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What Life Was Like Inside the Hexagon Project 104

Posted by timothy
from the in-the-spring-we'd-play-jai-alai dept.
As new submitter kulnor writes, "Hexagon, a cold war secret project around spy satellites to monitor USSR was declassified last September." kulnor excerpts from the AP story as carried by Yahoo, outlining how more than 1,000 people in and around Danbury, CT kept mum about the nature of their employment: "'For more than a decade they toiled in the strange, boxy-looking building on the hill above the municipal airport, the building with no windows (except in the cafeteria), the building filled with secrets. They wore protective white jumpsuits, and had to walk through air-shower chambers before entering the sanitized 'cleanroom' where the equipment was stored. They spoke in code.' As more and more WWII and cold war secrets are declassified, we learn about amazing technological feats involving hundreds of people working in secrecy. I wonder what will emerge in a few decades around modern IT, the Internet, hacks, and the like." Every time I visit Oak Ridge, TN, I am amazed by the same phenomenon of successful large-scale secrecy.
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What Life Was Like Inside the Hexagon Project

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  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:35AM (#38502490)

    It was actually the secret government workers, and not the conspiracy theorists, who wore the tin-foil hats.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And the white suits were to keep the secrets in. ;-)

  • Keeping a secret (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:36AM (#38502500)

    So much for the usual anti-conspiracy claim of "more than a few dozen" people not being able to keep a secret. 1000 people can keep a secret for decades as long as they have a sufficient incentive.

    • by alen (225700) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:44AM (#38502568)

      they were building satellites to spy on a country that has 20000 nuclear bombs pointed at your country

      not the idiocy that the US government destroyed 2 buildings in NYC and killed a lot of people

      • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:42AM (#38503194) Homepage

        I'm still a million times more afraid of the American government with their mass media, than the Russian government with their nukes, because there's a lot less ambiguity around a nuke. You either blow shit up, or you don't. There is no profit motive if everyone's dead.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I'm still a million times more afraid of the American government with their mass media, than the Russian government with their nukes, because there's a lot less ambiguity around a nuke. You either blow shit up, or you don't. There is no profit motive if everyone's dead.

          A million times more afraid of a government's propaganda than being blown up by a nuclear bomb? Did you actually write this?

          • by cdwiegand (2267)

            You know, it's not unrealistic. It's GUARANTEED the gov't will use the mass media (and has already), but as of yet no nuclear disaster on continental US soil...

            • by Hartree (191324)

              "as of yet no nuclear disaster "

              It's like falling off a 100 foot cliff. Down 99 feet, and so far so good!

              (disclaimer for the humor impaired :)

        • by Feyshtey (1523799)
          There's most certainly profit motive if you blow up the guy you owe....
        • Useful Idiot.

    • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:05AM (#38502788) Homepage

      Ya, people who say that conspiracies cannot happen and secrets cannot be kept have never studied history.
      More then a few things have come to light involving entire government branches and multiple big companies that kept secrets for decades (and of course any that lasted longer then a normal human life are less likely to come to light after that).

      • by sco08y (615665)

        Ya, people who say that conspiracies cannot happen and secrets cannot be kept have never studied history.
        More then a few things have come to light involving entire government branches and multiple big companies that kept secrets for decades (and of course any that lasted longer then a normal human life are less likely to come to light after that).

        What people are usually saying is that large scale criminal conspiracies can't be kept under wraps. It's too easy for one person to quietly leak the secret if they feel it's justified.

        Also, they usually point out that the large scale criminal conspiracy theories make no sense [theonion.com].

    • Except the existence of US spy satellites was not a secret even at the time.

      • by supercrisp (936036) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:11AM (#38503482)
        As far back as the late 80s, the KH satellites were fairly common knowledge. At least I know that we knew about them at the planetarium I worked at. And there were complaints/rumors from some quarters that Hubble was "just" a repurposed KH design, whether that was true or not. I'm sure that, at some level, secrets were kept, but the overall project was known of. The same is true at Oak Ridge. If you live in the area, you eventually meet people who tell you things that aren't such common knowledge, like about the escort vehicles, terrorist threats, conventional weapons manufacturing, etc in the area. None of it is really, really secret, but just not generally known about, or talked about. Of course a lot of what you hear is probably BS. Anyway, BS or not, none of this implies that we need to rewatch all the alien dissection films to see if that was a secret badly-kept. At some level I think credulousness and paranoia should be trumped by common sense.
        • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:30AM (#38503704)

          Also there is the mushroom farm aspect, mentioned in several stories. So I'm grinding optics. Why? Well because my boss told me to. Whats the focal length and lens geometry? Sorry, classified, hey btw could I get your name for the FBI... um I mean for HR, in case a job opens up, its uh, just a policy we have to always report, uh, future employment candidates? Where does the lens go that you're making? In a storage box. Oh, OK, cool.

          People at /. are good at systems analysis and assume everyone else is, and they can just look at systems and processes and understand how it ALL works and interacts. General public, not so much, and they often have no idea what they're "really" doing at work. I would not be surprised if many of the former employees still haven't figured out they were building this big ole satellite, even after the declassification and news reports.

          • by mjwalshe (1680392)
            Actulay you probably can make educated guesses - back in the day I was asked to digitize from high speed film from a test rig (basically project the film on a wall covered with graph paper and step through frame by frame and by hand mark the position of the "object". It was quite obvious what it was and when I commented to my office mate he said oh yes that will be "codename1" the upgrade for "codename2". "Codename1" was a secret at the time though private eye had leaked info about it.

            And in the 40's on
    • by brokeninside (34168) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:50AM (#38503276)

      FTFA

      In 1975, a `60 Minutes' television piece on space reconnaissance described an `Alice in Wonderland' world, where American and Soviet intelligence officials knew of each other's `eyes in the sky' — and other nations did, too — but no one confirmed the programs or spoke about them publicly.

      Despite 1,000 workers mostly keeping mum, both the US and the USSR had a general idea of the operational capacity of the other nation. The `secret' was the proverbial `elephant in the room.' Everyone knew it was there, they just didn't talk about it.

      That is an entirely different animal than actually keeping a conspiracy secret.

      • Despite 1,000 workers mostly keeping mum, both the US and the USSR had a general idea of the operational capacity of the other nation. The `secret' was the proverbial `elephant in the room.' Everyone knew it was there, they just didn't talk about it.

        That is an entirely different animal than actually keeping a conspiracy secret.

        Um, no. If the general outlines of a highly secret but somewhat visible project* were widely known (and they were, even within by civilians unconnected to the project, the military,

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          like submarines tracking other submarines or executing SIGINT missions.

          No, those were very much visible, too. Corresponding programs on each side seen each other.

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

      For some reason I knew about the existence of spy satellites before.
      If that was the big secret, then it was leaked a long time ago.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The argument you're trying to refute is based upon the premise that the larger the pool of people involved in something unethical, the greater the chance that at least one will feel impelled by his or her conscience to spill the beans. I don't see how anyone involved with this project could possibly see it as unethical or wrong, so it really doesn't disprove squat.
      I mean, sure, get 1000 people to spy on the guys who are threatening to nuke them and everyone they love, and they'll keep the secret jus

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hmm... after a time, and serious vetting, they were ultimately let in on the secret, and they also had a bit of a vested interest in the secret. That kind of secrecy is easy to keep in place.

      Some of the other secrets, that rely on a few people knowing the Secret, yet everyone else involved, not knowing the secret, those are much harder to pull off. Some involved, not knowing it all, will put the pieces together, if only for themselves. Some, not knowing, and marginally or not involved, but suspecting, will

    • by eionmac (949755)

      8500 folk worked inside Bletchley Park, with upwards of 4000 odd 'feeder' outworkers. secret kept for 30 years. even wive/husband pairs did not tell each other what they did at Bletchkey Park.

  • by sjwt (161428) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:41AM (#38502534)

    Its amazing what technology the spy game brings forth, one has to wonder how much this really cost, considering they haven't declassified that yet? The cost would of been huge, not just in the $ sense, but in the fact that all those specialist from different fields where taken to develop just this one project for so long.

    It dose seem odd, that if the amount is so high that it hasn't been declassified, why they went ahead with it when the SR71's [wikipedia.org] were in use, or was this a bit of a power-play between different branches of the government not sharing or not wanting to give up control over something.

    • by Jawnn (445279) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:54AM (#38502654)

      ...or was this a bit of a power-play between different branches of the government not sharing or not wanting to give up control over something.

      More likely it was different mission capabilities. The aircraft's course can be effectively altered on short notice. This increases both it's flexibility (altering the course of an orbiting satellite is nothing if not ponderous) and perhaps more importantly, it's unpredictability. If you know that a possible recon satellite passes over every n hours, you hide your stuff at that time. Habu could show up with much less, if any, notice.

      • If you know that a possible recon satellite passes over every n hours, you hide your stuff at that time.

        Interesting sidenote: I've read that even though the US hid secret development aircraft when Soviet satellites were overhead, the Soviets knew the outline of the aircraft from the cool IR image left by the unheated ground of their shadows.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Interesting sidenote: I've heard that the US put weird-shaped cutouts over the runways, let them bake in the sun, then hauled them in just before the infrared sats from the CCCP passed by overhead.

      • by decsnake (6658)

        ...or was this a bit of a power-play between different branches of the government not sharing or not wanting to give up control over something.

        More likely it was different mission capabilities.

        bwahahaha

        You've never worked for the US Government, have you?

    • by skydyr (1404883) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:55AM (#38502664)

      The SR-71s were certainly noticed by the Soviet's as they were passing through their airspace, and while successful, certainly, they could also have been used to hide the existence of the various spy satellite programs by providing a plausible alternative means by which the US could have gained the information they used at various treaty negotiations. Eisenhower's Corona program began in 1960, years before the blackbird began overflights of the Soviet Union, and was clearly both a gigantic success and a gigantic secret. Setting up a secondary secret program which had telltale signs the Soviet's could pick up on to mask the existence of the primary one seems like a great way to keep the satellite programs a secret both externally and within the US government, where they could also be attributed to the other program when discussing the results with individuals who needed the information but did not need to know about the program itself.

      • by decsnake (6658) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @12:21PM (#38504322) Homepage
        The SR-71 never overflew the Soviet Union. It was used over other nations, most notably China (with Nationalist Chinese pilots) and Cuba. See Jeffrey T. Richelson, The Wizards of Langley, pp. 20-22, 98-100, 138-146. An excellent book, BTW, if you are at all interested in this stuff.
    • by chill (34294) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:06AM (#38502790) Journal

      From TFA:

      Early Hexagons averaged 124 days in space, but as the satellites became more sophisticated, later missions lasted twice as long.

      Sending up a satellite for just 4 months of pictures is a bit costly and cumbersome. It also precludes a quick response. A plane can be sent for a quick look to get a confirmation. A satellite has to depend on the target being in its orbital path, and passing over at just the right time, etc.

      On the other hand, the satellite can get you 4 months of regular photos to do a time lapse or comparison.

    • by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:13AM (#38502866) Journal
      Although the SR-71 was made to operate beyond the reach of fighter aircraft ans surface-to-air missiles, there was still the potential that it could be brought down, or malfunction and crash, over enemy territory. This carries a lot of risks.

      In addition, the article mentions that a full-frame image from a KH-9 could cover an area over 300 miles across. That kind of wide-field view if important militarily in a way that complements the closer-up images from spy aircraft.

      The SR-71 has a somewhat smaller radar cross-section than you'd expect for such a large aircraft, but it was hardly stealthy: the USSR and China could know exactly when they were overflown by it. They could also know pretty well when a spy satellite would be overhead of a certain area, but couldn't always be sure if it was taking photos during each pass. This meant that they always has to assume that their military sites were under continuous surveillance, even if they weren't, and expend significant resources to counteract that. Same, too, on our side.

      Although the SR-71 could get most anywhere on the globe within a day, so long as the orbit inclination is right (they were mostly polar orbits, I would guess) you are pretty much guaranteed to have a satellite pass within 12-24 hours anyway. And once it is launched, the bird is always up there: you don't have to worry much about staging it the way you do with a limited number of aircraft. There may have been places too deep inside the USSR and China for the SR-71 or U-2 to reach.

      So, in short, one could conclude that the military wanted a variety of intelligence gathering options for breadth, depth, redundancy, and theatrics. The fact that there was a lot of money available for such things, which could be spread across a lot of agencies and a congressional districts, probably didn't hurt, either. They didn't have to choose among options: they could opt to do them all.
    • by vlm (69642)

      why they went ahead with it when the SR71's [wikipedia.org] were in use

      Short answer - you can not shoot down a satellite, you can not steer a satellite, you can not avoid a satellite (due to massive ground coverage). And the reverse for a SR-71.

      Its possible to find stuff in the Venn diagram that can be done equally well by both, but most tasks seem to fall within one or the other.

  • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:46AM (#38502576) Homepage Journal

    I wonder what will emerge in a few decades around modern IT, the Internet, hacks, and the like.

    I wouldn't be surprised if little or nothing is declassified in the future. Given the never ending "war on terror" they can come up with excuses to redact just about everything.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:58AM (#38502706)

      Yes, current shit is heavily redacted. This has always been the case. For that matter it was even heavier in the past and prior to 1966 (when the FOIA was passed) there was basically no mechanism to even ask. During WWII you just didn't find out about government secrets, at all.

      Part of declassification is just age. Most things stay classified for 25-72 years (how long depends on what you are talking about). So until that time has passed, they aren't declassified. Parts might be made available under FOIA or other special circumstances, but they aren't full declassified.

      The reason is that information is only sensitive for so long. So by building in an automatic time, you reduce the risk anything still sensitive is revealed.

      After that time, the documents get reviewed to see if they should be released. The government has released a lot of shit too, some of it not at all flattering to them.

      So for stuff now, 25 years is the earliest you'll see it. Some things last longer (50 years is the House of Representatives standard). The longest I know of is census data, that is 72 years.

      Declassification isn't automatic after that time, of course, but they do seem to take it seriously. There are lots and lots and lots of declassified documents out there. So please don't bitch that they won't show you classified stuff now. That has never been the case. If you think that should be changed fair enough but don't try to act like it is a new thing.

      • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:12AM (#38502858) Homepage Journal

        I think what gets declassified now is great. What I'm talking about is the future. Only in the last 10 years have we been in what the government calls a permanent war on terror. In 30 years we could still be in perpetual war, based on the current crop of politicians we elect. So they'll surely redact more of the information from 2000 on if we're still in the exact same "war".

        • If you think there is anything new about this 'war' you're wrong. While I'm sure we will be at war with this boogy man until the next one comes along, it is just the current one. I grew at the end cold war. Damn commies we're coming for us any time! Or so we we're told. Nuclear bomb drills, etc. Communism fell, the boogy man died. I imagine this one will stay around longer, since it's an ideal and not a specific group. Game hasn't changed, just the names.
          • The difference now is that soldiers and citizens are dying every day and it's being reported in the news. It's very easy for a politician to say something is necessary for the current war while we all know people are dying. The USSR was the perpetual boogie man who was most scary for what they didn't do. But the "war on terror" has hit US soil and soldiers are on the ground. One thing they have in common is politicians will the use the situation to their advantage.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              It's ironic that your handle is "truthsearch" when you ignore well-known facts.

              The difference now is that soldiers and citizens are dying every day and it's being reported in the news... The USSR was the perpetual boogie man who was most scary for what they didn't do.

              As the GP mentioned, the actual bogeyman was Communism. An ideal, not a people. It's principal manifestation was the USSR, but there were other times where the USA not only took up arms against it but lost lives in the process. Iraq and Afg

        • and these documents are from a perpetual "war on cold" ha ha, but seriously. the rooski's were our "enemies" for a lot longer than terrorists have been.

  • I was there almost 10 years ago. nice and very expensive homes. a very nice spanish restaraunt. seemed like a lot of educated people lived there.

    this explains it. educated people usually try to educate their kids

  • Conspiracy Toolkit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:02AM (#38502746) Homepage Journal

    Any time people tell you that some conspiracy for which there is evidence actually exists cannot possibly be true, because too many people would have to know about it for it to remain secret, consider this story about the Hexagon Project. Consider how many Cold War projects like this one maintained secrecy for so long, until it was declassified decades after its mission was completely obsolete, generations after it was actually operating. Consider that a project like this was kept secret even though everyone keeping the secret had a clear conscience, their project never implicated in moral wrongs like torture, false flag invasion, inside job "Let It Happen On Purpose" self-sabotage or worse.

    Then consider the conspiracy evidence you're being asked to ignore on the grounds that the Hexagon Project couldn't possibly have been kept secret. And consider it again.

    Note that the demonstrated ability to keep complex, valuable secrets completely hidden for a long time does not create evidence of a conspiracy where there is none. It simply debunks the defense that a conspiracy cannot exist because it could not be kept secret. It can be kept secret. So the evidence, when it exists, can be judged on its own merit.

    • by necro81 (917438)
      That the US had an extensive spy satellite program back in the day is hardly a conspiracy or secret: it was broadly known, even back then. The Soviets, certainly, knew it, as did large swaths of our own military and intelligence community. Even a good slice of the American public probably knew, or guessed, about such capabilities. Keeping tight-lipped about what you do each day isn't a secret of the same caliber as keeping the entire program secret.

      Consider that a project like this was kept secret even t

      • They may not have known the name. They may not have known all the details of where the satellites were being manufactured or where the data was being analyzed. But the very article linked to mentions aspects of the program that were impossible to hide (e.g. rocket launches) and mentions that other nations knew what sort of program the US had in place. It's one thing for people to keep secret that they are the ones working on this particular secret project and it's another thing entirely for people to keep s

      • by Feyshtey (1523799)
        Agreed. Not only would leaks of these secrets not have been shocking, the also would not have been repugnant. It's easy to keep a secret when you see nothing (morally) worng in the keeping of that secret. It's easier still when you realize few would care if they recieved the news, save perhaps some brief glee in hearing something thats supposed to be a secret. There wouldnt have been a scandal to uncover, or a wrong to be righted, or an atrocity to stop, or a abhorant activity for which someone must be brou
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The difference here is that there isn't much of a shocking "secret". They were building satellites to monitor the USSR. Um, everyone knew that was happening somewhere in the US. There is a big difference between saying that the government kept something as horrible as a false-flag 9/11 event secret and keeping info about a bunch of people working on some satellites.

      And I'll bet some of the the wives knew. Probably the USSR knew about it too. It was just too boring to communicate the existence of this projec

    • It can be kept secret.

      There is no one "it" here. The existence of some secrets does not imply that it's possible to keep any secret.

      For one thing, it was most assuredly not a secret that the US had spy satellites. As much as the US would have loved to keep that fact secret, they couldn't. The world might not have known the exact details of some specific program, but the general idea was definitely too big of a secret to keep under wraps.

    • by JTsyo (1338447) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:41AM (#38503186) Journal
      There was no conspiracy with Hexagon. It was a just a secret government project. No one doubts that there are secret government projects. But the existence of secret projects does not imply the existence of a conspiracy to harm the American people.
      • by Feyshtey (1523799)
        Correct. they are not mutually inclusive. Nor does the ability to keep a government project secret prove the ability to keep a consipiracy secret.
    • I posted this bit FTFA above, but it's worth reposting it in this thread as well.

      In 1975, a `60 Minutes' television piece on space reconnaissance described an `Alice in Wonderland' world, where American and Soviet intelligence officials knew of each other's `eyes in the sky' — and other nations did, too — but no one confirmed the programs or spoke about them publicly.

      This sort of secret, one which everyone actually knows of but just don't know the details is an entirely different kind of secret

    • Area 51 is another good example. Buses and airliners full of people go to and from there every day and secrets don't leak out.

  • It's no surprise that they can keep a secret. Civilian personnel in defense and intelligence are, by and large, capable of keeping a secret when it counts. They are motivated to do the job and keep such secrets as are necessary to get it done (this does not include fraud, but the Important People do what they want). They know that info getting out could cause soldiers to die and wars to be lost. Speaking for my colleagues, it is not just another job because we know what's at stake.

    Now, give classified i

    • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@nospAm.carpanet.net> on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:41AM (#38503192) Homepage

      > They know that info getting out could cause soldiers to die and wars to be lost. Speaking for my colleagues, it is not just another job because we know what's at
      > stake.

      Except that the wars and soldiers all work under the direction of congress. So those wars get started by those dummies, based on lies, and against our real interests. So... really the scary thing is that... you people who are so into the mission that you are willing to keep a secret, are also willing to work for the dummies in congress.

      Frankly, It all seems like a huge waste to me, the only one of the lot who had any sense in his head, as far as I can tell, was Bradley Manning.

  • Sounds like they borrowed this from the movie Andromeda Strain.
  • by hessian (467078) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:14AM (#38502888) Homepage Journal

    During times of great national unity, when there's a clear perceived threat, you can get this kind of cooperation.

    Right now, the US and most industrial nations are so internally divided that they would be unable to pull this off. There is no longer a culture, sense of shared purpose, or goal.

    While some consider this a benefit, it means we're all sitting ducks when someone comes around who has their act together. China comes to mind.

    • by EmagGeek (574360)

      It doesn't help that Military R&D is now a political process, not an engineering process. This is very well-evidenced by the F-22 and F-35 abortions.

    • by JackPepper (1603563) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:20AM (#38503582)

      I am overjoyed there is no more sense of shared purpose. Otherwise, I might have been drafted to go to Iraq or Afghanistan or attack the Libyans from afar. This idea that countries must have a purpose or a goal is ridiculous. You'll end up with a state like China, where talking heads decide what the next goal is and then the people blindly follow. And in following that goal, the path is only the vision of the talking heads. When the US was founded, the philosophers who wrote the Constitution didn't talk about how the US was going to be first in education or dominate another country in GDP. The philosophers spoke about a country where each man would be able to follow his passions with in the law. The 13 colonies fought the war of independence for mutual benefit. It's hard to see the benefit in beating other countries in subjective goals.

      Oh shit, now I'm rambling, but I hope you get the point.

    • by mbone (558574)

      You must be kidding, right ? You seriously think that there are no major "black" programs that are not in the press ?

  • by mwehle (2491950) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:16AM (#38502914) Homepage

    intense activity of a relatively small company that had just been awarded a massive contract (the amount was not declassified)

    What is the rationale for keeping the dollar amount spent classified? How were contracts awarded? What were the profits made? What sort of kickbacks were involved? As fascinating as the technology is, I'm thinking there is a still more fascinating, albeit quite different, story left untold.

  • Given the size of the US government, there have to be documents that no-one alive knows about anymore, because everyone who had access died before they should have been released. Locked somewhere in a poorly marked filing cabinet, the combination or key lost decades ago. Even if found, since there's nobody left who understands the document, it would remain classified. (Or does the Government automatically declassified information it doesn't understand, or does it just destroy the document?)

    I imagine i
    • by DragonHawk (21256) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:39AM (#38503822) Homepage Journal

      Given the size of the US government, there have to be documents that no-one alive knows about anymore, because everyone who had access died before they should have been released. ... Even if found, since there's nobody left who understands the document, it would remain classified. (Or does the Government automatically declassified information it doesn't understand, or does it just destroy the document?)

      Every Original Classification decision includes the date at which the information is to be automatically declassified. Every classified document is supposed to be marked with a reference to the document which made the Original Classification decision, and the date at which it becomes declassified. All classified documents are supposed to be physically inventoried twice a year, and that inventory reported upstream. So for classified documents, the situation you describe would be less likely. Not impossible -- people don't always follow the rules, to be sure -- but less likely.

      Most people who haven't worked with this stuff don't understand that classification is as much about accountability as it is about confidentiality. There's a huge paper trail associated with classification.

      But not everything secret (lower-case "s") is necessarily classified. There could well be stuff that's locked up and long-forgotten precisely *because* it hasn't been formally classified, and thus isn't subject to all the above.

      • But not everything secret (lower-case "s") is necessarily classified. There could well be stuff that's locked up and long-forgotten precisely *because* it hasn't been formally classified, and thus isn't subject to all the above.

        That's what I'm thinking about. When data is gathered from the field, there's an assumed level of secretness before it can be formally classified. (Need to Know) At the end of WWII, the US gathered literally tons of stuff from the German rocket programs, documents, physical objects and scientists. There's no way all of it was properly accounted for, there was just too much stuff, gathered ASAP. Even NASA doesn't have a proper accounting for all the moon material that was returned, and that was orders

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Even though this program was recently declassified, I recall reading about the Keyhole (KH) satellites many years ago in the book 'The Puzzle Palace'. I suppose it's interesting to know more specific details, but I'm not sure how much is really new here.

  • We just won't know how much of a secret this was, until they declassify their documents about what they knew about the place.

    It doesn't really matter if it was a secret to the US public. If the Russians knew where it was being made, they could implement plans to dig for more information about it.

  • by mbone (558574) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:39AM (#38503828)

    Many of these secrets were, and weren't. The Hubble Space Telescope was built in Danbury, Conn., for example, in that very same building. Anyone involved in the HST, or even following it closely before launch, knew about its close design and engineering connections to the then current spy satellites. That was never really directly discussed in the press, but it was certainly common knowledge in the astronomy community. (In the same way, the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft shared a lot of engineering heritage with the KH-9.)

    That is what generally strikes me about the "deep secrets" that get revealed after decades - it's rare to have anything be a total secret. The clues are generally there, if you have the wit to put them together.

    • by decsnake (6658) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @12:14PM (#38504256) Homepage
      HST was not built in Danbury. HST was built by Lockheed in Sunnyvale. The primary mirror was ground (incorrectly) in Danbury by P-E.
    • Many of these secrets were, and weren't. The Hubble Space Telescope was built in Danbury, Conn., for example, in that very same building.

      Not quite. While the optical components were manufactured by Perkins-Elmer (and thus almost certainly in Connecticut), the bird was actually assembled by Lockheed out in California.

      Anyone involved in the HST, or even following it closely before launch, knew about its close design and engineering connections to the then current spy satellites.

      It's theorized that on

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That is what generally strikes me about the "deep secrets" that get revealed after decades - it's rare to have anything be a total secret. The clues are generally there, if you have the wit to put them together.

      Yes, this is true, but it is also true that if the media doesn't approve of, or spell it out for the dumb masses, (including most Slashdotters, just to be clear), then the truths people determine through investigation and logic are often ridiculed or ignored.

      You don't need perfect secrecy when broad

  • The whole culture of telling everything about yourself all the time is relatively new. We're talking about this on /. where we talk, sometimes, more openly than we would in person; lots of people reveal things on "social media" and are then surprised when some unexpected person actually reads what they revealed. Before this instant publicity existed, and with a less liberal culture, it's not really surprising that things were kept quieter, and that the shock when it was revealed was that someone had broke
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Manhattan project was not a large scale secret, from the Russians. They new the bomb was under development and knew how it was progressing. Truman told Stalin about the Trinity test result at Potsdam and was mystified that Stalin was't more surprised. It was because Stalin already knew the results.

  • The argument is along the lines of:

    The US managed to keep this specific spacecraft secret (ignoring that the manuals to its follow on, the KH11, got sold to the USSR at one point.)

    Therefore, The John Dillinger Died for You Society must have been telling the truth!

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