Seems so inviting: "10th Annual Classified...


May 27, 1991

THE INVITATION seems so inviting: "10th Annual Classified Military Space Symposium: 'Military Space Systems in War and Peace'," hosted by the American Astronomical Society in the nation's capital.

Discussion topics range from a keynote address by the commander of the Air Force Space Command to "Changed Environment for Military Space," "The Worldwide Threat -- a Hibernating Bear and Other Concerns", "The Fiscal Environment Threats to the Defense Budget", and "The View of the Environment from Capitol Hill."

Luncheons are planned at the Watergate Hotel and speakers are coming from the CIA, all four military services and the Congressional Budget Office. They'll examine "Space Advocacy," systems and technology -- "Where We Stand" -- and "Assured Access to Space: How Do We Get There?"

Let's go back to that word "classified." The brochure advises that "All sessions (except luncheons) will be held at the SECRET-NOFORN LEVEL. Attendees must be U.S. citizens and have a DoD personnel clearance to the level of SECRET." In addition, "All attendees must be engaged in work related to the subject matter of the meeting and have a certified need-to-know."

A journalist has a pretty good need to know, and U.S. citizenship would be no problem. But imagine the consternation if we could wiggle past the classifiers' suspicious noses and re-activate our old military SECRET clearance. Think of the looks and waving of arms when attendees notice the affiliation on our name tag -- and realize that our need to know is so we can tell everybody what we learned.

* * *

IN THE SAME time period that finds White House chief of staff John Sununu on the public griddle for commandeering Air Force jets to fly to dentist appointments and skiing vacations, that master inventor of microwave communications, Jack Goeken, has come up with a new idea.

He wants to provide executives with an office in the sky. They would have not only in-flight phones, which by now are old hat, but a miniature keyboard in the arm rest of the seat and a computer screen mounted in the seat back.

What has this to do with John Sununu?

Plenty. If the poor fellow has to fly commercial and yet keep in touch with the White House at all times, what better device than Jack Goeken's little work center. The president's chief of staff could send and receive faxes, transmit and receive data via a laptop computer and, of course, use the telephone.

All that remains to be perfected, we suppose, is a scrambling device to thwart would-be electronic eavesdroppers and some method to stop fellow-passengers from peeking.

Our solution for the latter problem? Two Secret Service agents on either side of the chief of staff.

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