Problem

Misuse of satellite surveillance by governments

Other Names:
Reconnaissance satellites
Spy satellites
Nature:
The use of spy satellites in space and the privileged use of telecommunication channels have biased the balance of national prerogatives. The impunity with which such satellites violate national space and the manner in which multinational corporations transmit coded messages across national borders to the detriment of the countries concerned, indicates how some of the crucial attributes of nation-hood have been reduced to nullity.

Photographic reconnaissance permits searches of the territory of another country for objects of interest, usually missile sites or troop movements. Electronic reconnaissance is used to record and playback radar and other electromagnetic radiation emanating from another country. Other uses of satellites are to detect launching of missiles or nuclear explosions using infra-red techniques. Multi-spectral analysis gathers subtle clues about the actual physical makeup of observed objects, and penetrates natural barriers detecting anything camouflaged or decoyed. Satellite surveillance constitutes an infringement of national sovereignty which may be tolerated or which may be the cause of provocations leading to the destruction of 'enemy' satellites, and thus possibly, leading to war.

Incidence:
The superpowers (USSR, USA) have deployed and continue to deploy a multitude of satellites which are used either for photographic or electronic reconnaissance. Besides them a growing number of nations are building their own spy satellites or advocating such action. Three out of every four satellites launched are for military purposes, two for surveillance and one for communications. Surveillance satellites are relatively short-lived. For this reason and because of improvements in technology, launchings continue at an increased pace.
Counter Claim:
Modern means of verification of compliance with arms-control treaties using reconnaissance satellites are more reliable than on-site inspection for monitoring the quantitative limitation of arms. They may therefore be used as the basis for verifying the implementation of such agreements between the superpowers (for them to be useful in multilateral arms-control treaties, under which each party must obtain assurance of compliance by all parties, reconnaissance through satellites would also have to become a multilateral undertaking).
Values:
Abuse
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Date of last update
20.06.2018 – 23:58 CEST