Philip Taubman

Taubman, Philip. "Failure to Launch: In Death of Spy Satellite Program, Lofty Plans and Unrealistic Bids." New York Tmes, 11 Nov. 2007. []

The collapse of the Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) project in September 2005, "at a loss of at least $4 billion, was all but inevitable." It was "the result of a troubled partnership between a government seeking to maintain the supremacy of its intelligence technology, but on a constrained budget, and a contractor [Boeing] all too willing to make promises it ultimately could not keep." Combined with other recent failures, this has left "the nation ... without advanced new systems to replace a dwindling number of reconnaissance satellites first designed in the 1970s and updated in the 1990s."


Taubman, Philip. "Secrecy of Reconnaissance Office Is Challenged." New York Times, 1 Mar. 1981, 10.

Taubman reported that consideration was being given to declassification of the NRO, and discusses some of the reasons why there was concern about doing so.


Taubman, Philip. Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Umansky, Washington Post, 16 Mar. 2003, comments that the story of how scientists broke through the barriers to reconnaissance from space "could make for a fascinating tale. But Secret Empire isn't it. Taubman ... is not a lively writer. And ... the book's characters blend into one -- an overachieving, patriotic man who loves flying.... [T]he book is mostly small-bore, resolutely sticking to a step-by-tiny-step history of the program. Frequently, the only obvious point seems to be to get it all down.... The result ... is often something only a satellite buff, or perhaps a product manager, could love."

The reviewer for Publishers Weekly, 17 Feb. 2003, has a different view, calling Taubman's work an "exciting, meticulously researched spy story.... [It] functions marvelously as a history of science, detailing the research, engineering and policy decisions behind the U2 and Corona, but it's also an excellent social history of the Cold War in the 1950s and early '60s. It's a page-turner as well."

Freedman, FA 82.3 (May-Jun. 2003), finds that "Taubman provides a wealth of detail..., based on many interviews and copious research. He weaves together complex strategic, organizational, and engineering issues, managing to convey the drama and excitement of a race to find some way of getting consistent and reliable intelligence on Soviet nuclear missiles at a time when the United States was widely assumed to be falling behind."

For Mahnken, NWCR 57.1, this "history of the strategic issues, politics, personalities, and technologies that drove the development of America's extraordinary space reconnaissance capability ... does a splendid job of interpreting the significance of the technical problems encountered and the brilliant ingenuity of the solutions." The author is "attuned to the importance of the enabling technologies and brings their role and impact to the reader’s understanding."

Day, IJI&C 17.4 (Winter 2004-2005), finds that this work is "[r]eadable and [provides] a decent overview of the subject.... But it is not original. It contains no information that could not be found in books written several years ago.... [In addition,] the book does not advance a more knowledgeable person's understanding of what happened during this period."

To Robarge, Studies 48.1, the author "has filled the 'if you read only one book on the subject, this is it' category. Secret Empire is an accessible, thorough (but not definitive) synthesis for the general reader." Bath, NIPQ 19.3, "strongly" recommends this work "to layman and specialist alike." Although the work "adds little new or startling to reconnaissance history," it pulls together "the many strands of the story into one coherent and highly readable volume."

[Recon/Imagery, Planes, & Sats/Books]

Taubman, Philip. "U.S. and Peking Jointly Monitor Russian Missiles." New York Tmes, 18 Jun. 1981, A1, A14.


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