The CIA is quietly trying to stop Russia building a series of monitoring stations — devices that form part of Moscow's version of the Global Positioning System — on US soil.
The New York Times reports that Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, is trying to build around half a dozen of these structures — which it describes as "seemingly innocuous dome-topped antenna perched atop an electronics-packed building surrounded by a security fence" — around the country. A former senior official in the State Department's Office of Space and Advanced Technology explained Russia's motivations to the Times:
"They don't want to be reliant on the American system and believe that their systems, like GPS, will spawn other industries and applications. They feel as though they are losing a technological edge to us in an important market. Look at everything GPS has done on things like your phone and the movement of planes and ships."
The CIA is apparently concerned that the structures could be used by Russian authorities to spy on the US, at the same time as improving the precision of Russian weaponry. Quite the combo. Opinions are, however, apparently torn about what the US should do. Some officials feel that allowing Russia to build the structures would help smooth the Obama administration's relationship with the Russian government, which is currently a little... rocky.
But the CIA and other American spy agencies feel strongly that the plans shouldn't go ahead. Indeed, the disagreement is serious enough that officials have delayed the final decision as to whether the stations can be built until more information makes its way from Russia. Until then, it remains to be seen if Moscow's answer to GPS will get a foothold in the US. [New York Times]
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