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The amazing things that you can find on the internet…

US submarines are designed for speed and stealth. The Navy takes great pains to keep this technology a secret. The most critical part of that secret is the design of the propellers that drive the subs and keep them quiet.

Whenever the submarine is brought into the graving dock for service, one of the first things that they do is cover the propeller with a tarp so that it can not be photographed. Evidently, if you know what they look like, you can figure out how to copy them and make your subs quiet too.

This photo shows the USS Georgia coming out of the water to be serviced. Note the shroud over the propeller to keep it from being photographed.

Now, click on this link to be taken to the Sub Base at Bangor, Washington. You may have to be in Internet Explorer to see this…
Exposed Propeller!!

The photo is of the graving dock on the “Delta Pier” and the propeller of an Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarine. Oops!! It really is an interesting design though. Seven blades with a “hook” in them. They actually look pretty fragile.

You can also use the zoom in and out keys and move around the Bangor Sub Base taking a close up look at the bunkers and magazines where they keep the nuclear weapons. You would think the US government would keep better tabs on this stuff.

I guess the Navy did not count on Microsoft’s Live Search Maps allowing the world access to the satellite images from orbiting cameras. As far as I know, images of this type should be classified. Instead, this information is available to anyone with an internet connection. I would think that Commanding Officers of military installations would have some person on their staff who takes a look at what is out there and makes recommendations on how to better provide security.

That’s an interesting picture of the Delta Pier at Bangor that I posted on I ran across it when I was using Microsoft Maps (Live Search) to look at a piece of real estate to purchase in Poulsbo, Washington which is just outside the Bangor sub base. Did you try zooming in on the bunkers for the Nuclear Missiles? Oops… Isn’t that one of those installations that they are supposed to “fuzz” out? Just North of Bangor is Naval Magazine, Indian Island. You can zoom right in on the doors to the missile bunkers there too. Microsoft maps “bird’s eye view” function even lets you look at it from all sides. Do you want to see some subs? Take a look at Bremerton Naval shipyard. There are a dozen subs sitting there. Take a look at Norfolk. There is no date on these pictures but you can see the tugs moving the ships onto and off the docks. Make sure you use the “bird’s eye view feature and look at these photos from all angles.

How many Harriers can you count on the deck at MCAS Cherry Point? How many F-15s at Elmendorf?

Maybe we don’t have a policy for “fuzzing” that stuff out. Maybe we should… For instance, did you know that you can use Google Maps to zoom right in on the pool behind the CENTCOM HQ building in Doha, Qatar? I was posted there during the run up to the “major hostilities” portion of the war in 2003. Take a look at the tarmac at Al Udied airbase. Do you think the bad guys don’t know how to use a computer and free software?

This stuff blows me away but then again, I read today that the military has “lost track” of 190,000 automatic weapons that we gave to the Iraqis. 190,000 weapons!!! I think that maybe somebody is dropping the ball… We used to have to fill out all kinds of paperwork when we misplaced a couple of bullets. Where is the accountability?

I am amazed by what you can find on the internet (if you look), but I am not so sure national security is being appropriately protected and the American public is being appropriately served.…

I Broke the Ferry Today…

Well, I didn’t actually break it myself, but I was steering when it broke. It was an exciting afternoon.

The Jumbo Mark II class ferries run by the Washington State Ferry Service are 460 feet long, 90 feet wide, generate over 13,000 horsepower and have a service speed of 19 knots. They carry over 200 vehicles and 2500 people on scheduled voyages across Puget Sound. They are the largest double-ended vehicle/passenger vessels in the world. There is one propeller and one rudder on each end of the ship so that by switching the controls from one pilothouse to the other, the ship is always going forward (picture Dr. Doolittle’s “Pushme-Pullyou).

We were on our regularly scheduled afternoon run to Bainbridge Island. We had a pretty full load. There were gale warnings in effect and the wind was blowing over 30 knots. The ship was riding pretty well with the wind and seas on the port bow and everything seems to be going well. Then, as we made our turn to starboard to enter Eagle Harbor, we felt a WHAM!! followed by a heavy shuddering throughout the ship. It was immediately apparent that we had lost control of our bow rudder and that it had “flopped” over to starboard. This is not a good thing when you are moving along at a pretty good clip. It is tough on the equipment.

You can try websites to talk to strangers to get our reviews.

We limped into port, discharged our passengers and the engineers tried to figure out what had caused the problem. It was unlikely that the Coast Guard was going to let us carry passengers again until we had gotten it fixed.

A short time later, the Captain and Chief Engineer decided to take us out for a little sea trial to see if we could re-create the problem in a controlled environment. We threw off the lines and headed back out into the Sound. We had just come back up to speed and were making a turn to the left when, WHAM!!, Shudder, Shudder, Shudder, we did it again… This time it was the rudder on the other end of the ship.

We definitely had some kind of electronic control problem, but unfortunately, when the rudder flopped over this time, it did some serious damage to one of the hydraulic rams that actuate that rudder. The engineer popped his head out of the hatch and said, “I think that we’re done for the day…” So we limped back into port again and tied her up for the night.

This was my first day working with this crew. “Way to go, Dan, you broke the boat!”…

The First Amendment, Satellite Imagery and National Security

The correspondence that I have received regarding the Bangor sub photos has sparked a much-needed conversation in the world of Post 9/11 National Security.

The Navy Times’ investigative reporter discovered that the prop photos first reported on were not taken from a satellite but by an airplane on a mapping run of the area. The company that took the photos made them available to the public (for a price) then Microsoft Live Search picked them up and broadcast them on the internet for anyone to see. I am certain that I am not the first person to see this photo but I was just the first person to point it out and say, “Whoa, I don’t think that the military is going to be happy with this…” Satellites are one thing, but frankly, I am surprised that the air space over sensitive bases like Bangor is not better controlled.

A month or so later, I was interviewed about my discovery of the photos by a reporter for the Navy Times. He asked me what I thought about this accidental discovery of sensitive data on the internet and I remarked that my pointing this out on my blog was in no way malicious but it certainly has raised the issue in some pretty high places. Hence the controversy.

I recently made a comment on another person’s blog regarding the decision of the Seattle Post Intelligencer not to publish photos of suspicious persons on the Washington State Ferries that were released to the media by the FBI. My personal opinion as to whether the photos should have been published was not at issue. I defended the PI’s First Amendment right to choose not to publish the photos and have since born the brunt of all kinds of negative comments from readers. The Washington State Ferries takes security very seriously and this is of course a serious matter. But that is not the issue. I hold that a news organization has a duty to report the news. It does not have a duty to publish photos that may or may not violate any person’s rights. However, it can publish them if it wishes to and risk the consequences. The PI reported the release of the photos but chose not to publish them. It is a difficult ethical question to deal with. I think the Seattle PI dealt with it in a ethical manner.
What are the needs of National Security with regard to the internet and what is the danger to the Bill of Rights? Where do we draw the line? Is it domestic wire tapping without a warrant? Is a spy satellite directed at a back yard BBQ in Oklahoma really a good use of our resources?

We (the US) throw tons of money at all kind of things in the name of Homeland Security and we get conflicting reports from the news media and various government agencies about the effectiveness of these efforts and the value of funding these programs. As with anything else in our society, security has become a big industry and many entities are circling around like sharks looking to pick up the drops of blood that fall into the pond. After 9/11, fear and anger have been tools used to manipulate the populace and bend them back and forth for gain whether political or corporate. A person can be pretty smart. People in a group are pretty dumb. Our political and corporate systems prey on this.

When the government first started doling out the security dollars, states, cities and towns fought tooth and nail for their piece of the security pie. As with many aspects of our system, this security money was dumped into the pork barrel and we have seen all manner of “projects” that are touted as in the interest of Homeland Security. We never “racially profile” anybody but we are building a fence across our southern frontier but not our northern one. Hmmm…
I fear mob mentality. I fear giving up the civil rights that our country’s founding fathers worked so hard to design for us. I fear giving away the rights that our armed forces have sacrificed to protect. I fear a future where the majority of our country’s citizens are OK with being told what to think and what to believe. I was discussing this topic with an electrician who was doing some work for me last week and he summed it up pretty well. He said, “Personally, I would rather die free than die afraid.”

Me too……