Re[2]: "U" vs "C" vs ... in elsets

Phil Rogers (
Mon, 7 Jun 1999 23:05:34 -0400

Jeff Barker wrote:
>     of us have agreed to not disclose classified information.  I'm not 
>     defending all of the classification rules or what gets classified, I'm 
>     just saying that some of us have given our word not to break 
>     classification rules based on our own whims.  I have no problem with 

Again, I agree. It so happens that it is not a matter of personal
opinion at all but rather simply a matter of the law. The nature of our
democracy is such that we agree to be governed by our government and to
abide by its laws. In return, representatives are duly elected by
majority vote and they enact laws based on the majority opinion of the
voters to express our views and enact our will collectively for the
better good of all. These laws happen to include provisions for the
designation and protection of information as potentially classified.
There will always be dissenting views and indeed it is our right and
indeed our duty to express those opinions. Of the more extreme views,
however, oftentimes the vehemence of the view runs in inverse proportion
to the number of proponents of that view. These people, however, need to
express their opinions to their congressmen rather than to simply gripe
about the status quo because as long as their opinions as expressed to
their representatives remain in the minority, the laws governing the
designation and handling of classified information will remain

>     Having an elset generated by a group such as SEESAT that has 
>     information that is classified by official sources is not, in itself a 
>     security violation.  What would be a violation would be if I were to 
>     confirm or deny the accuracy of such an elset.

Quite a valid point. In many cases the fact that an item is classified
is as much a classified item in itself as the original material and in
some cases more so. In creating a situation where information
inadvertently tagged with classified designators is released to the
public, it can force the hand of those who classify information and
potentially create a security violation of its own simply because the
reasons why a given piece of information might or might not be
classified cannot be revealed by them.

There are also varying degrees of classification in which certain
aspects of an event or characteristic might be classified at some level
or even be unclassified while other aspects of the same event may have a
higher classification. It is possible that the general public might view
such an event and perhaps even guess at the nature of some of the lesser
classified information while having no idea whatsoever of the nature of
the more highly classifed details. By withholding information on even
the lesser or unclassified details, the public is denied the information
base upon which it might be possible to deduce the more classified
details. It is somewhat akin to denying Newton (I think it was Newton)
"that place to stand on whereby he could move the world with his simple
lever". By the way, I can think of one very good reason in this light
why the GPS elsets might have been at least given FOUO treatment, but
for the very same reason do not consider it to be advisable to discuss.

Certainly there is information out there which is overly classified but
nobody (especially those of us in the user realm) has all the pieces of
the puzzle by which to evaluate the true reasons for such
classifications and it is grossly unfair to blame the government for
indiscriminate classifications made out of spite. It is too complex an
issue for that to be a likely possibility and too much of a reaction of
paranoid vanity to consider onesself the target of such indiscriminate
government action. The only responsible action is to willingly abide by
the evaluations made by those who classify the data which in turn are
based on other determinations further up the line. We have come a long
way since the Nixon days of paranoia when information was frequently
classified for indefinite time periods by default and even that was a
huge step beyond the days of McCarthyism. Check back in another
50 years and perhaps you might find kids in high school using the very
elsets which are so intensely desired here in their daily orbital
mechanics lessons. Do you think it unlikely that such a subject would be
studied by schoolkids? Only 50 years ago, linear algebra and matrix math
was a subject not taught until grad school and then only to mathematicians.
These days it is an easy out course for college level, and I might add,
a discipline upon which all orbital transformations are based.

>     All I'm asking is that consideration be given to the selection of 
>     certain letters that may give the appearance that those of us who have 
>     security clearances have broken the rules.  As others have suggested, 
>     there are good alternatives to using "C" and "S" in an elset.

Has anybody suggested using the letter "V" for "visual" yet? I thought
of this one over breakfast this morning. What really surprises me is
that everyone has been so stirred up by the classification issue that
nobody has shown any interest at all in discussing my idea of possibly
using the ephemeris type for this designation. After all, the
classification field exists for designating a classification, of which
origin from SEESAT or visual sources is not even remotely a subset.
The ephmeris type, in designating computational method sources, is
much closer in purpose to describing a data origin from visual sources.
Apparently nobody likes this idea though or cares to take the time to
think about it. An alternative letter for the classification field would
serve as a half way reasonable substitute. At least it would avoid the
issue of inadvertent labeling of public data as classified.

Phil Rogers