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Russia seeks to build GPS monitoring stations on US soil


“In the view of America???s spy services, the next potential threat from Russia may not come from a nefarious cyberweapon or secrets gleaned from the files of Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now in Moscow,” the New York Times reports.  “Instead, this menace may come in the form of a seemingly innocuous dome-topped antenna perched atop an electronics-packed building surrounded by a security fence somewhere in the United States.”

Not to quibble, but I don’t think the next security threat was likely to issue from the metaphorical loins of Ed Snowden.  He’s the current threat, or maybe the previous threat, depending on how much classified intel he’s still packing on his thumb drive.  At any rate, let’s hear more about the electronics-packed buildings surrounded by security fences that Russian wants to build across the United States.

Wait… they want to do what now?  And somebody in the U.S. government thinks this is a good idea?

It turns out the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, is working on its own version of the Global Positioning System, known as Glonass.  The Russians might want to think about some re-branding there.  A system whose name ends in “-ass” has got marketing problems in the English-speaking world right off the bat.

In order to make this system work, the Russians would need to build at least half a dozen installations packed with high-powered electronics and monitoring systems across the United States.  Stop laughing, there are people in the U.S. government who are taking this proposal seriously.  In fact, the deal was sailing right through the Obama Administration until the intelligence community blew a fuse.

For the State Department, permitting Russia to build the stations would help mend the Obama administration???s relationship with the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, now at a nadir because of Moscow???s granting asylum to Mr. Snowden and its backing of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Oh, well, that sounds reasonable enough… hey, wait a minute!  Putin granting asylum to Snowden and backing Assad in Syria were bad things Russia did to us.  Why are we trying to mend the relationship by letting them build spy stations… er, excuse me, GPS monitoring installations… on our soil?  Unless Carrie Underwood has led me astray, the appropriate move at this point would be for us to key the crap out of Putin’s pretty little 4-wheel drive, carve “USA” into his leather seats, and take a Louisville slugger to his headlights.

Instead, the State Department wants to let them build electronic warfare installations… er, excuse me, GPS satellite links… on American soil, and give away our valuable advantage in global positioning technology.  And we don’t even have any GPS ground stations in Russia yet.

But the C.I.A. and other American spy agencies, as well as the Pentagon, suspect that the monitor stations would give the Russians a foothold on American territory that would sharpen the accuracy of Moscow???s satellite-steered weapons. The stations, they believe, could also give the Russians an opening to snoop on the United States within its borders.

The squabble is serious enough that administration officials have delayed a final decision until the Russians provide more information and until the American agencies sort out their differences, State Department and White House officials said.

Russia???s efforts have also stirred concerns on Capitol Hill, where members of the intelligence and armed services committees view Moscow???s global positioning network ??? known as Glonass, for Global Navigation Satellite System ??? with deep suspicion and are demanding answers from the administration.

???I would like to understand why the United States would be interested in enabling a GPS competitor, like Russian Glonass, when the world???s reliance on GPS is a clear advantage to the United States on multiple levels,??? said Representative Mike D. Rogers, Republican of Alabama, the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee.

If you like your GPS system, you can keep it.  No one is going to take it away from you, period.

It seems like only yesterday that one of President Obama’s “venture socialism” picks was prevented from creating a network that could have interfered with GPS signals.  Now we’re going to give the Russians a crack at it?  Is there any real reason for the rest of the world to worry that angry Americans are going to kick them off the Global Positioning System in a fit of pique?  Is that even possible from a technical standpoint?