Astrospies - MOL Program
Obtaining Information that is Considered Secret or Confidential

Astrospies - MOL Program
Obtaining Information that is Considered Secret or Confidential

The US defines espionage towards itself as "The act of obtaining, delivering, transmitting, communicating, or receiving information about the national defense with an intent, or reason to believe, that the information may be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation."

Black's Law Dictionary (1990) defines espionage as: "...gathering, transmitting, or losing...information related to the national defense".

Espionage is a violation of United States law, 18 U.S.C. 792–798 and Article 106 of the "Uniform Code of Military Justice".

The United States, like most nations, conducts espionage against other nations, under the control of the National Clandestine Service. Britain's espionage activities are controlled by the Secret Intelligence Service.

Millions remember the countdowns, launchings, splashdowns and parades as the U.S. raced the USSR to the Moon in the 1960s, but few know that both superpowers also ran parallel covert space programs to launch military astronauts on spying missions.

The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), originally the Manned Orbital Laboratory and Key Hole 10 (KH-10) was part of the United States Air Force's manned spaceflight program, a successor to the cancelled Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar military reconnaissance space plane project.

The project was developed as a manned space station to be used for reconnaissance purposes. MOL crews would use the Gemini B spacecraft that was derived from NASA's Gemini program to travel to and from the station.

The MOL program was announced to the public on December 10, 1963, as a manned platform to prove the utility of man in space for military missions.

Astronauts selected for the program were later told of the reconnaissance mission for the program. The contractor for the MOL was the Douglas Aircraft Company.

The Gemini B was externally similar to NASA's Gemini spacecraft although it underwent several modifications. The most obvious was the addition of a circular hatch through the heat shield to allow passage between the spacecraft and the laboratory.

The MOL project was cancelled in 1969 during the height of the Apollo program, and U.S. space station development was put on hold until the NASA Skylab project in the mid-1970s.

Concurrently, the Soviet space program's Almaz project, very similar to the MOL in intent and even timing (if not more ambitious), was launched successfully, but cancelled in the mid-1970s.

The Almaz program was a series of military space stations (or "Orbital Piloted Station" - OPS) launched by the Soviet Union under cover of the civilian Salyut DOS-17K (Durable Orbital Station) program after 1971.

Three Almaz stations were launched: Salyut 2, Salyut 3 and Salyut 5.Salyut 2 failed shortly after achieving orbit, but Salyut 3 and Salyut 5 both conducted successful manned testing.

Following Salyut 5, the Soviet Ministry of Defence judged in 1978 that the time consumed by station maintenance outweighed the benefits relative to automatic reconnaissance satellites.

In addition to reconnaissance equipment, Almaz was equipped with a 23mm Nudelman rapid-fire cannon mounted on the forward belly of the station. This self-lubricating cannon was modified from the tail-gun of the Tu-22 bomber and was capable of firing 950 rounds per minute.

Each 200 gram projectile flew at a speed of 690 m/s relative to the station. To aim the cannon, which was in a fixed mounting, the entire station would be turned to face the threat. Salyut 3/OPS-2 conducted a successful test firing on a target satellite remotely with the station unmanned due to concerns over excessive vibration and noise.

OPS-4 was to have featured two unguided missiles instead of the aircraft cannon, but this system has not been shown publicly and may have never been fully manufactured.

The Science of Spying

Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information.

Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it is known that the information is in unauthorized hands.

Espionage is usually part of an institutional effort by a government or corporation, and the term is most readily associated with state spying on potential or actual enemies primarily for military purposes.

Spying involving corporations is known as industrial espionage.

One of the most effective ways to compile information about an enemy (or potential enemy) is by infiltrating the enemy's ranks. This is the job of the spy.

Spies can bring back all sorts of information concerning the size and strength of an enemy army. They can also find dissidents within the enemy's forces and influence them to defect.

In times of crisis, spies can also be used to steal technology and to sabotage the enemy in various ways. Counterintelligence operatives can feed false information to enemy spies, protecting important domestic secrets and preventing attempts at subversion. Nearly every society has very strict laws concerning espionage, and the penalty for being caught is often death.

However, the benefits that can be gained through espionage are generally felt to outweigh the risks.

Small Town Espionage
Soviet Spy School Training

The GRU (military intelligence) recruited the ideological agents Julian Wadleigh and Alger Hiss, who became State Department diplomats in 1936. The NKVD's first US operation was establishing the legal residency of Boris Bazarov and the illegal residency of Iskhak Akhmerov in 1934.

Throughout, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and its Gen.-Sec'y Earl Browder, helped NKVD recruit Americans, working in government, business, and industry.

Other important, high-level ideological agents were the diplomats Laurence Duggan and Michael Whitney Straight in the State Department, the statistician Harry Dexter White in the Treasury Department, the economist Lauchlin Currie (an FDR advisor), and the "Silvermaster Group", headed by statistician Greg Silvermaster, in the Farm Security Administration and the Board of Economic Warfare.

Moreover, when Whittaker Chambers, formerly Alger Hiss's courier, approached the Roosevelt Government—to identify the Soviet spies Duggan, White, and others—he was ignored. Hence, during the Second World War (1939--45)—at the Teheran (1943), Yalta (1945), and Potsdam (1945) conferences—Big Three Ally Joseph Stalin of the USSR, was better-informed about the war affairs of his US and UK allies, than they about his.

Soviet espionage succeeded most in collecting scientific and technologic intelligence about advances in jet propulsion, radar, and encryption, which impressed Moscow, but stealing atomic secrets was the capstone of NKVD espionage against Anglo--American science and technology.

To wit, British Manhattan Project team physicist Klaus Fuchs (GRU 1941) was the main agent of the Rosenberg spy ring. In 1944, the New York City residency infiltrated the top secret Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, by recruiting Theodore Hall, a nineteen-year-old Harvard physicist.

The KGB failed to rebuild most of its US illegal resident networks. The aftermath of the Second Red Scare (1947--57), McCarthyism, and the destruction of the CPUSA hampered recruitment. The last major illegal resident, Rudolf Abel ("Willie" Vilyam Fisher), was betrayed by his assistant, Reino Häyhänen, in 1957.

Recruitment then emphasised mercenary agents, an approach especially successful in scientific and technical espionage—because private industry practiced lax internal security, unlike the US Government. In late 1967, the notable KGB success was the walk-in recruitment of US Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Anthony Walker who individually and via the Walker Spy Ring for eighteen years enabled Soviet Intelligence to decipher some one million US Navy messages, and track the US Navy.

In the late Cold War, the KGB was lucky with intelligence coups with the cases of the mercenary walk-in recruits, FBI man Robert Hanssen (1979--2001) and CIA Soviet Division officer Aldrich Ames (1985).

Incidents of Espionage

Incidents of espionage are well documented throughout history. The ancient writings of Chinese and Indian military strategists such as Sun-Tzu and Chanakya contain information on deception and subversion.

Chanakya's student Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Maurya Empire in India, made use of assassinations, spies and secret agents, which are described in Chanakya's Arthasastra.

The ancient Egyptians had a thoroughly developed system for the acquisition of intelligence, and the Hebrews used spies as well, as in the story of Rahab.

Spies were also prevalent in the Greek and Roman empires. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongols relied heavily on espionage in their conquests in Asia and Europe.

Feudal Japan often used ninja to gather intelligence. More recently, spies played a significant part in Elizabethan England. Many modern espionage methods were well established even then.

The Cold War involved intense espionage activity between the United States of America and its allies and the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and their allies, particularly related to nuclear weapons secrets. Recently, espionage agencies have targeted the illegal drug trade and those considered to be terrorists.

Since 2008 the United States has charged at least 57 defendants for attempting to spy for China. Different intelligence services value certain intelligence collection techniques over others.

The former Soviet Union, for example, preferred human sources over research in open sources, while the United States has tended to emphasize technological methods such as SIGINT and IMINT.

Both Soviet political (KGB) and military intelligence (GRU) officers were judged by the number of agents they recruited.