Russia to ask permission to fly surveillance planes over U.S.

WASHINGTON -- Russia will ask permission on Monday to start flying surveillance planes equipped with high-powered digital cameras amid warnings from U.S.

See Full Article

intelligence and military officials that such overflights help Moscow collect intelligence on the United States.

Russia and the United States are signatories to the Open Skies Treaty, which allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of all 34 member nations to foster transparency about military activity and help monitor arms control and other agreements. Senior intelligence and military officials, however, worry that Russia is taking advantage of technological advances to violate the spirit of the treaty.

Russia will formally ask the Open Skies Consultative Commission, based in Vienna, to be allowed to fly an aircraft equipped with high-tech sensors over the United States, according to a senior congressional staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the staff member wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

The request will put the Obama administration in the position of having to decide whether to let Russia use the high-powered equipment on its surveillance planes at a time when Moscow, according to the latest State Department compliance report, is failing to meet all its obligations under the treaty. And it comes at one of the most tension-filled times in U.S.-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, with the two countries at odds over Russian activity in Ukraine and Syria.

"The treaty has become a critical component of Russia's intelligence collection capability directed at the United States," Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, wrote in a letter earlier this year to Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of a House subcommittee on strategic forces.

"In addition to overflying military installations, Russian Open Skies flights can overfly and collect on Department of Defence and national security or national critical infrastructure," Haney said. "The vulnerability exposed by exploitation of this data and costs of mitigation are increasingly difficult to characterize."

A State Department official said Sunday that treaty nations had not yet received notice of the Russian request, but that certification of the Russian plane with a "digital electro-optical sensor" could not occur until this summer because the treaty requires a 120-day advance notification. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

The official also said that the treaty, which was entered into force in 2002, establishes procedures for certifying digital sensors to confirm that they are compliant with treaty requirements. The official said all signatories to the treaty agree that "transition from film cameras to digital sensors is required for the long-term viability of the treaty."

In December, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, sought to temper concerns about Russian overflights, saying that what Moscow gains from the observation flights is "incremental" to what they collect through other means.

"One of the advantages of the Open Skies Treaty is that information -- imagery -- that is taken is shared openly among all the treaty parties," she said at a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees in December. "So one of the advantages with the Open Skies Treaty is that we know exactly what the Russians are imaging, because they must share the imagery with us."

Still, military and intelligence officials have expressed serious concern.

"The open skies construct was designed for a different era," Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers when asked about the Russian overflights during a congressional hearing. "I'm very concerned about how it's applied today."

Robert Work, deputy secretary of defence, told Congress: "We think that they're going beyond the original intent of the treaty and we continue to look at this very, very closely."

Steve Rademaker, former assistant secretary of state for the bureau of arms control and the bureau of international security and nonproliferation, told Congress at a hearing on security co-operation in Europe in October that Russia complies with the Open Skies Treaty, but has "adopted a number of measures that are inconsistent with the spirt" of the accord.

The treaty, for instance, obligates each member to make all of its territory available for aerial observation, yet Russia has imposed restrictions on surveillance over Moscow and Chechnya and near Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he said. Russian restrictions also make it hard to conduct observation in the Kaliningrad enclave, said Rademaker, who believes Russia is "selectively implementing" the treaty "in a way that suits its interests."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • RBC joining global tech giants in setting up lab in AI-friendly Montreal

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Canada's largest bank is joining global tech giants in setting up a research lab in Montreal to take advantage of the city's growing artificial intelligence expertise. The Royal Bank of Canada will open a Borealis AI lab in the new year, joining labs in Toronto and Edmonton. Source
  • Archeologists find Roman shipwrecks off Egypt's north coast

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAIRO -- Egypt says archaeologists have discovered three sunken shipwrecks dating back more than 2,000 years to Roman times off the coast of the city of Alexandria. Tuesday's statement from Mostafa Waziri, the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says the discovery was made in collaboration with the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology. Source
  • UofT prof documents ancient practice of carving churches out of rock

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ten years ago Michael Gervers visited an ancient church cut into the side of a cliff in a remote region of Ethiopia. The history professor with the University of Toronto had been hunting down antiquities as part of his research on Christian artifacts when locals took him to the area. Source
  • Cigar-shaped asteroid is a visitor from beyond the solar system

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A rocky cigar-shaped object detected in space last month came from another solar system, astronomers said Monday as they confirmed an unprecedented observation. The discovery may provide clues as to how other solar systems formed, said the researchers, who published their study in the British journal Nature. Source
  • Autonomous ships on the horizon for Great Lakes

    Tech & Science CBC News
    One day the freighter you see coming up the Detroit River might not have a crew aboard. The day of autonomous ships is soon dawning. A Norwegian company will be launching a container vessel next year that it expects will not only navigate a river in Norway fully autonomously by 2020, but be battery powered as well. Source
  • Bali volcano spews ash and cloud, alert not raised

    Tech & Science CTV News
    JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali spewed ash and smoke Tuesday, but authorities said its alert level remained unchanged. National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the minor eruption began at about 5 p.m. Source
  • Fatbergs to fuel: London's blockage-busting battle in the sewers

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In London's 19th-century sewers, crews in coveralls are waging a 21st-century battle. They're blasting away a monster that feeds on grease and garbage, and its name reflects the beast's potency for revulsion: Fatberg. The monstrosity — a foul-smelling, congealed mass of grease, oil, fat and garbage — is born innocently enough. Source
  • Marine mammals fight for salmon in Pacific Northwest

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Harbour seals, sea lions and some fish-eating killer whales have been rebounding along the Northeast Pacific Ocean in recent decades. But that boom has come with a trade-off: they're devouring more of the salmon prized by a unique but fragile population of endangered orcas. Source
  • Mars theory gets dusted: Streaks may be sand, not water

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A new study suggests that dark streaks on Mars represent flowing sand -- not water. Monday's news throws cold water on 2015 research that indicated that lines on some Martian slopes were signs of water currently on the planet. Source
  • Streaks on Mars likely flowing sand, not water, new research suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new study suggests that dark streaks on Mars are signs of flowing sand — not water. Monday's news throws cold water on 2015 research that indicated these recurring slope lines were signs of water currently on Mars. Source