By John Lasker for Wired News
Mar, 01, 2006
For more than a year, Bruce Gagnon strongly suspected he and his family were being spied on, but he didn’t have any evidence, and he didn’t know who might be behind it.
An Air Force veteran, Gagnon is one of the most prominent activists in the world concerned with space weapons. He directs the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space from a small office in Maine.
Still, he was caught off guard when the American Civil Liberties Union called and told him it had uncovered court documents revealing that NASA and the U.S. Air Force were secretly monitoring him.
"We’re a small organization with meager resources," said Gagnon. "They feel threatened by us? That tells us something."
As tourists line up to ride private rocket ships into space, the galaxy has never seemed closer as a theater for war. The evidence goes beyond surreptitious surveillance of peace-loving space activists. Even now, lobbyists from the fledgling commercial space industry are besieging Capitol Hill, hoping to persuade the government to hand out contracts to help put the U.S. military into orbit.
This week is "March Storm," when 50 to 75 lobbyists will spend three days speaking with staffers from more than 250 offices on Capitol Hill. Some of the lobbyists represent the aerospace industry, but most have been hired by smaller space startups and entrepreneurs.
The big talking point? How the private sector can help the U.S. military build space-based weapons a lot faster and with a lot less of taxpayers’ money.
"The U.S. military still doesn’t have the capability to launch a spy satellite on demand," said Marc Schlather, director of ProSpace, the lobbyist group coordinating March Storm. "We are seeking a cross-pollination."
The Bush administration, as the Clinton administration before it, continues to push forward President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative — or "Star Wars" — a wide-ranging space weapons program first proposed in the mid-1980s.
Since the ’80s, the military has spent an estimated $120 billion trying to develop weapons that could destroy incoming nuclear, biological or chemical warheads targeting American cities.
Yet in the 20 years since Reagan called for this multilayered "space shield," the military is still light-years away from deploying any directed-energy weapons or anti-satellite mines.
Despite the lack of tangible progress, the Bush administration increased the Star Wars budget by 20 percent for 2007, with the total allocation reaching $10.7 billion, an increase of nearly $6 billion since 1999.
Gagnon is convinced this master plan for space defense is nothing but a fantastic Trojan horse.
"This massively costly program under way today is not really about defense," he said. "The true purpose of this arms program is to control and dominate space. And whoever controls space will control the Earth."
Gagnon and other critics say the military’s ambition to control space has been an objective since the beginning of the Cold War.
The Bush administration has called for a permanent base on the moon by 2020, Gagnon noted. Once there, the United States will be able to monopolize the moon’s resources, he said, such as helium-3, an element rare on Earth but abundant on the moon that may drive nuclear fusion.
In January, Russia announced a similar plan, aiming to establish a permanent base on the moon by 2015 and mining operations to extract helium-3 by 2020. China, which in 2003 became the third country in the world to send a human into space, has announced plans for an unmanned lunar landing by 2010, and a manned moon mission by 2020.
To protect U.S. interests, Gagnon said space-based weapons will be deployed near or on the moon.
"The military has stated the moon is the ultimate high ground," Gagnon said. "There’s going to be a scramble for the moon by the Chinese, the Russians and the Americans. This is real. There’s going to be a conflict over it."
Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank, said the militarization of space is being championed by factions in the Air Force, the Pentagon, the Defense Department and even the White House — but not by all.
"There is a debate ongoing about the wisdom, the affordability and the do-ability of implementing a full-up space-war fighting strategy," she said.
But because China is claiming to have developed anti-satellite capabilities, and the U.S. military is fighting terrorists across the globe, "these space hawks are emboldened now," said Hitchens.
On the other hand, Hitchens said there are factions within the Air Force and the White House against the militarization of space, mostly because the cost would run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Hitchens said the space hawks, which include Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have clearly stated their goals in several strategic-planning reports published during the last several years.
"While our ultimate goals are truly to ‘exploit’ space through space force enhancement and space force application missions, as with other mediums, we cannot fully ‘exploit’ that medium until we first ‘control’ it," said U.S. Space Command in the recent Strategic Master Plan FY06 and Beyond.
Controlling space, said sources, was outlined in a Department of Defense report published in 2000 titled Joint Vision 2020. The report introduces the doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance, or supremacy on land, sea, air — and space.
"In the past, Full Spectrum Dominance meant land, sea and air," said a public affairs officer from U.S. Space Command, who declined to give his name. "Now it encompasses cyberspace and space.
"We need to operate in the realm of space. No doubt about it," added the officer. "We also reserve the right to protect our assets in space."
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space