On Friday, The Diplomat reported that satellite images revealed the construction of a steerable parabolic antenna encapsulated by a spherical enclosure on a signals intelligence base in Bejucal, Cuba. Its functions remain unknown, according to the report. It is clear, however, that the massive antenna isn’t being used to stream DirecTV.
‘The new steerable parabolic antenna and its spherical enclosure (together called a radome) were erected on a site adjacent to other known Cuban surveillance antennas south of Havana near the town of Bejucal between March 2017 and February 2018.’
The functions of the new antenna are not discernible from the current satellite images, but similar antennas have been employed for signals interception, missile tracking, satellite uplinks and downlinks, radio communications, tracking of objects in space, and in some cases to disrupt satellite communications.’ (The Diplomat)
Like the function and capability of this radome (the technical term for the structure), the reasoning for this report’s availability to the public isn’t immediately clear. The article’s author, Victor Robert Lee, is a well-regarded journalist with names like The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Guardian, National Geographic, and the Washington Post on his resume, and is as qualified a source as most.
But access to satellite imagery of a Cuban-based signals intelligence-related structure would require either first or second-hand access to satellite feeds. While such feeds are theoretically available, the chance that Lee has been actively monitoring the progress of Cuba’s SigInt base – remember, this is reported to be a new structure – and happened to stumble upon this building seems slim.
Knowing then what to make of the building even after this extraordinarily fortunate discovery would make Lee a journalist of the highest order, and I’m not saying that he’s not. But, it seems more likely that somebody with a more direct link to satellite monitoring processes passed along this tip. Assuming this is the case, then why?
Matters of national security are typically kept tight to the vest. The public has been told recently that national security-related concerns justify keeping everything from the JFK assassination files to tactics used by the highest investigative agency in the land under wraps. But, for some reason – and it’s not necessarily productive to speculate further on that reason – news, including satellite imagery, of this mysterious radome in Cuba has been released for public consumption.
The countries who, by deduction, are most likely behind the funding of this powerful signals intelligence tool boil down to three possibilities; China, Russia, or Iran. Cuba would almost certainly not bear the expense of building such a structure themselves, and their allied brethren have far more to gain from such a tool, not to mention the money to burn for its cost of implementation, operation, and maintenance.
‘The governments of both Russia and China have recently signaled their intent to augment military and economic investments in Cuba. In 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote off approximately 90 percent of the $32 billion Cuba owed on Soviet-era debt. In the same year, a Russian member of parliament stated that Russia would re-establish the sort of collaboration with Cuba it had had at the Lourdes signals intelligence site south of Havana during the Cold War (Lourdes was shut down in 2001).’ (The Diplomat)
Very public campaigns against China, Russia, and Iran have been full-go in recent months, even well over a year. The grievances against each are both unique and communal, most of them legitimate. Certain factions in America have a stake in keeping those countries at a healthy distance, continuing to emphasize to the world this big three’s adversarial stances against the States.
Trade wars, real wars, and Middle Eastern allegiances are just three motives that could have catalyzed the release this report, in addition to broader campaigns aimed at portraying – fairly or not – these three foreign powers as less than friendly entities. Because, we have to accept as truth that nothing originating from intelligence communities is released at random. Whistleblowing and hacks happen. Intel-leaking accidents don’t.
So when one attempts to discern why American higher-ups use national security as a reason to release this, but not that, the fundamental question – why? – becomes unavoidable. These information drops are almost never organic, and certainly aren’t random.
Consider how this excerpt…
‘Federal authorities scrambled to redact and keep classified key information revealing major abuses of the U.S. surveillance apparatus that targeted President Donald Trump’s associates in the lead up to the 2016 election… authorities scrambled behind-the-scenes to redact this information and keep it classified not for national security reasons, but to ensure this damaging information never reached the public’s eyes. …’ (Hot Air)
…gels with the recently released images from Cuba, which undoubtedly pertain to matters of national security. Consider that, in terms of logical consistency and principled transparency, they don’t necessarily gel at all.
While it’s not the job of the public to decide which information should be kept under wraps by intelligence agencies and which is suited for public consumption, it is their imperative to think critically.
In terms of matters concerning American signals intelligence and those nations who may seek to compromise them, knowledge serves as power to think critically about foreign affairs. But before using that knowledge, one must consider why they have been allowed to be party to that information in the first place. It highlights the ever-present question of the thoughtful skeptic – why?
And even more specifically, why can I see this, but not that?