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The threat of COSCO and SeaLaunch

Though there’s some organized opposition to turning over the Long Beach Naval Base at Long Beach to a company controlled by the Chinese military, most critics of the deal still don’t understand the most dangerous aspect of the plan.

Yes, they understand COSCO has a shady reputation that includes at least one attempt to smuggle fully automatic AK-47s into the country where they would be supplied to L.A. street gangs.

Yes, they understand that the whole idea of turning over a former U.S. military base to, in essence, a hostile foreign power is a bad idea.

And, yes, they understand that COSCO is so closely tied to Communist China’s intelligence community as to render it an indistinguishable component of the tyrants in Beijing.

But what they don’t understand yet is the reason COSCO covets that particular real estate so desperately. If the deal goes through, COSCO’s port facility will be adjacent to an existing, high-tech, multinational venture called SeaLaunch that is completely compromised by the GRU, the Russian intelligence agency, which works hand in glove with Beijing.

SeaLaunch, in my opinion, represents an even graver threat to our national security and our freedom than COSCO. But the two projects, operating in such close proximity, would escalate the threat exponentially.

SeaLaunch is a company owned by Boeing, RSC-Energia, a Russian company closely associated with the GRU, a Ukrainian company long connected with Russian missile launches, and a Norwegian outfit. Beginning next year, the company will start launching into space low-earth orbiting communication satellites — a total of some 300 in the next few years.

Not only will this project make available to the Chinese and Russians all kinds of technical and strategic information, perhaps even hardware with military applications, but it will, more importantly, make possible unprecedented worldwide population surveillance.

What am I talking about? It gets complicated, but the plan for a network of 300 new satellites ringing the earth is being developed by yet another company called Teledesic. The company’s biggest investor is Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who hopes to create “an Internet in the Sky.” But while the existing Internet primarily serves as a one-way delivery system of information to consumers, this new Internet in the Sky will work two ways — both providing data and gathering it on users and non-users alike.

Already, a very limited number of commercial spy satellites allow anyone with a credit card to peer down from the heavens into the back yards of their neighbors. If Teledesic’s project succeeds, and I have no reason to believe it won’t, the quantity and quality of information available to corporations and government on anyone and everyone will be greatly expanded. Privacy will truly become a relic of another era.

The new breed of American-made satellites rivals military spy craft in their ability to see objects on the ground as small as a car or a bathtub. Of course, no one involved in these launches suggests that these new satellites will be used to spy on you and me. Instead, they talk about the breakthroughs they will create in cartography, oil exploration, disaster relief, urban planning etc. They do, however, tout tremendous benefits to law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, the Clinton administration made possible the wide use of this technology by aerospace companies like Boeing. But remember the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about. It still exists. In fact, it is more of a threat than ever before. There’s a revolving door between military and government officials and these giant defense contractors.

The change in rules authorized by the Clinton administration allows U.S. corporations, many of them, like SeaLaunch, with foreign partners, to photograph anything from space and sell the imagery on the open market. But the government retains the right to switch off those cameras in times of “emergency.” That’s another reason the Chinese and Russians want an “inside track” to that data — and they will have it in spades should the COSCO deal proceed.

But, frankly and sadly, I don’t trust the U.S. government and the corporations it bestows special favors upon much more than I do the Chinese and Russians. And as global institutions like the United Nations and World Trade Organization assume more authority in the coming years, these satellites may make it possible to scrutinize and control the activities of the once-free people of the United States more intensely than those living under today’s totalitarian regimes.