Jeffrey LewisChinese parasitic micro satellite

The Washington Post (Bradley Graham, “Some Question Report On Chinese Space Arms,” August 14, 2004, A14) details a bit of research by my friends Gregory Kulacki and David Wright at the Union of Concerned Scientists that should be highly embarassing to the Pentagon and intelligence community.

From the people who brought you non-existent Iraq WMD comes another whopper:

It is only a passing reference in the Pentagon’s annual spring report on Chinese military power, but it is one of the most provocative items.

Describing China’s interest in space warfare, particularly in systems for attacking U.S. satellites, the Pentagon raises the possibility that China might be trying to develop “parasitic microsatellites” …

The source cited in the Pentagon report for this suspected secret Chinese pursuit is a Hong Kong newspaper that in January 2001 published a story saying China had developed and ground-tested a parasitic microsatellite and would soon begin testing it in space. The Xing Dao Daily story has been cited two years in a row by the Pentagon—in 2003 and 2004—both times with caveats saying the claim either “cannot be confirmed” or, more recently, “is being evaluated.”

But the Defense Intelligence Agency, which wrote the reports, never tracked the origin of the newspaper story, according to Pentagon officials. Two U.S. specialists in space weaponry did—and found it was lifted from a Chinese Web site of dubious repute. …

Using keyword searches on several large Chinese-language search engines, the UCS researchers traced the “parasite satellite” tale to an October 2000 story on a Chinese Web site specializing in military affairs. That story, written by Hong Chaofei, a self-described “military enthusiast,” contains some of the same passages and much the same information in the later Hong Kong article, the UCS researchers found.

“Hong runs a Chinese-language Internet bulletin board filled with fanciful stories about ‘secret’ Chinese weapons to be used against Americans in a future war over Taiwan,” Kulacki and Wright say. “The poor quality of his technical descriptions, his use of extremely provocative language and the nature of the other materials on his Web site call into question his credibility.”

I especially like their reference to “the nature of the other materials on his Web site” that “call into question his credibility.” Three guesses about the nature of that material.

The general incompetence of the DOD report is something that I’ve mentioned before on this blog, particularly in reference to a FBIS translated version of a Hong Chaofei-inspired story that I thought called into question the entire parasitic satellite allegation. But David and Gregory have really set the bar.

I’ll add another post after the Union of Concerned Scientists release the paper tomorrow. Now, I am off to brunch at Bardia’s New Orleans Cafe.