Last Thursday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence live-tweeted the launch of a US National Reconnaissance Office surveillance satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. What made the tweet quickly go viral was the attachment of the mission’s ominous and unsubtle logo: a giant malevolent octopus with it’s tentacles all over the planet. As reported by RT:
Along with the National Security Agency and more than a dozen others, the NRO is one of 16 federal offices under the directive of DNI James Clapper and is responsible for building and operating the spy satellites used to collect intelligence around the world. NRO-gathered intelligence was reportedly instrumental in the mission that brought US Navy SEAL’s to the home of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, and decades earlier the agency launched a school-bus sized satellite into orbit to spy on Soviets at the height of the Cold War.
This time around the ODNI says the satellite’s payload is mostly classified, but did admit over Twitter that around a dozen mini satellites funded by both the NRO and NASA will be brought along to orbit as well. Another thing they didn’t bother to acknowledge, of course, is how the lack-of-subtlety apparent in the Earth-strangling octopus emblem could quickly be used by critics of the US intelligence community as fodder to further condemn the government for admitting to their sheer and unmatched ability to control the world’s information.
…”You may want to downplay the massive dragnet spying thing right now,” Chris Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, tweeted Thursday. “This logo isn’t helping.”
Andy Cush of AnimalNewYork uncovered a number of equally disturbing logos for past N.R.O. spy satellite missions including the following:
National Reconnaissance Office Launch 49, January 2011: To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the NRO launches six satellites into space in 2010 and 2011. One of them, NROL-49, gets a black hawk rising from flames in front of the American flag for a logo. Its motto: melior diabolus quem scies, or “Better the devil you know.”
National Reconnaissance Launch 66, February 2011: One month after NROL-49, launch 66 took the devilish into goofier territory, featuring a satanic-looking minotaur flying over the Earth holding a modified Route 66 sign.
National Reconnaissance Office Launch 19, September 2003: NROL-19′s patch features the world’s most patriotic dragon clutching the globe with a diamond wrapped in its tail.
National Reconnaissance Office Launch 11, August 2000: This patch, featuring the eyes of what looks like an owl hovering over a darkened planet, could have used some cleaner design. Still, “We Own The Night” is an appropriately terrifying sentiment. Animals in space is beginning to feel like a theme.
National Reconnaissance Launch 38, June 2012: This three headed, world-destroying dragon is made only slightly less threatening by its latin motto, non morieris bello, which means something like “you will not die at war.” An alternate patch depicts the Egyptian god Anubis with a giant spear.
National Reconnaissance Office Launch 32, November 2010: The most illuminati-esque of the bunch, this terrible gradient-laden design puts an all-seeing eagle’s eye on top of a golden pyramid.
National Reconnaissance Launch 16, April 2005: The patch for NROL-16 may have marked the first time the U.S. government used a gorilla as a patriotic symbol.
National Reconnaissance Office Launch 10, December 2000: Last but not least, the “Great Bear” patch for NROL-10 is perhaps creepiest of all. What’s this jolly, star-covered guy doing as the symbol of a spy mission? We may never know.