Big boring “top secret” yawn

Photograph of nuclear submarine propeller

Apparently this photograph from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth is exposing some big dark secret — the shape of the propeller on a US Navy Ohio-class nuclear submarine. I reckon it’s a big “So what?”

Now the Sydney Morning Herald article is correct: the propeller design is an integral part of a submarine’s ability to remain undetected. The specific shape of the tips helps prevent noisy “cavitation”, the formation of tiny bubbles, which can reveal the sub’s location.

But let’s be real. This is one, grainy frame from a commercial satellite. The crucial propeller tip is about 4 pixels across.

The Russians, the Chinese and perhaps other people have military reconnaissance satellites with much, much higher resolution cameras — and they’d specifically target nuclear submarine bases trying to take photos. The 18 Ohio-class subs are so old they were going to be retired in 2002 — although a few are being kept on for other duties now that Destroying The World has gone out of fashion. Between them, those two facts lead me to believe that “They” already have plenty of good, clear pictures of those propellers.

And that’s assuming one of the many, many workers involved in the design, building and maintenance of the subs wasn’t persuaded to take a few happy snaps in exchange for a hand with his mortgage payments.

No, I don’t think this is revealing a deep, dark secret. I reckon it means the US Navy doesn’t care any more. But it will give the military geeks without access to classified data the chance to have a tug.

Nuclear reactors hacked

Just so you can get a sound night’s sleep before a busy working week, here’s the news that it’s easy to hack into US nuclear power plants:

The first time Scott Lunsford offered to hack into a nuclear power station, he was told it would be impossible. There was no way, the plant’s owners claimed, that their critical components could be accessed from the Internet. Lunsford, a researcher for IBM’s Internet Security Systems, found otherwise.

“It turned out to be one of the easiest penetration tests I’d ever done,” he says. “By the first day, we had penetrated the network. Within a week, we were controlling a nuclear power plant. I thought, ‘Gosh. This is a big problem.'”

Yes, Scott, I reckon it is.

Of course Australia’s “critical infrastructure” wouldn’t have any problems like this, would it.

Greens senator asks last century’s question

Photograph of USS Kitty Hawk in Sydney HarbourI like The Greens. They’re funny. They make me laugh. Haw. Haw. Haw. Snort.

There’s a bloody great aircraft carrier in Sydney Harbour. The whole city’s stopping to gawk at it. One of the most potent, visible symbols of Australia’s alliance with the US — and, by extension, our involvement in the War on Foreign Men with Beards and, you know, that Iraq thing — is sitting right there in front of us. So how does Senator Kerry Nettle use this opportunity?

Senator Kerry Nettle reacts to the Big Bad N-word with all the predictability of a cuckoo clock. Senator Kerry Nettle reckons us Sydneysiders have “a right to know” whether USS Kitty Hawk is carrying nuclear weapons. If it is, Senator Kerry Nettle reckons any accident on the ship could be a “catastrophe”.

No shit, Sherlock! It’s a goddam warship! It’s chock full’o jet fuel, ammunition, lubricants, rocket fuel, missile warheads and a thousand other things that are either as toxic as all get-up or go boom. Got that? Warship. So a couple of nukes buried down in some well-protected hidey-hole is the least of our worries.

And besides, Senator Kerry Nettle, what do you reckon? A US aircraft carrier, based out of Yokosuka, Japan, near that place, oh… what is it again? Yeah, North Korea. And with the job of…? Oh yeah, act as the core of an independent task force in the event of global war, whether conventional or nuclear.

Uhuh.

So, Senator Kerry Nettle, do you reckon the Kitty Hawk might be carrying perhaps just one or two nuclear weapons? Maybe just little ones? Yeah, me too. I reckon there just might be a couple’o nukes here.

While we don’t have a “right to be told” — hey, this is America we’re talking about, they’re answerable only to God — we do have a right to use our brains and figure it out for ourselves.

Or, come to think of it, see if that other Greens guy, Andrew Wilkie, has something more contemporary to say. Apparently he knows about stuff.