Tag Archives | Cold War

Government To Declassify Historical Images From Spy Satellites

1279aThe public will at last get a glimpse at our government’s secretive, Cold War-era version of Google Earth. Secrecy News reports:

Millions of feet of film of historical imagery from intelligence satellites may be declassified this year, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) said.

“The NGA is anticipating the potential declassification of significant amounts of film-based imagery… in 2011,” according to an NGA announcement that solicited contractor interest in converting the declassified film into digital format.

For planning purposes, the NGA told potential contractors to assume the need to digitize “approximately 4 million linear feet of film up to approximately 7 inches in width.” The imagery is “stored on 500 foot spools, with many frames up to several feet in length.” A nominal start date of October 1, 2011 was specified for the digitization project.

The declassification of historical intelligence satellite imagery has been largely dormant for many years. President Clinton’s 1995 executive order 12951 promised a periodic review of classified imagery “with the objective of making available to the public as much imagery as possible consistent with the interests of national defense and foreign policy.” In particular, a review of obsolete film-return systems, such as the KH-8 GAMBIT and the KH-9 HEXAGON, was to be completed within five years.

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Suburban Sprawl: A Government Tactic Against Nuclear Annihilation And Natural Disaster

tokyoIn the aftermath of last month’s devastation, Japanese leaders have called on urban planners to make Japan decentralized and lower density so as to be less vulnerable. It wouldn’t be the first time that sprawl has been employed as a strategy against societal annihilation; during the Cold War, American planners pushed for suburbanization as a defense against nuclear disaster. BLDGBLOG enlightens:

At the height of the Cold War, the sprawling, decentralized suburban landscape of the United States was seen by many military planners as a form of spatial self-defense. As historian David Krugler explains in This Is Only a Test: How Washington D.C. Prepared for Nuclear War, “urban dispersal” was viewed as a defensive military tactic, one that would greatly increase the nation’s chance of survival in the event of nuclear attack.

Specially formatted residential landscapes such as “cluster cities” were thus proposed, “each with a maximum population of 50,000.” These smaller satellite cities would not only reshape the civilian landscape of the United States, they would make its citizens, its industrial base, and its infrastructure much harder to target.

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Small Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming for Years … (Video)

Jack D. RipperCharles Q. Choi writes for National Geographic News:
Even a regional nuclear war could spark "unprecedented" global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models. Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate. During the Cold War a nuclear exchange between superpowers—such as the one feared for years between the United States and the former Soviet Union—was predicted to cause a "nuclear winter." In that scenario hundreds of nuclear explosions spark huge fires, whose smoke, dust, and ash blot out the sun for weeks amid a backdrop of dangerous radiation levels. Much of humanity eventually dies of starvation and disease.
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The Military’s Long-Lost Nuclear Apocalypse Film

The National Security Archive has the The Power of Decision posted in its entirety, making it available for public viewing for the first time ever. Produced in 1956-57 by the U.S. Air Force, it is perhaps the only government film depicting what the descent into nuclear holocaust would be like, a grim future in which "nobody wins a nuclear war because both sides are sure to suffer terrible damage," yet, "success" (i.e. the United States' prevailing with only some millions of casualties) is possible. It's not entirely clear why this was made -- perhaps to prepare military officers for confronting a nightmarish scenario:
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A Quick Journey Through 1970s Apocalypticism

Future Shock title slate paleofuture paleo-futurePaleofuture Blog, which look at predictions and visions of the future as previous generations imagined it, has a video feature examining the colorful weirdness of apocalyptic doom-and-gloom in the 1970s. In that decade, frightening documentaries such as Future Shock and The Late Great Planet Earth caught the zeitgeist by foretelling the fast-approaching destruction of humanity  at the hands of  overpopulation, dehumanizing technology, Communism, ancient prophecies, and natural devastation. Viewing these works today, they are a reminder that the world probably isn't going to end, and we'll make it through to tomorrow.
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Pictures From The Secret STASI Archives

stasiGerman artist Simon Menner has a bundle of photos taken by East Germany’s secret police during Cold War. Offering a glimpse into the small absurdities of life as a Communist spy, included are snap shots of suspicious household objects, agents modeling their “normal civilian” disguises, and West German spies who knew they were themselves being spied on, et cetera:

East Germany, until it ceased to exist in 1989/90, had one of the most advanced surveillance system ever in operation, the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Department of State Security) or STASI. In terms of number of agents per capita it even outranked the Russian KGB by far.

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was decided that most of its archive should be made accessible to the public and for historic research. Even though the access is restricted, this was very much in contrast to what most of the other nations of the former Eastern Block did.

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No Secret Here: The CIA Will Put A Spell On You

Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

While the fiery debates surrounding Wikileaks continue to move from content of cables to personal dramas surrounding founder Julian Assange, hyperbolic accusations of “high tech terrorism” and promises of retribution, the website Cryptome continues to publish its own archives of suppressed information. On Christmas, Cryptome released two documents from the mid-1950’s which briefly highlight the CIA’s interest in using hypnotism as a covert weapon (via Mother Jones) in the cold war against Communism.

The first document, titled “The Military Application of Hypntism (sic),” details two “practical applications” for hypnotism. The first would be using a subject as a courier. A hypothetical colonel would be given a message in deep hypnosis, would have no memory of being hypnotized, the nature or contents of the message. When the hypothetical colonel reached the intended recipient of the message, its recipient would retrieve it via another hypnosis session.… Read the rest

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Japanese Artist Maps History of the World’s Nuclear Explosions (1945–1998)

NuclearArtOver 2,000 detonations! Really informative. Duncan Geere writes on Wired.com (UK):
A Japanese artist named Isao Hashimoto has created a series of works about nuclear weapons. One is titled "1945—1998" and shows a history of the world's nuclear explosions. Over the course of fourteen and a half minutes, every single one of the 2,053 nuclear tests and explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998 are is plotted on a map. After a couple of minutes or so, however, once the USSR and Britain entered the nuclear club, the tests really start to build up, reaching a peak of nearly 140 in 1962, and remaining well over 40 each year until the mid-80s. It's a compelling insight into the history of humanity's greatest destructive force, especially when you remember that only two nuclear explosions have ever been detonated offensively, both in 1945. Since then, despite more than 2,000 other tests and billions of dollars having been spent on their development, no nuclear warheads have been used in anger.
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The Mystery Of Cursed French Bread (A Secret CIA Experiment?)

Cursed French Bread?Ted Goodman on PhyOrg recounts the strange events of August 16, 1951, when dozens of villagers in the French village of Pont-Saint-Esprit were struck with unexplainable and horrifying hallucinations of fire and snakes and beasts of all kinds, from, what was described as by villagers, eating le pain maudit ("cursed bread"). Recently on Russia Today, Hank Albarelli, author of A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments, suggests this incident was part of a CIA-funded experiment on foreign soil with LSD. According to Albarelli, five hundred people were affected by the "experiment" — resulting in forty people being taken to a nearby psychiatric institute and at least three suicides. Albarelli specifically discusses this incident at around 5:10 into this video, and relates it to the work of Frank Olson, the subject of his book.
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The U.S. and Soviet Union Considered Detonating Nuclear Bombs on the Moon

With all the hubub about NASA blowing up the Moon last October, I thought disinfo.com readers would like to know the U.S. (and the Commies!) had it in mind all along.

Here’s another chapter from my book 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know, published in 2003.

For more on me, check out: The Memory Hole.

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Moon BombYou’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an unused scene from Dr. Strangelove, but the United States and the Soviet Union have seriously considered exploding atomic bombs on the Moon.

It was the late 1950s, and the Cold War was extremely chilly. Someone in the US government got the bright idea of nuking the Moon, and in 1958 the Air Force Special Weapons Center spearheaded the project (labeled A119, “A Study of Lunar Research Flights”).

The idea was to shock and awe the Soviet Union, and everybody else, with a massive display of American nuclear might.… Read the rest

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