Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gary Francis Powers Redux

For those who need some brushing up on history, Powers was the pilot of the notorious and doomed high-flying U2 spy plane whose siblings are still used for not only spying, but also I'm happy to report, for Astronomy.

I was out to the movies last night ( "The Immortals" if you want to know, decent enough and surprisingly literate, with the amount of Mythology packed into it ). I bring this bit of info up because the Air Force has been running a series of ads before the flick starts about "this isn't Science Fiction, it's what we do everyday", or some such. I only half listen to them. One in particular shows these huge swivel engine transport planes landing on ruined bridges to save lives, which makes me laugh, because, well, it's silly. Maybe you've seen them and know what I'm on about.

There is buried somewhere in my head a quote from the Original Star Trek series attributed to Nimoy's Mr. Spock, also paraphrased.

"Military secrets are the least secure of all secrets".

So we lose one of our Flying Technological Terrors, as Darth Vader put it in disparaging the Death Star in the face of one of its commanders, to our hated enemy and cause of all trouble in the Middle East, Iran. As Stewart notes above, first comes the lie, then eventually, to our credit, comes the truth.

Our government spends billions to develop these technologies to keep us safe from the Terrors Outside the Walls, spends billions more flying them around the world to spy and gather intelligence and kill where we may, but we cannot rebuild our people's lives, keep them healthy, adequately fund our education system or find a policy that works, rebuild our decaying infrastructure and frayed economy.

We gut our own sacred enshrined and much ballyhooed freedoms, while those brave and long-suffering US citizens and others in our military around the globe fight to preserve them.

There are still vital and healthy signs in the Old Sod left, enough that I'll still go out to plead my case to vote, participate, and to Hope for Some Change. But Lordy, it's a long so very long row to hoe.



  1. Funny, but this was exactly the type of situation we were talking about on my drone thread. It didn't take a genius to see the possibility.

  2. No, it does not, and also genius I am not.

    But entirely happy trudging along behind your trail-blazing footsteps. :)

    So, a snapshot of life here, where a desperate mother solves the problem of getting her kids food to eat. Reiterating the problem of Geniuses ( Genii ? ) producing multi-billion dollar Wonders of Technology while the country's support systems wither and rot on the vine.

    "SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A Texas woman who for months was unable to qualify for food stamps pulled a gun in a state welfare office and staged a seven-hour standoff with police that ended with her shooting her two children before killing herself, officials said Tuesday.
    Goodman didn't know what Grimmer specifically failed to provide. In addition to completing an 18-page application, families seeking state benefits also must provide documents proving their information, such as proof of employment and residency."

    Fuck these geniuses.

    May all they get for this Christmas season is


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  5. Update, with video


    The condition suggests that the Iranians took control of the remotely-piloted aircraft rather than shooting it down. This has a host of implications for the future of drone-based intelligence. The latest salvo in cyberwarfare could be between engineers trying to wrest remote control of airplanes from one another. US intelligence experts doubt the use of a cyber attack from Iran in securing the drone, but they cannot explain the incident either.

    Iran also lodged a formal complaint over having its airspace violated, using the ambassador from Switzerland (they have no diplomatic ties with the US, and they just took down the US’ new virtual embassy) to raise the complaint. The most formal US response borders on bragging that they work hard to monitor the Iranian nuclear capacity:

    "The CIA’s use of surveillance drones over Iran reflects a growing belief within the Obama administration that covert action and carefully choreographed economic pressure may be the only means of coercing Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, current and former U.S. officials say.

    The administration’s shift toward a more confrontational approach — one that also includes increased arms sales to Iran’s potential rivals in the Middle East as well as bellicose statements by U.S. officials and key allies — suggests deepening pessimism about the prospects for a dialogue with Iran’s leaders, the officials say.

    The administration’s evolving strategy includes expanded use of remote-controlled stealth aircraft, such as the one that came down in eastern Iran last week, as well as other covert efforts targeting Iran’s nuclear program, according to U.S. government officials and Western diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence-gathering efforts.

    The U.S. officials said the stealth drone was part of a fleet of secret aircraft that the CIA has used for several years in an escalating espionage campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities."

    Left unsaid: whether any of these strategies follow international law and constitutional and federal statutes. Somehow, this entire conversation over the drone has occurred in this vacuum where it is accepted as a given that the US can fly drone planes over foreign countries and perpetrate aggressive, even offensive activities without any formal declarations of war or even a public debate. Somehow, the New York Times can only go so far as to say that “Iran’s leaders… point to the drone as evidence of hostile American intentions toward Iran.” Well, aren’t they right? And not only do we have the evidence of the drone strike, but also the assassination of nuclear scientists and ballistics experts, the introduction of computer viruses to bog down missile production, and more.



  6. Update #2

    Why can't we have international diplomacy and negotiations about wandering drones like that anymore?

    And Romulan women certainly have that something that intrigues . . . .

    This was the story, I believe, from which Mr. Spock's military secrets quote originates.



    By: David Dayen Monday December 12, 2011 12:16 pm

    In a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Obama calmly explained that his Administration asked Iran nicely for their drone back. “We’ve asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Obama said. He added that the matter was classified, but the acknowledgement that someone wrote a note to the Iranian Lost & Found seeking one RQ-170 Sentinel stealth plane basically confirms the capture of the drone, which appeared on Iranian TV last week.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backed this up through a spokesman, saying that “We submitted a formal request for the return of our lost equipment…we do not expect them to comply.”
    The US is in a real bind here. The existence of the drone, now confirmed by the President, proves that they have engaged in at least covert intelligence operations inside Iranian air space. Given all of the other incidents alleged over the past several months, it’s simply unlikely that this ends with the drone. This includes the deployment of the Stuxnet worm to disable Iranian ballistic technology, the explosions at several missile sites and the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists on the streets of Tehran."