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RSOC Opposition Movements:
From Hardware to Doctrine

Loring Wirbel

(Copyright 1997 by author. Other aspects of the Europe trip will be provided in upcoming issues of Electronic Engineering Times, Active for Justice, et. al. Contact author at [email protected] ; or [email protected]for more information.)

Eight members of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space toured Europe in mid-March, with Colorado representatives focusing on meeting with opponents of the consolidated NSA/NRO Regional SIGINT Operation Centers (RSOCs), specifically those in Menwith Hill, Yorkshire (U.K.) and Bad Aibling, Germany. Opponents, particularly the group of women at the WoMenwith Hill Peace Camp, are moving from analyzing hardware and construction projects at the site, to looking at the "force applications" doctrines as voiced by NRO, U.S. Space Command, DoD Space Architect's Office, and other members of the defense and intelligence community.

Judging from the language emanating from the April 3 National Security Day at the U.S. Space Foundation's Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the agencies are making opponents' jobs easier by opting for very explicit (some might say belligerent) statements of applying space-based SIGINT to terrestrial civil and military goals. The Space Command's new "Vision for 2020" brochure, in particular, leverages this year's buzz-term of choice, "Full-Spectrum Dominance," in making clear that the U.S. will only allow commercial enterprises or other nations to use space on terms set forth by the military.

Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall, for example, described an early test of the Global Broadcast System in which video information from a Predator UAV over Bosnia was fed in near-real time to the space intelligence center at RAF Molesworth. She boasted that "this is an example of information dominance in action. Our space-based forces are the glue that holds this dominance together."

The language of dominance is precisely what is upsetting RSOC opponents in Europe. Concerns are no longer limited to the civil liberties issues of terrestrial microwave intercept or civilian communication satellite intercepts, but also extend to the role bases play in fulfilling Space Command's visions of full-spectrum dominance.

British opposition is far more mature than that in Germany, due in equal measure to the 20 years of reporting Duncan Campbell and others have provided on NSA facilities in the U.K., and to the experience of many women from the Greenham Common cruise-missile campaign who lent their collective weight to establishing a peace camp at Menwith Hill.

The different levels of awareness are matched by different levels of government response to opponents. The British government had a reputation of being far more lax in treatment of civil disobedience than the German government. In Germany, even taking pictures of the Bad Aibling RSOC or the Gablingen Circularly Disposed Antenna Array could subject offenders to a jail term. In the U.K., women were able to enter Menwith Hill radomes and operations buildings hundreds of times over the last five years, due to the base's uncertain sovereign status during the years when it was identified as NSA Field Station 83.

Times have changed in both nations. On March 12, U.K. Ministry of Defence civil police raided the home of Tracy Hart in Leeds, as part of an investigation of cable-cutting at Menwith Hill. Tracy is an RF researcher and vocal base opponent, who is on the national board of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. When her home was raided March 12, MoD officials took several boxes' full of documents, maps, photos, and open-source material, such as catalogs from Raytheon Corp. and Antennas for Communications Inc. Hart was told that her materials would have to pass muster of both the British Official Secrets Act and the U.S. Freedom of Information Act before any were returned to her.

In addition, Menwith Hill has now been named an official RAF site, so that it can fall under local Yorkshire bylaws, putting opponents under greater threat of prosecution. Defence Secretary Michael Portillo reportedly has been warned by U.S. officials to press hard for prosecution of Hart and Helen John, two of the most outspoken Menwith Hill opponents.

By contrast, German officials have been loosening up the security around NSA/NRO bases since the flap surrounding CIA agent Peyton Humphries in mid-March. The week the Colorado contingent visited Bad Aibling, Der Spiegel carried a three-page article on the NSA in Germany, with a two-page color spread on Bad Aibling. Nevertheless, Eric Schmidt-Eenboom of the Weilheim group Forschungsintitut fur Friedenspolitik, said that peace activists who are very familiar with NATO and U.S. war policies in both nuclear and conventional fields, remain surprisingly unenlightened about NSA sites. At a March 20 conference in Darmstadt, U.S. and European activists tried to remedy this by exchanging information about plans for U.S. bases in Europe.

Beyond a Technology Focus

It is hardly surprising that activists initially concentrated on the expansion of radomes, omni-gain arrays, and log-periodic VHF antennas at the RSOCs, since the growth at Menwith Hill and Bad Aibling has been so visible in recent years. Campbell's 1993 "Dispatches" television program covered the radome growth initially exposed by the women's peace camp, revealing programs such as Runway, Thistle, Steeplebush II, and Moonpenny for the first time. Since then, total radome count at Menwith Hill has expanded to 25, with a 26th under construction, giving the entire Yorkshire dales area north of Otley a Close Encounters aura. The largest and newest radome at Menwith Hill, GT-6, is reportedly used to downlink information from the third generation of geosynchronous SIGINT satellites of the NRO, referred to as Advanced Orion or Advanced Magnum. Similarly, even though Bad Aibling is smaller and in a suburban area, it sports 16 radomes, soon to increase to 20.

Growth of new HF and VHF arrays also is accelerating at the two RSOCs. Even as the CDAA Flare-9 "elephant cages", used for HF-DF of fixed military sites, are being closed down or put on remote-operations status at locations such as Gablingen and Edzell, Scotland, new omni-gain arrays for intercepting a variety of mobile HF traffic sources are being constructed at both Menwith Hill and Bad Aibling. In addition, 250-foot and 300-foot log-periodic antennas, dubbed "Knobsticks" at the British site, are being constructed in between radomes.

The overall layout of the two RSOCs is surprisingly similar. Areas dedicated solely to the host nation's agencies - GCHQ in Britain, BND in Germany - are at the southwest corner of the bases. Along the southern perimeter of both bases, near the Runway radomes in the case of Menwith Hill, are areas of joint agency responsibility. In this area at Bad Aibling is an unusual array of 24 100-foot vertical HF antennas, arranged in a W-shaped array as seen from above, with 6 antennae on each leg of the W. Omni-gain arrays and vertical log-periodic antennas are stationed well within the U.S.-only portion of the two bases.

Anne Lee, an applied physics teacher and long-time member of the Menwith women's peace camp, said that the 1992-95 period was one in which base intruders learned all they could about the likely frequency bands the dish antennas and vertical antenna arrays operated in. Various pieces by Campbell, as well as the Secret Power book by New Zealand researcher Nicky Hager, helped confirm many suspicions about the bases commercial comsat targets. But now the opponents want to examine the doctrinal statements of U.S. agencies, putting this together with what is known about the bases. Opponents have plenty of statements by U.S. authorities to guide their analyses.

First, the announced intentions of the Bush and Clinton administrations to increase the amount of economic intelligence conducted by the technical intelligence agencies corresponds to a generally-held belief that RSOCs as well as embassy sites are spending less time analyzing military force traffic, and more time tracking commercial data transactions. Lee said that, with many U.S. companies now opposed to the NSA over public-key encryption issues, even more corporations may join the opposition chorus if they learn that their business communications are regularly intercepted.

Lindis Percy and Annie Rainbow of the Committee for Accountability of American Bases, an Otley group working against Menwith Hill and several other U.S. bases, believe that collaborative efforts of the FBI and NSA on international fronts should raise a warning to U.S. citizens that the agencies probably collaborate closely on the domestic front, under terms of the 1994 Communications in Law Enforcement (Digital Telephony) Act. For example, the FBI has approached the European Union common police committee with plans for a unified database called Echelon - identical to the name of the keyword database which Hager claimed NSA relied on at UKUSA ground stations. Percy called the name of the FBI program "highly suspect," and Schmidt-Eenboom of the Weilheim group agreed with her analysis.

"We have every reason to assume that NSA's Echelon/Dictionary and the FBI's Echelon are one and the same," he said.

British and German groups are paying new and close attention to the application of strategic intelligence for tactical advantages, under the TENCAP (Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities) programs of the U.S. government. One of the first series of TENCAP intelligence fusion experiments, the Talon programs at the Space Warfare Center at Falcon Air Force Base, used NRO and NSA data from strategic programs to provide fighter pilots, tank commanders, and even individual members of the Special Operations Forces, instantaneous updates of areas of conflict. U.S. Space Command began boasting of Talon's capabilities two years ago, tossing around the phrase "real-time intelligence to the warfighter."

At a conference on space technology at Darmstadt University March 20, Wulf von Kries of the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Luft und Raumfahrt said that "space militarization is not primarily about the weaponization of space. We should pay much closer attention to the use of space for intelligence and communications that can be applied on a real-time basis to ground forces."

There is still a bit of skepticism as to whether Talon-style programs can ever be expanded to continents, using the model of the Defense Department's new Global Broadcast Service program. In early April, the Defense Science Board warned that many such concepts tried out in Bosnia overwhelmed ground forces with more data than could be utilized. Schmidt-Eenboom said that the combined problems of assuring security during real-time distribution, and preventing information overload for ground troops, would likely limit the usefulness of systems like GBS. But von Kries said that such systems will be of at least partial utility, and hold the risk of giving the U.S. an unprecedented edge in all international disputes (a point of view which The Economist echoed in its lead editorial March 8).

Many Yorkshire activists, particularly Scarborough-area residents near the Fylingdales Space Command site, are worried that even the nominally defensive space analysis sites developed under the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System program, are being retargeted for provocative purposes. Hart of the Leeds CND led the U.S. group on a tour of RAF Fylingdales March 16, a location where three radomes have recently been replaced by a single 400-foot, three-faced phased array radar similar to the PAVE PAWS series in the U.S. What with recent statements of using ASAT facilities against commercial satellites, which Army Space and Missile Command officials gave to the New York Times in early March, Yorkshire CND members are convinced that facilities such as Fylingdales will now be used for offensive space denial to other nations and commercial space companies, rather than as defensive missile-warning sites.

Full-Spectrum Dominance

Military authorities are confirming the activists' fears with doctrinal statements which mince few words. In fact, the "Vision for 2020" brochure of the Space Command, distributed at the Space Symposium April 3, bore many similarities to an anti-Space Command brochure of Citizens for Peace in Space in Colorado Springs. The CPIS brochure points out that no arguments of space dominance would be complete without an examination of the unfair distribution of resources on the planet, and the Space Command brochure also points out the growing disparity between haves and have-nots - providing the U.S. with even more justification for taking charge, so that it can protect its uneven use of global resources. The Space Command has few apologies to make for advocating maximum exploitation of the U.S.'s status of sole remaining superpower.

"What country on Earth is more ideally suited and intellectually prepared to lead in force application for the future than America?" asked Space Command head Gen. Howell Estes, with nary a trace of irony.

Estes and Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, director of the Army Space Command, voiced similar concerns about moving beyond "situational awareness" to "situational understanding" in all possible global theaters of conflict. This means that mere fusion and distribution of data to the field is only a first step. The technical intelligence agencies and services must apply case-based reasoning and other AI tools to give tactical commanders an explanation, on the fly, of what the intelligence being delivered means. NRO Director Keith Hall said that the fusion of NSA and NRO resources into "cooperative systems-of-systems in signals intelligence" was only the first step. Unclassified weather and mapping data, as well as data from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office, must be combined with fused NSA/NRO data to create "a common geospatial reference database," Hall said.

To move from Talon to worldwide GBS-like systems, the Air Force is creating several new battle labs, both within the U.S. and worldwide, to lead in the application of intelligence sources "to achieve total dominance in every field," Widnall said. Similarly, the NRO on March 31 created an Advanced Systems and Technology Directorate, which will subsume the former Small Satellite Office of NRO, and examine a range of next-generation satellite technologies to apply to a global real-time distribution network. Hall stressed that commercial technologies must be leveraged in a variety of ways, including using technology developed in commercial low-earth-orbit programs when appropriate, and even possibly taking over commercial systems of interest to Space Command and NRO during times of international tension.

Even supposedly benign and commercialized systems, such as Global Positioning System, have a place in the new "full-spectrum dominance" doctrine. A year ago, in response to President Clinton's presidential directive calling for an end to selective availability in the GPS program, the military launched a "NAVWAR" project for preserving deniability of signals to the enemy in a regime where both the L1 and L2 GPS signals must be opened to civilian users. At the April conference, Col. Pete Worden, Air Force Deputy Director for Requirements, told the Space Symposium audience that NAVWAR had been subsumed into a larger program called GPS III. This program will define a third military-only frequency, dubbed LM, which will be added to GPS Block II-F satellites beginning in 2004. Worden said that the third frequency will allow commercial users to achieve sub-meter positioning accuracy, while allowing the Defense Department to maintain an edge in precision weapons targeting which will not be available to outsiders.

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