[ISN] Now showing on satellite TV: secret American spy photos

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Jun 13 2002 - 00:45:18 PDT

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    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    The BBC has a seven minute long segment with bits of the video, and a
    shot of John Locker's satellite setup. Makes you wonder when the
    highlight reel will be making the rounds...
    Duncan Campbell 
    Thursday June 13, 2002
    The Guardian 
    European satellite TV viewers can watch live broadcasts of
    peacekeeping and anti-terrorist operations being conducted by US
    spyplanes over the Balkans.
    Normally secret video links from the American spies-in-the-sky have a
    serious security problem - a problem that make it easier for
    terrorists to tune in to live video of US intelligence activity than
    to get Disney cartoons or new-release movies.
    For more than six months live pictures from manned spy aircraft and
    drones have been broadcast through a satellite over Brazil. The
    satellite, Telstar 11, is a commercial TV relay. The US spyplane
    broadcasts are not encrypted, meaning that anyone in the region with a
    normal satellite TV receiver can watch surveillance operations as they
    The satellite feeds have also been connected to the internet,
    potentially allowing the missions to be watched from around the globe.
    Viewers who tuned in to the unintended attraction on Tuesday could
    watch a sudden security alert around the US army's Kosovan
    headquarters, Camp Bondsteel in Urosevac. The camp was visited last
    summer by President Bush and his defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
    A week earlier the spyplane had provided airborne cover for a heavily
    protected patrol of the Macedonian-Kosovan border, near Skopje. A
    group of apparently high-ranking visitors were accompanied by six
    armoured personnel carriers and a helicopter gunship.
    Nato officials, whose forces in former Yugoslavia depend on the US
    missions for intelligence, at first expressed disbelief at the
    reports. After inquiring, a Nato spokesman confirmed: "We're aware
    that this imagery is put on a communications satellite. The
    distribution of this material is handled by the United States and
    we're content that they're following appropriate levels of security."
    This lapse in US security was discovered last year by a British
    engineer and satellite enthusiast, John Locker, who specialises in
    tracking commercial satellite services. Early in November 2001 he
    routinely logged the new channels.
    "I thought that the US had made a deadly error," he said. "My first
    thought was that they were sending their spyplane pictures through the
    wrong satellite by mistake, and broadcasting secret information across
    He tried repeatedly to warn British, Nato and US officials about the
    leak. But his warnings were set aside. One officer wrote back to tell
    him that the problem was a "known hardware limitation".
    The flights, conducted by US army and navy units and AirScan Inc, a
    Florida-based private military company, are used to monitor terrorists
    and smugglers trying to cross borders, to track down arms caches, and
    to keep watch on suspect premises. The aircraft are equipped to watch
    at night, using infrared.
    "We seem to be transmitting this information potentially straight to
    our enemies," said one US military intelligence official who was
    alerted to the leak, adding: "I would be worried that using this
    information, the people we are tracking will see what we are looking
    at and, much more worryingly, what we are not looking at.
    "This could let people see where our forces are and what they're
    doing. That's putting our boys at risk."
    Former SAS officer Adrian Weale, who served in Northern Ireland, told
    BBC Newsnight last night: "I think I'd be extremely irritated to find
    that the planning and hard work that had gone into mounting an
    operation against, for instance, a war crime suspect or gun runner was
    being compromised by the release of this information in the form that
    it's going out in."
    Duncan Campbell is a freelance investigative journalist and a member 
    of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and not 
    the Guardian correspondent of the same name 
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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