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[infowar.de] AntiTerror& PeacekeepingEinsätze Live über SatellitenTV
Thursday June 13, 2002
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
HSFK Hessische Stiftung für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
PRIF Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Leimenrode 29 60322 Frankfurt a/M Germany
Tel +49 (0)69 9591 0422 Fax +49 (0)69 5584 81
Mobil 0172 3196 006
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