Remember the good old days, when Russians smacked wing tips instead of Chechens, and photos for Lockheed’s Stealth fighter were as easy to find as say, George Bush during the Iran-Contra hearings?
Now that the Cold War has thawed, everybody with a gizmo to hawk and a cause to promote is jumping on the Internet bandwidthwagon, including quasi-secret defense and intelligence agencies. Mata Hari types and arms peddlers that wouldn’t reveal their shoe size under threat of flogging during the Reagan years are suddenly offering warm “about us” welcomes on the Web.
Some sites make you wonder if the U.S. Government is paying its webmeisters enough to ensure their loyalty. Here’s a peek at the defensive corner of cyberspace:
- The first thing you want to see after a government agency emerges from years of secrecy are blood donation and recycling stats, right? The NSA, apparently feeling warm and fuzzy after being given the go-ahead on declassifying documents 25 years and older, is proud to announce that it recycles 250 tons of newspaper, aluminum, cardboard, and wooden pallets annually. Furthermore, its blood donor program has flourished for 24 years. They should get in touch with Newt about a transfusion.
- Though not posted on the NSA site itself, the Handbook’s presence on the Net is good for a few chuckles, especially the part where the agency cautions NSA personnel against “drawing attention to themselves,” as the agency’s “mission is best accomplished apart from public attention.”
- In the market for guided missile components or nuclear ordnance containers? It’s unclear whether users can order online, but an e-mail query requesting a few of the agency’s finer weapon systems prompted no fewer than six responses from DLAMM lackeys, offering suggestions and helpful advice about the Defense Department’s arsenal.
- The Department of Energy must have slipped this one onto the Net in the dark of night (the old “we made this information public years ago” strategy). Nothing like a little plutonium injection to (literally) brighten your day.
- Visitors to this U.S. military server clearinghouse are greeted with the following message: “All accesses verified at time of inclusion. Certain locations or sections thereof may be closed to unauthorized use. Please read access warnings, if any, and abide by them.” Sounds more like Tom Cruise’s screen test for Mission Impossible than superpower menace.
- The granddaddy of all defense sites is dominated by public relations fluff, but a few surprises lurk. Link to the Defense Mapping Agency, where you can click through pages of product and project rundowns, despite the ominous “Unauthorized use of this system or the information on this system could result in criminal prosecution” message.
- Old spooks never die, they just update their Web site. In a creepy twist on Cold War rhetoric, the federal program for the Development of Espionage, Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism Awareness advises transnational businesspeople that “Overseas travel, foreign contact, and joint ventures may further increase [their] exposure to the efforts of foreign intelligence collectors.”
And that’s not even mentioning the many personal home pages devoted to, shall we say, unauthorized declassification of documents:
- Need McDonnell-Douglas’ radio frequency? Or perhaps a map of restricted areas in Nevada? RUSMS has the goods for the conspiracy theorist in your life.
- Paul McGinnis is one of those guys who keeps the Radio Shack catalog next to his toilet. By the time you’re done reading about his search for the California facility where the Stealth bomber was made, you’ll know just how hot it gets in the desert (in Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees), as well as the precise recommended speed limits on each access road.
- Didn’t get enough of Nevada’s fabled Area 51 in Independence Day? Even hardcore fanatics will find new grist here, courtesy of the Area 51 Research Center (founded by webmaster Glenn Campbell after he was accused of being a government agent and run out of town by an allegedly drunk, gun-toting innkeeper). Browse a full chronology of the Extraterrestrial Highway, a testamonial about seven-foot aliens, news updates, and even a cybermall featuring a viewer’s guide, T-shirt, and maps — Area 51 gone commercial.