RECONNAISSANCE

Satellites

Articles

2010 - 2015

Materials arranged chronologically.

Magnuson, Stew. "Struggling Spy Satellite Agency Tries to Right Itself." National Defense, Jan. 2010. [http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org]

NRO Director, retired Air Force Gen. Bruce Carlson, said at the Geo-Int conference that the agency "has work to do to regain the confidence of Congress.... Carlson said he had intimate knowledge of the failed process [of the development of the future imagery architecture], having served on the joint chiefs of staff as the director for force structure, resources and assessment in the early part of the decade when the program was being developed."

Best, Richard A., Jr., and Jennifer K. Elsea. Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 13 Jan. 2011. Available at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL34421.pdf.

"This report provides background on the development of intelligence satellites and identifies the roles various agencies play in their management and use. Issues surrounding the current policy and proposed changes are discussed.... There follows a discussion of legal considerations, including whether satellite reconnaissance might constitute a 'search' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment; an overview of statutory authorities, as well as restrictions that might apply; and a brief description of executive branch authorities and Department of Defense directives that might apply. The report concludes by discussing policy issues Congress may consider as it deliberates the potential advantages and pitfalls that may be encountered in expanding the role of satellite intelligence for homeland security purposes."

Aftergood, Steven. "ODNI Secrecy Activity, 'Population' Increased in 2010." Secrecy News, 20 Jan. 2011. [http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy]

In a 12 November 2010 report to the Information Security Oversight Office, ODNI Information Management Director John F. Hackett reported that "[t]he number of ODNI 'derivative classification decisions'... increased 7.6% to 1,762,999 from the year before....  'The increase in total decisions was largely driven by population growth, which increased by 17% from last year.'" The report also states that "There were two discretionary declassification decisions made by the Acting DNI during FY10 (declassification of 'QUILL' as a Radar Imager and declassification of the fact of GAMBIT/HEXAGON overhead ISR missions)."

Associated Press. "New US Military Satellite Launched into Space, Will Keep Watch Over Missiles, Battlefields." 7 May 2011. [http://www.ap.org]

An Atlas 5 rocket launched 7 May 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station "carried the Space-Based Infrared System geosynchronous satellite."

Guillemette, Roger. "Declassified US Spy Satellites Reveal Rare Look at Cold War Space Program." space.com, 18 Sep. 2011. [http://www.msnbc.msn.com]

On 17 September 2011, the NRO declassified the KH-7 GAMBIT, the KH-8 GAMBIT 3 and the KH-9 HEXAGON ("Big Bird") spy satellites. The satellites were displayed in a one-day-only public exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Va. The spacecraft "are the centerpiece of the NRO's invitation-only 50th Anniversary Gala celebration held at the center." The KH-7 was first launched in 1963. The KH-8 flew its surveillance operations between 1966 and 1984. The KH-9 flew its photographic reconnaissance missions from 1971 to 1986.; it weighed 30,000 pounds and was 60 feet long.

O'Neill, Helen. "Decades Later, a Cold War Secret Is Revealed." Associated Press, 25 Dec. 2011. [http://www.ap.org]

Former workers at Perkin-Elmer's Danbury, Connecticut, facility can now talk about their work on the Hexagon KH-9 photographic reconnaissance satellite. "Though other companies were part of the project -- Eastman Kodak made the film and Lockheed Corp. built the satellite -- the cameras and optics systems were all made at Perkin-Elmer."

Day, Dwayne A. "Revelations." The Space Review, 6 Aug. 2012. [http://www.thespacereview.com]

The "tremendous amount of information released in the past year" by the NRO "is credit to an impressive declassification program within the intelligence services. The US military and intelligence space programs during the first couple of decades of the space age can now be described in incredible detail and understood far better than before. This will enable historians to better understand their role in the Cold War, their importance to arms control, and their linkages to other aspects of American space technology. These declassifications leave relatively little that is still classified from the first decade of American space intelligence."

Chow, Denise. "CIA Declassifies Spy Satellite Saga with a Deep-Sea Twist." MSNBC, 10 Aug. 2012. [http://www.msnbc.msn.com]

On 8 August 2012, the CIA released documents that detail how in 1972 the U.S. Navy used its "most sophisticated deep-sea submersible,"the Trieste II Deep Sea Vehicle, or DSV-1, to retrieve a film capsule from a Hexagon photo reconnaissance satellite "that had settled more than 16,000 feet ... underwater on the ocean floor. At the time, the expedition was the deepest undersea salvage operation ever attempted."

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. An Underwater Ice Station Zebra: Recovering a Secret Spy Satellite Capsule from 16,400 feet Below the Pacific Ocean, at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/historical-collection-publications/underwater-ice-station-zebra/index.html.

On 26 April 1972, the U.S. Navy's deep sea submersible, the Trieste II Deep Sea Vehicle I (DSV-1), salvaged from 16,400 feet below a film capsule ("bucket") from a HEXAGON photoreconnaissance satellite, lost in the summer of 1971.

Aftergood, Steven. "Intelligence Satellite Imagery Declassified for Release." Secrecy News, 22 Apr. 2013. [http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy]

"An enormous volume of photographic imagery from the KH-9 HEXAGON intelligence satellites [with19 successful missions between 1971 and 1984] was quietly declassified in January [2013] and will be transferred to the National Archives later this year for subsequent public release."

Richelson, Jeffrey T. "From JAM SESSION to the PFIAB: Albert Wheelon and U.S. Intelligence." Intelligencer 20, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2013): 23-31.

Albert D. "Bud" Wheelon died on 27 September 2013. Here, the author outlines Wheelon's role in the development of and direction of the CIA's DS&T.

Waltrop, David W. "Recovery of the Last GAMBIT and HEXAGON Film Buckets from Space, August–October 1984." Studies in Intelligence 58, no. 2 (Jun. 2014): 19-34. [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-58-no-2/pdfs/Waltrop-Catching%20the%20End%20of%20an%20Era-June2014.pdf]

"Retrieval of the last buckets from the final GAMBIT and HEXAGON missions was a critical point in the nation's transition to near-real time imagery from space. The Test Group was part of complex system that included the building, launching, tasking, and control of the satellite; and the retrieval, dissemination, assessment, and exploitation of the imagery product."

Entous, Adam, and Julian E. Barnes. "U.S. Intelligence-Sharing Leaves Ukraine in the Dark." Wall Street Journal, 27 Feb. 2015. [http://www.wsj.com]

The United States "is providing spy-satellite imagery to Ukraine to help in its fight against Russia-backed rebels, but with a catch: the images are significantly degraded to avoid provoking Russia or compromising U.S. secrets. The White House agreed last year to Ukraine's request to provide the photos and other intelligence. But before delivering them, US officials black out military staging areas on Russian territory and reduce the resolution so that enemy formations can't be clearly made out, making them less useful to Ukrainian military commanders."

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