Security By Bending GPS Geography

INV-TSABLDG BLOG writes that the exurbs of Washington, DC are scattered with office parks quietly housing organizations and companies connected to national security and government secrets. Drive though, and you may not notice, but your GPS could be jammed, giving incorrect directions, or even suggesting that you drive in an infinite U-turn loop. These are areas where maps suddenly go sour:

In a fascinating detail from a series of articles published two years ago in the Washington Post, we learn about one way to hide classified government infrastructure in plain sight.

“Just outside Washington,” authors Dana Priest and William Arkin explain, in the exurbs of depopulated office parks and “huge buildings with row after row of opaque, blast-resistant windows,” there can be found what the authors describe as “the capital of an alternative geography of the United States, one defined by the concentration of top-secret government organizations and the companies that do work for them.” And it is cleverly camouflaged:

The existence of these clusters is so little known that most people don’t realize when they’re nearing the epicenter of Fort Meade’s, even when the GPS on their car dashboard suddenly begins giving incorrect directions, trapping the driver in a series of U-turns, because the government is jamming all nearby signals.

It’s an experiential trap street—an infinite loop—a deliberate cartographic error introduced into the mapping of the world so as to sow detour and digression. A kind of digital baffling, or recursive geography as state defensive tactic.

I’m also curious when we might see this privatized and domesticated—gated communities, for instance, blocking the GPS navigation of their streets in the misguided belief that this will help protect them from future burglary, effectively delisting themselves from public cartographic records. Perhaps the future of neighborhood security lies in the privatized repurposing of advanced signal-jamming technology, the misleading lamination of other, false maps onto the streets as they really exist.

6 Comments on "Security By Bending GPS Geography"

  1. Calypso_1 | Feb 16, 2012 at 6:03 pm |

    You know somebody is going to map these and create an app.  Security through obscurity – brilliant.

    • I’m sure China already has. 

      • Calypso_1 | Feb 18, 2012 at 11:06 am |

        The US can only hope China makes better maps than the CIA. 
        I can see the Chinese operating a SCO ‘peace keeping’ mission and taking out a US embassy with a FT/LT class GPS guided munition.  Oh so sorry thought that was two lefts then a right.

  2. DeepCough | Feb 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm |

    GPS: “This turn does not concern you.”

  3. Anyone ever use a paper map? More bureaucratic brilliance. Worse than that, democracy and secrecy are mutually exclusive.

  4. Citizens, we are engaged in secret work. You have no need to know what we do, where we do it, how we do it, when we do it, or why we do it.

    Go back to sleep. That is a direct order.

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