The funniest bit is John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. He went on NPR Wednesday and basically said that military spy satellites are really not much good for anything. The pictures are in black and white so they are no fun to look at. They are really only good, he said, for finding escape routes from New Orleans the next time it floods.
This picture is of the Mars Rover. It was taken from Mars Orbiter and found here. The Rover is about half the size of a Mini Cooper. While the Orbiter can get a lot closer to the surface of that planet, NASA cameras are a whole lot less sophisticated than military spy cameras.
Space Today Online has as much detailed information about spy satellites as is publicly available. They have two general types.
- Image sats - optical, infrared, and radar - take pictures with a resolution as clear as 2 inches.
- Signal intercept sats that can tune in on any type of data communication.
After listening to John Pike on NPR my question, the one not asked by the reporter, is what can satellites do that cannot be done better, cheaper, and easier using helicopters? The answer that came shouting back at me is signal interception. It is legal for the police to fly a helicopter over my house and take pictures with far more clarity than any satellite can provide. The same goes with aerial surveys. The only reason the military uses image sats is because it is too difficult and dangerous to fly planes over Iran. Satellite spying to take pictures inside the United States is stupid.
But, using military sats to listen in on phone conversations and business data transfers eliminates any need for warrants. Even under the new, loose, FISA law, warrants are required to listen in on wholly domestic communications. By using top secret military assets they can circumvent the FISA law entirely. It has the added advantage of continuing the trend of having the military consider the American public to be the enemy.
It is sinister, brilliant, conniving, and duplicitous. It has all of the markings of a Dick Cheney plot.