Follow-up Notes to My Article on Satellite Surveillance: Microwave Radar as Opposed to Infrared Detection

I would like to make a few revisions and add some sources to what I wrote last July in my article “The Shocking Menace of Satellite Surveillance,” which was linked to at least 25 web sites, and which raised some disbelief.

Judging from the feedback I received, mind-reading by a satellite was the most difficult thing to believe. What I wrote may have made it seem as though the spy satellite itself read minds, or did all the work of interpreting brain waves. However, that is not true. Mind-reading and other satellite powers could be compared to saying “the car was going 60 m.p.h. down the highway.” Of course, cars do not run themselves, they need persons to operate them. In other words, a phrase like “satellites can read minds” should not be construed too literally. A spy satellite, to put it more accurately, enables a technician, a person, to read someone’s thoughts as downlinked by telemetry and deciphered and displayed by a computer at a ground station on earth. (Ground stations are technically known as “TT&C”,’s--”telemetry, tracking and control.” For example, the corporation General Electric’s Americom division has ground stations at Woodbine, Maryland, Grand Junction, Colorado, South Mountain, California and Vernon, New Jersey.) Also, a credible source on the Internet gives to this technology a ground resolution of .018 meter, while American popular media--not the best source for this kind of information--still prattle about resolution being like a tennis court or parking space.

The most important revision I should make, though, concerns the means of satellite sensing or “imaging.” I had assumed that infrared detection might still play a significant role in satellite spying, but information I later found makes it clear that radar imaging--especially microwave-radar imaging--is the state of the art in satellite surveillance. Infrared detection is apparently hindered by roofs, ceilings and building material in general, yet a human target inside a home or building--or in almost any sort of structure--can nevertheless be detected by a surveillance satellite. Hence, the only way to explain this ability is to assume the use of microwave radar.

Satellite microwave radar works by means of the Doppler effect, superheterodynes, beacons (also known as racons, or transponders), pulse modulators, “interrogators” and “subtraction circuits.” Active satellite radar differs from passive radar in that the former sends out a pulse when it receives an echo. Radar using the microwave spectrum--generally from one millimeter to one meter--has two enormous advantages over radar using a larger beam width: It can be used with a much smaller antenna and target resolution is much greater. (Charles Elachi, “Spaceborne Radar Remote Sensing: Applications and Techniques” [1988], is a good source for this subject.) In discussing radar, I might add that radar installations on the ground can detect satellites in space.

The web site of the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office)--to turn to a different aspect of sources--contains some information on satellite technology, though it all seems superficial. The quotation of Burrows in my original article on the ability of satellites to “eavesdrop”--to detect speech and sound in general--is in his book “Deep Black” (1986). Dependent on brain mapping research--maybe both published and unpublished--mind-reading sources (besides Stine’s book) can be found in the popular literature, in such magazines as Newsweek and Psychology Today, though they neglect to mention its linkage with satellites. The quotation of a scientist in the paragraph on mind-reading is in Newsweek, Aug. 22, 1994, p.57. Aviation Week & Space Technology is an accessible source on satellite technology, the quotation about SDI being from this magazine (from vol. 121, Dec. 10, 1984, p. 57--”SDI Pushes Space Surveillance Effort”). Information on the bizarre Neurophone can be found at The website provides the ground resolution mentioned in this article. The quotation from “1984” is, of course, from Orwell’s novel.

It is also interesting to note that Sputnik, having been the first artificial satellite--and the heroic dog Laika of Sputnik ll--are famous, whereas few can give the name of the first American space response of 1958 (the second American satellite was named Vanguard 1).

Although my article was linked to many web sites, the issue--or the would-be issue--I raised does not seem to have penetrated the popular media; my article was basically ignored by them and rejected for publication by many magazines and newspapers. If there will still be disbelief regarding satellite spying, I’d mention again the daily evidence of the legitimate use of satellites--satellite dishes on the roofs of homes, weather casts with images from space, and this article will have been relayed for publication by a satellite. The technology is there, and unfortunately for its victims, it is not under public scrutiny, much less popular control. Such technology doesn’t exist? “Dis aliter visum.”

John Fleming

John Fleming is the author “The War of All Against All: An Analysis of Conflict in Society.”

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