Events & Coverage

2000 - 2002

Materials presented in chronological order.

Hall, Keith R. [Director/NRO and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space] "The National Reconnaissance Office -- Freedom's Sentinal in Space." American Intelligence Journal 19, nos. 3 & 4 (1999-2000): 1-12.

General overview of the NRO's past, present, and future.

Myers, Steven Lee. "In One of Few Problems, Link to Spy Satellite Fails." New York Times, 2 Jan. 2000. []

A computer system at a NRO ground station failed at midnight Greenwich Mean Time on 1 January 2000. The failure "cut communications with one of the nation's secret spy satellites for two to three hours on [31 December 1999] and continued to hobble its operations [on 1 January 2000], Pentagon officials said.... The satellite continued to operate normally, but the disruption made it impossible to process the information it was transmitting back to earth, the officials said. No other satellites were affected."

Reuters. "Pentagon Fixes Its Spy-2K Glitch." 3 Jan. 2000. []

On 3 January 2000, the United States "recovered full use of a critical spy satellite system.... The ground link that processes the satellites' feed 'returned to full operational status...' after repairs were wrapped up overnight, Defense Department spokeswoman Susan Hansen said.... The glitch apparently interrupted access to the most advanced U.S. eyes in the sky[,] the Air Force's Keyhole photographic reconnaissance satellites and Lacrosse all-weather imaging satellites.... Experts deduced that the failure had occurred at the Defense Communications Electronic Evaluation Test Activity, a sprawling facility dubbed 'Area 58' at Fort Belvoir, Va."

McWethy, John. "Y2K Bug Causes Intelligence Losses; Defense Silent Due to Terrorist Fears." ABCNews, 4 Jan. 2000. []

Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre acknowledged on 4 January 2000 that the "intelligence blackout on New Year's Eve ... was a big deal." Hamre said: "'It was not an unimportant dimension. It was a significant dimension.' ... [F]or two hours, the United States lost all information from spy satellites that take pictures over places like the Middle East and Russia. The data was beamed back to Earth, officials say, but computers at Fort Belvoir, Va., could not translate the information.... Temporary repairs were begun quickly, but it took two days to complete the job."

See also, Joseph C. Anselmo, "Y2K Knocks Out NRO Imagery," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 10 Jan. 2000, 27; John Diamond, "Satellites on Blink for Days." Chicago Tribune, 13 Jan. 2000, 1; Richard Lardner, "Pre-Y2K Problems Undercut Operation of U.S. Satellite Imagery Network." Inside the Pentagon, 13 Jan. 2000, 1; and John Diamond, "Pentagon Defends Reliabilty of Satellites." Chicago Tribune, 14 Jan. 2000, 1.

Laurenzo, Ron. "NRO Chief Sees Industry Helping Out with Satellite Spy Duties." Defense Week 21, no. 6 (7 Feb. 2000): 3 ff.

Loeb, Vernon. "Back Channels: The Intelligence Community -- Looking Over NRO." Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2000. []

The new 11-member commission to review NRO operations met for the first time on 10 February 2000 . Members include former NSA official Larry Cox, former NRO director Marty Faga, businessman Eli Jacobs, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes.

Wall, Robert. "Larger Intelligence Review to Follow NRO Study." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 2 Oct. 2000, 45.

The Commission for the Review of the NRO "is nearing the completion of its work." The commission is co-chaired by Sen. Robert Kerrey (D-NB) and Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL). According to Goss, the process is going to redefine the mission of the NRO. The findings of the commission are expected to focus on management issues.

U.S. National Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office. Report: The National Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office. Washington, DC: GPO, 14 Nov. 2000.

The "Executive Summary" is available at:

The Commission's "List of Recommendations" is contained in Appendix A.

"Overall Finding and Conclusion: The Commission concludes that the National Reconnaissance Office demands the personal attention of the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence. It must remain a strong, separate activity, with a focus on innovation, within the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense. Failure to understand and support the indispensable nature of the NRO as the source of innovative new space-based intelligence collection systems will result in significant intelligence failures. These failures will have a direct influence on strategic choices facing the nation and will strongly affect the ability of U.S. military commanders to win decisively on the battlefield."

Appendix D covers the "Historical Development of the Secretary of Defense-Director of Central Intelligence Relationship with the NRO."

Loeb, Vernon. "Panel Report Reveals Satellite Details." Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2000, A41. []

"[B]uried deep in Appendix F" of the Report of the Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office, "the commission revealed that the NRO has six different satellites in development. The first of the six went into development about 1994 and should be completed sometime next year. The last of the six -- which could be the first of the so-called Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) satellites -- was begun in 1998 and will take six years to finish."

Singer, Jeremy. "Congressional Panel Proposes NRO Space Reconnaissance Office." Space News, 27 Nov. 2000, 4.

Singer, Jeremy. "Peters Criticizes Space Commission Findings." Space News, 22 Jan. 2001, 14.

Diamond, John M. "Re-examining Problems and Prospects in U.S. Imagery Intelligence." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 14, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 1-24.

The focus here is on space-based imagery intelligence. The discussion flows out of five "key points" identified by the author:

"1. The U.S. space imagery community has yet to clearly lay out a path forward that is unanimously supported within the intelligence community and by congressional overseers.

"2. The current space imagery intelligence architecture has yet to demonstrate an ability to contribute decisively in one of the nation's most important national security areas: terrorism and weapons proliferation.

"3. The primary mission of imagery intelligence is trending away from the national strategic mission of the Cold War and toward a real-time battlefield information role....

"4. Despite a major transformation of the major national security challenges facing the United States, the imagery intelligence system in use today is essentially the same as that used during the Cold War.

"5. Among sophisticated adversaries, development of the skills involved in denying and deceiving observation from space appears to be outpacing advancement in satellite intelligence collection."

Wall, Robert. "Rumsfeld Revamps Space, Pushes 'Black' Projects." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 14 May 2001, 30.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. "Back to Black." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 57, no. 3 (May-Jun. 2001): 22-24, 74.

Gertz, Bill. "12-hour Glitch on Spy Satellite Causes Intelligence Gap." Washington Times, 26 Jul. 2001. []

The NRO lost contact with a Lacrosse radar-imaging satellite last week, "causing a major gap in intelligence monitoring of world hot spots.... The satellite stopped functioning for some 12 hours, according to U.S. intelligence officials.... The satellite was said to be functioning normally after the glitch was fixed."

Loeb, Vernon. "FBI Official Named to CIA Deputy Post." Washington Post. 4 Aug. 2001, A4. []

On 3 August 2001, among other appointments, DCI George J. Tenet announced that Dennis Fitzgerald, CIA Associate Deputy Director for Science and Technology (ADDS&T), will become NRO deputy director.

Masters, Brooke A., and Vernon Loeb. "Air Force Retiree Charged as Spy: Secret Documents Passed, U.S. Says." Washington Post, 25 Aug. 2001, A1. []

Brian P. Regan, a retired Air Force master sergeant who works for NRO contractor TRW Inc., was arrested on 23 August 2001 and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage. Officials "said they have evidence of spying involving one country, which they declined to name, but government sources identified it as Libya." See also, Walter Pincus, "Satellite Agency Has Tradition of Secrecy; Joint Defense-CIA Enterprise Uses Many Contract Employees Such as Alleged Spy," Washington Post, 25 Aug. 2001, A10; and James Risen, "Employee of U.S. Contractor Accused of Conspiracy to Spy," New York Times, 25 Aug. 2001. Click for more information on this case.

Best, Richard A., Jr. Imagery Intelligence: Issues for Congress. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 12 Apr. 2002. Available at

The importance of imagery intelligence "has been growing significantly in recent years. The challenge is to design organizations to obtain, analyze, and disseminate the result of new technologies to support an evolving defense and national security structure while remaining within budgetary constraints. The mixture of cutting-edge technologies, complex organizational structures, and budgetary limitations complicate decision-making." Includes useful appendices focused on the NRO and NIMA.

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