heights of 100 miles and above, it was very doubtful that a satellite could ever see ground targets. TIROS carried the latest marvels of American technology-in particular, two television cameras powered by nickel cadmium batteries recharged by 9,000 solar cells. Each camera-actually a so- phisticated television tube combined with a focal-plane shutter-could store the pictures it snapped on a tube screen. An electron beam converted the stored im- age into electronic signals, which were then transmitted directly to ground re- ceivers or recorded on magnetic tape. When the satellite came within range of aground station, it could be ordered by radio signal to "play" its tape for the sta- tion to pick up. Two hours after its maiden flight be- gan, TIROS's first pictures shocked the meteorologists and the more expectant CIA and Air Force experts who were awaiting the results: everything could be seen clearly. To the surprise of all the ex- perts, TIROS showed that, in clear weather, satellite cameras saw in detail everything within the scope of their lens- es. The pictures from the first pass over the Soviet Union and China were so clear that the smallest details of air-base run- ways, planes, missile sites, and military bases could be picked out easily, even by the untrained eye. The stunning success of TIROS revo- lutionized intelligence collection almost overnight. It proved that a satellite was capable not only of obtaining sharp re- connaissance pictures, but of eliminating the need for a pilot. As an extra bonus, the satellite was invulnerable to any proj- ected possible threat, since it operated high in space. The United States took a quantum jump in spy-satellite capability in 1971, when the first of the Big Bird satellites were launched. They were equipped with high- resolution television cameras, which can scan wide swaths of land on every pass, supplemented by highly sophisticated cameras which take detailed pictures. Even more amazing were the KH (for I "keyhole") satellites launched three years later. KH has special sensitive cameras that can measure images in terms of heat (thus detecting even subtle changes), Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 along with multispectral scanning de- frayed detectors (which can spot heat of the islands to begin floating into Soviet vices that register wavelengths, picking sources at night especially missile and territory-while the Air Force detachment up images that even the most sensitive aircraft exhausts), and multispectral on it wondered what would happen to photographic films can't detect. scanners (which can take several pic- them and all their monitoring equipment The key to the success of the American tures at the same time in different regions when they fell into Russian hands. The spy satellites has been U.S. technology's of the visible light spectrum and infrared Air Force sent a plane to pick up the men ability to dramatically improve ground bands). Additionally, new computers al- and their equipment, but it crashed on resolution-the size of the smallest pos- low analysts to manipulate this data to landing and was unable to take oft. sible object distinguishable in a satellite bring out subtle details. Meanwhile, Russian planes began camera's picture. A good deal of that ca- Much less is known, however, about a .buzzing the island, and the leader of the pability has been revealed by the U.S. second type of spy satellite-the ones detachment, fearing imminent Soviet at- space program, which routinely pub- that collect ELINT and COMMINT (elec- tack, ordered his men to dig in-and dis- lishes amazingly detailed pictures taken tropics and communications intelli- covered that it was impossible to dig into by its nonmilitary spacecraft and satel- Bence). These remain the U.S. govern- the thick pack ice. To make matters worse, lites. But even those pictures represent ment's deepest intelligence secrets, and the monitoring equipment detected what child's play for spy satellite cameras, its chief concern. was thought to be a flight of Soviet bomb- which can achieve ground resolution of The reason for the American concern ers headed for the North American con- about four inches from 100 miles away. is technology: Radar, phone scramblers, tinent. An alarm was radioed, and the en- Technology has also made a number radio communication networks, and fire American air-defense system went on of dramatic improvements in how much electronic warning complexes have be- alert-only to find that they had been data can be received from a spy satellite. come an important part of a nation's ar- alerted for a flight of migrating Siberian In the beginning, the Air Force borrowed sepal-and therefore a prime target for fish ducks. an old idea from the Moby Dick program intelligence. Getting at those electronic An emergency Air Force helicopter fi- and began retrieving photo capsules webs in the Soviet Union has presented Wally lifted the men and their equipment parachuted from satellites, using the tra- a problem, for most of them are deep in off the ice island before the Russians peze-hook method that once snared the heartland, out of the range of eaves- could grab them, but the incident again Skyhook balloons. The method is still dropping devices. The initial solution was demonstrated the dangers of operating used for photos produced by "quick-look" to attack the web at its outer fringes. communications intelligence, even on the spy satellites that sweep in relatively low Beginning in 1946, U.S. "ferrets," most fringes of the Soviet Union. (This episode e o pl t (about 100 miles up) over a particular tar- ? , fl w m scions along ear onic listeng get to take pictures. Most satellite im- g g agery, however, is returned by electronic thanes,nmilitaral abd rNational Security signal, produced by a system aboard the A enc electronics experts moved the satellite that takes the pictures, instantly receiver dials slowly, hoping to pick up develops them, then stores the images on a television scanner that transmits the any interesting transmissions from the data to earth, where they're fed into large other side of the border, ranging from tactical orders to high-level communi- computers for processing. .cations with Moscow. The technological revolution that cre- Some of the ferrets, however, played a ated the spy satellites has also been much more dangerous game: They would packing ever more sophisticated capa- make a headlong dash across the Iron bilities into them. The reason is microcir- Curtain into the airspace of an Eastern cuff chips, which can now be made five European country (or, in other areas, or seven microns wide (each micron is across the Soviet border itself), deliber- one-millionth of a meter), much thinner ately setting off air-defense alarms. Those than a human hair. American intelligence, transmissions, invaluable for showing the however, is in the forefront of an effort to strength, response time, and pulse levels develop one-micron-wide VHSICs (very of radars, were recorded as the ferret high-speed integrated chips) that can suddenly turned tail and headed back at store prodigious amounts of data. How to seed for home. Some didn't make much data? A map of the United States it: Almost half of the several dozen Amer- . printed on a sheet of paper only 20 inches ican spy planes shot down by the Rus- wide would show every single streenes signs while flying the "fringe route" from., the entire country, represented by 1946 to 1960 were electronics ferrets. only ahalf-micron wide. The ferret missions were supple-, Combined with other advances in var- mented with a wide range of sometimes ious sensing devices, that would give spy in enious efforts to tap into Soviet com- satellites atruly awesome capability. The munication nets. Among them was one newest generation of satellites now oP- of the more bizarre operations designed erating include such advances as im- to gather communications intelligence on aging radar (which can see and maP the Soviet Uhion: monitoring stations set ground targets even through heavy up on several small ice islands near the clouds), infrared radiometer and thermal North Pole, where they were ideally sit- infrared scanners (which can detect un- uated to pickup Soviet military transmis- derground construction), mosaic in- sions from Russian territory on the other side of the Pole (and provide warning of Soviet strategic attack). But a freak early- spring thaw in 1954 suddenly caused one served as the basis for the popular book and movie, Ice Station Zebra.) With the advent of satellite technology, a considerable amount of ELINT and COMMINT was put aboard special ferret satellites that were piggybacked onto photo-reconnaissance satellites. The first ferret satellite was launched in 1962, and with advances in sensor technology, they are now able to record a vast amount of electronic transmissions while orbiting about 300 miles high. At that altitude, the satellites are invulnerable to attack-al- though there are recurring attempts to jam them electronically-but there has been much more danger associated with some of the supplements to the ferret sat- ellites. One was an operation that con- verted old World War II Liberty merchant ships into floating electronics-intercep- tion platforms; packed with radars and radio receivers, the ships, including the ill-fated Liberty and Pueblo, slowly sailed in waters just off the borders of assorted hot spots, recording every electronic transmission they could reach. Even more dangerous was the De Soto program, composed of patrols of U.S. Navy de- stroyers packed with electronics-inter- ceptiongear that, during the early 1960s, deliberately provoked coastal defense radars in North Vietnam-a program that finally led to the fateful attack in 1964 on two De Soto destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf. Why would these dangerous opera- tions continue, even after ELINT and COMMINT functions were put aboard ~nued Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9 satellites? Because unlike photo recon- naissance, collecting electronic trans- missions involves much more (and much heavier) equipment. The EC-121 Ameri- can ELINT plane shot down by North Ko- rea in 1969, for example, had a crew of 31 and six tons of eavesdropping equip- ment aboard; it will be quite some trme before that amount of equipment can be miniaturized for use aboard satellites. American intelligence has now sur- rounded its perceived enemies, notably the Soviet Union, with a vast electronic eavesdropping web whose size, com- plexity, and thoroughness remain un- matched in the history of espionage. Be- sides the satellites, there are 2.000 listening posts all around the world to eavesdrop on military communications, a half-dozen huge radar complexes to monitor missile tests, and a sprawling communications-interception operation in Cheltenham, England-run in con- junctionwith Canada and Great Britain- that picks up virtually all military com- munications in Eastern Europe. Addition- ally, the Americans are now deploying the very latest in COMMINT-robot elec- tronic snoops planted at various sites in- side the Soviet Union. About the size of a small handbag, the robots are unbe- lievably sophisticated electronic eaves- dropping devices, capable of automati- cally gathering transmissions from superhigh frequencies being broadcast miles away. then encoding and transmit- t~ng them up to 300 miles to a passrng plane or satellite (Although the robots are Still highly Se- cret mthe UniteC States. the r~uss~ans 10und Out. about them when One O1 the t~f~c~al tree stump. was sued ~n a forest near Moscow The CIA agents who did the lob made a serous mistake Thev out the robot inside a fake pine-tree slump. wh ch They olaced ~n a grove of aspen =_-gees A pine tree ~n an aspen grove ~s ver rare m the Sov~e! Union and the ro bot ~ns~de was soon detected ) All of this Seems almost breaihtak~ng a huge clockwork operation of such ~n- gen~ousness. and one so airtight. that nothing could ever escape And yet that ~s not what has happened. the supreme irony of modern American ~nten~gence ~s the discovery by many of its pract~t~oners that the more soph~st~cated the collection system. the more ambiguity ~n the re- sull~ng ~ntell~gence judgments there seems to be Consider what happened ~n late 1970. when U S photo reconnaissance satel- I~tes detected the bu~ldrng of what ap- peared to be 80 new Soviet ICBM silos That triggered an ~ntel'~~gence alarm. but three years passed while various com- ponents of the Amer~Can ~nlell~gence o0mmurnty argued over its s~gn~f~cance Not until 1973 were the Russians asked formally about the silos-they re- sponded that they were command and control silos not m~ss~ie emplace- ments-and ~t look unl~l 1977 for the de- bate linalry to be cleared up (The Rus- sians were tellrnq the truth ) Another shortcoming discovered in tecnn~cal couect~on systems ~s their vul nerability to decepUOn The Soviets have been developing the art o1 concealment to a fine edge. and one enure factory ~n Czechoslovakia produces nothing but rubber MIGs phony submarines. and other decoys. all designed to hoodwink American satellites and spy planes The very prec~s~on of spy satellites-- their Tracks Can be predrCled Exactly. allowing analysts to prnpo~nt wnat the sensors de tect-.s also a major disadvantage The Russians know when the satell~les are overhead and when They re on the other side of the world. allowing for a wide range of concealment achv~hes when tho sat- . en~tes aren t around Even when the satellites are looking there ~s some question whether they re detecl~ng what they r0 supposed to de sect On September 22 1979. for exam ple an ArnenCan VELA satellite. scan Wing 1hC SOU!hern AIIanI~C tOr any Sign Of a nuclear explosion registered Iwo ~n tense bursts of light the CharaClenshC double pulse of an atomic detonation. The VELA s~ght~ng caused a sensation in the American rntell~gence community. but however conclusive intelligence analysts regarded the evidence to be-they were convinced that either Israel or South Af- rica had carved out a test o1 a nuclear- warhead m~ss~fe-~t was msuffic~ent for the White Hous? As President Carter noted. with some Iust~i~caUOn. the United States was not about to make the Sensal,Onal Charge that Israel. a close American ally. or South Af- nca had set off an atomic weapon NoL Ih31 is. without having more cOnCluswe evidence Where was the fallout from the blasts Was there any confirmation from other ~ntell~gence sources? Could the ~n- teu~gence agencies certify that no natu- ral phenomenon-such as a meteor-- ' was responsible for the (lash the VELA detected They could not. And ~n that adm~ss~on lay the crux of the problem. a problem that continues to bedevil American ~ntell~gence At root. its great web. of electronic and photo- ; graprnc snoops amounts to a collection 01 dumb machines able to record. but nOI t0 think As we have learned the hard way overreliance on such technology leads to confusion--much more than we ever I dreamed O+-~, J Declassified in Part -Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2011/12/02 :CIA-RDP90-009658000707000002-9