Secrets and Openess

Satellite Spotters Glimpse Secrets, and Tell Them

[Ted] Molczan, a private energy conservation consultant, is the best known of the satellite spotters who, needing little more than a pair of binoculars, a stop watch and star charts, uncover some of the deepest of the government’s expensive secrets and share them on the Internet.

[…] John E. Pike, director of, a private group in Alexandria, Va., that tracks military and space activities, said the hobbyists exemplified fundamental principles of openness and of the power of technology to change the game.

“It has been an important demystification of these things,” Mr. Pike said, “because I think there is a tendency on the part of these agencies just to try to pretend that they don’t exist, and that nothing can be known about them.”

But the spotters are also pursuing a thoroughly unusual pastime, one that calls for long hours outside, freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer, straining to see a moving light in the sky and hoping that a slip of the finger on the stopwatch does not delete an entire night’s work. And for the adept, there is math. Lots of math.

More on the Tudou Crackdown

China cracks down on irreverent Websitespdf

All sorts of irreverent footage ends up on Tudou and other Chinese video sites — spoofs of public figures, off-beat animated films, Taiwanese music videos and real-life street scenes that display the spontaneity and edge missing from state-run television.

No doubt that’s the reason the Chinese government is striking back. A harsh new law that took effect Friday forbids any content “which damages China’s unity and sovereignty; harms ethnic solidarity; promotes superstition; portrays violence, pornography, gambling or terrorism; violates privacy; damages China’s culture or traditions.” More damaging still is a requirement that firms distributing online video or audio be state-owned. If enforced to the letter, the law could kill the most vibrant media in China today.

See earlier post: The Chinese Government and China’s YouTube