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Subject:      Re: Secrets that aren't(Was: !!Contest Announcement...)
From:         thomsona@netcom.com (Allen Thomson)
Date:         1997/01/31
Message-Id:   <thomsonaE4uo5D.GKu@netcom.com>
Newsgroups:   sci.space.policy,sci.astro.amateur

In article <01bc0ef4$e6fa3e60$35c220cc@uspppasland> "asland" 
<asland@ix.netcom.com> writes:
[pertinent material snipped -- rant about non-judicial sanctions repressed
with some difficulty]
>Ted Molczan and pat have reached the heart of the reaction against Pike's
>contest- the idea in some circles that "if the public is told something is
>secret, than they'll believe that the <enter name of bad guys here> 
>don't know about it" 
   Well, of course.   If you stamp it TOP SECRET ARF BUMBLE GUFF then by
definition it's very secret indeed.  The fact that it can be determined
by anyone who cares to invest $US100 and a few hours of time is 
completely irrelevant.
>pat is right-a well equipped amateur, and certainly most governments are
>able to image Lacrosse, Keyhole, Zircon, booster stages, Mir, etc., with 
                                  ^^^^^^ 
>high resolution.
  Eh?  ZIRCON was supposed to have been a CANYON/CHALET/VORTEX-like
SIGINT sat the UK was developing, but was never launched.  If it had 
been, it would have been into GEO, beyond the reach of small-aperture/
short-exposure imaging.  OTOH, there was one report in a Florida 
newspaper in early 1990 (sorry, don't have the reference handy) that 
said that the payload of STS-36 was called XIRCON (Which, in American
English, sounds like ZIRCON.  Presumably the reporter got his/her 
information by phone and wasn't a good speller). 
   Now, as events subsequently evolved, STS-36 gave birth to the famous 
progenitor of the "disappearing satellites," AFP-731, aka USA-53.  
AFP-731 was observed during and for a while after deployment, disappeared 
for several months, appeared for a while in a ~800 km orbit, then 
disappeared for good.  At both the deployment and subsequent 800 km
altitudes, it should have been possible to take excellent-to-useful
pictures of the satellite. 
  There a is minor religion devoted to trying to figure out just what
was going on with AFP-731; if anyone has a high-resolution picture of 
this cult-sat, sainthood can be had by publishing it.  If anyone
can explain the ZIRCON/XIRCON similarity, that would also be interesting.
>I don't agree with John Pike's politics, but he is pointing out the
>hypocracy of keeping secrets only from the people those "secrets" are 
supposed to protect.
  The issue of abuse of national security classification authority 
to protect bureaucratic and partisan interests at the expense of 
the national interest is precisely where Pike's politics and mine 
converge.
[entertaining and instructive material snipped]
>So go ahead and put that CCD imager and tracking software to work, you
>won't be divulging anything secret
   Well, that depends on whether you accept the bureaucratic or realistic
definition of "secret."  But yes, go ahead and do it, and maybe the
two definitions will converge a bit.  (Which, I'd suppose, is the
object of John's offer.)



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