Forbes: The Office of National Intelligence was very excited about sending a rocket into space Thursday with a bunch of new satellites and live tweeted its launch. This would usually be a cute display of social media, along the lines of NASA getting the world excited about its Mars Curiosity Rover, except these are spy satellites that will likely be used to gather communications flotsam and who knows what else from people around the world.
Dragnet surveillance is a touchy subject these days what with the Snowden leaks and constant new revelations about cell phones being turned into location trackers, listening in on foreign leaders’ phone calls and the vacuuming up of any information sent digitally that’s not encrypted. Given that, I was a little surprised that ODNI was bragging about the launch on Twitter and putting the mission patch for the rocket on prominent display as it looks like it was drawn by a writer for The Simpsons with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
“Ready for launch? An Atlas 5 will blast off at just past 11PM, PST carrying an classified NRO payload (also cubesats),” tweeted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, including a pic of the logo for the satellite: a cartoon octopus wrapping its arms around the world, emblazoned, “Nothing is beyond our reach.” It’s maybe a little bit tone-deaf given the current controversy about just how much is within the reach of the NSA and other intel agencies. Or maybe it’s an attempt to embrace its new image.
“NROL-39 is represented by the octopus, a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide,” says Karen Furgerson, a spokesperson for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). “‘Nothing is beyond our reach’ defines this mission and the value it brings to our nation and the warfighters it supports, who serve valiently all over the globe, protecting our nation.”
It’s amazingly cartoon-like for an agency with a $10.3 billion budget, and it is decidedly more ominous that the logos slapped on previous missions, with the exception of a three-headed dragon licking the Earth like an ice cream cone.
Ready for launch? An Atlas 5 will blast off at just past 11PM, PST carrying an classified NRO payload (also cubesats) pic.twitter.com/ll7s0nCOPg
— Office of the DNI (@ODNIgov) December 5, 2013
The “payload” might be classified, but the Twitter account does share a few details.
“In addition its primary payload, the rocket will also carry a dozen mini satellites funded by the National Reconnaissance Office and @NASA,” tweets @ODNIgov. “Founded in 1961 the NRO is the agency in charge of designing, building, launching, and maintaining America’s intelligence satellites.”
In other words, spy satellites. The logo is certainly accurate, but maybe they should make it friendlier next time. Like a big Care Bear circling its arms around the world instead of a scary kraken.
How stealth, putting a logo on a spy satellite – brilliant!