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Tracking Satellites That Aren't There 66

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i-spy-game-not-as-fun-with-a-keyhole-satellite dept.
stacybro writes "Wired is running an interesting article about amateur astronomers tracking "black" satellites." From the article: "The observers, who congregate on a Web site called Heavens-Above and a mailing list called SeeSat-L, have amassed an impressive collection of information and expertise. For two decades, they have played a high tech game of hide-and-seek with the US's National Reconnaissance Office, a secretive satellite agency. By coordinating their efforts, amateur observers in Europe, North America, and South Africa monitor satellites at different phases of their journeys and extrapolate the precise dimensions of their orbits." This is in addition to the ones we know about and even the ones we think we know about.
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Tracking Satellites That Aren't There

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  • by vmcto (833771) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:58PM (#14619665) Homepage Journal
    Although in my gut I don't particularly like the fact that our military satellite orbits are known to all who care to look on the Internet, the article gets the moral of the story right.

    If these guys can do it in their spare time with binoculars and phone calls, so can anyone else.

    Time and time again security through obscurity has proven to be a fallacy.

    And if this group has increased the awareness of that fact to the US military then they are indeed performing a valuable service.

    The apparent fact that they forced a step-function change in satellite stealth technology (Misty, Misty2) offers convincing proof.
  • by pvt_medic (715692) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:01PM (#14619698)
    hopefully, but the problem is looking at their track record they often try to respond to such challenges by silencing them.
  • by Tweekster (949766) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:02PM (#14619713)
    It isnt exactly security through anything, what good does it do knowing that one sattelite is there.... knowing where a hundred sattelites doesnt do you much good if there are actually a thousand... its basically, well useless
  • by nonetheless (600533) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:34PM (#14620826)
    The defense that because anyone can do this (or rather, here, any other large group of obsessed, well-coordinated individuals working doggedly for over a decade could do this), it is therefore ethical to do so strikes me as nonsense. That is true of lots of other activities everyone would agree are improper. To offer up a silly example: just about anyone *can* buy a sniper rifle, climb to a clocktower, and plunk down civilians. Anyone *can* monitor your cell phone traffic and sell it to a jealous ex. Etc.

    From the article, there appears to be evidence people whom most folks would agree are "Bad" use info about satellite patterns to go about their doing their Bad things. Why have your hobby be making their life easier? Why not make them go through the effort of watching the sky with high powered binoculars every night for decades? Can't there be hobbies just as fun that don't (at least tangentially) help Bad folks?

  • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:17PM (#14621310)
    there appears to be evidence people whom most folks would agree are "Bad" use info about satellite patterns to go about their doing their Bad things. Why have your hobby be making their life easier?


    Because there is evidence that the same organizations whose purpose is going after what you call "bad" people are increasingly turning their weapons against us. When agents from a bureau whose self-stated mission is "to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats and to enforce the criminal laws of the United States" [fbi.gov] come to believe they have the right to collect any data at all about you, even library cards, without any valid search warrant, you should better start worrying. In my dictionary, an officer of the government who feels no need to respect the Constitution is as "Bad" as it gets.


    Amassing as much data as we can about the methods and equipment those secret agencies have that they could use against us is an act of collective self-defense. It goes in the same spirit as the freedom to "keep and bear arms" against an opressive government.

  • by vmcto (833771) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:18PM (#14621318) Homepage Journal
    You don't appear to have read the article.

    You don't appear to understand the point I made.

    Knowing where spy satellites are is vital if you're trying to hide something.

    Yes. You are correct about that. I understand that.

    So my question to you is: How does stopping the amateurs mentioned in the article prevent any of that from ocurring?

    Bzzzzt. Time's up.

    It doesn't. Which was my whole point. If friendly smiley people can do it, then not-so-friendly-crazed-dictators-with-nuclear-ambi tions (and India) can do it. And anyone whom suffers under the illusion that the technology is actually being effective at catching people doing what they shouldn't be, is a fool.

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