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NASA China Government Politics Science Technology

Political Pressure Pushes NASA Technical Reports Offline 140

Trepidity writes "The extensive NASA Technical Report Archive was just taken offline, following pressure from members of U.S. Congress, worried that Chinese researchers could be reading the reports. U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanded that 'NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review,' and NASA appears to have complied. Although all reports are in the public domain, there doesn't appear to be a third-party mirror available (some university libraries do have subsets on microfiche)."
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Political Pressure Pushes NASA Technical Reports Offline

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  • oh no (Score:5, Funny)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @04:46PM (#43238977) Homepage Journal

    The commies are coming!

    It's Joseph McCarthy all over again...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      To be fair, McCarthy was right. There really were Communists in the State Department.
      • Re:oh no (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#43239135)

        To be fair, McCarthy was right. There really were Communists in the State Department.

        To be fair, he tried to identify Communists in all walks of life and ran through Hollywood suppressing freedom of speech and using strong arm tactics to destroy the rights of non-state department citizens. Under Joseph McCarthy, Ayn Rand testified in front of congress against film makers to have them fined and jailed. How fucked up is that? He made it illegal to be a Communist no matter how nonviolent or extreme you were. It was the definition of witch hunt and suppressed freedom of speech in American media. It's fine to ferret them out of the State Department but why the private sectors?!

        • Re:oh no (Score:5, Informative)

          by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:07PM (#43239951)
          That wasn't Joseph McCarthy, that was the Democrats on the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, or don't they teach that part in school? When Ayn Rand testified before HUAC, Joseph McCarthy was in the Senate. The HUAC was controlled by Democrats when Joseph McCarthy was making a name for himself.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            This was the old Democratic party. The one popular in the deep south (yes, I knew McCarthy was from the north). It wasn't until the late 60's and the civil rights fight that the bigots left the Democratic party and joined the Republicans. McCarthy was already dead a decade by that point.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              First, the Republicans were the people (google "Lincoln") who, being whacko religious nutjobs who drag morals into politics, ended slavery (which was legal, but immoral) ... even though doing so required an actual war against the southern Democrats (Historical FACT: No Republican was a slave owner).

              Second, Historical FACT: the Democrats and independents who formed the KKK used to call for the deaths not only of blacks but also of Jews and Catholics and Republicans (disagree? spend more time at the national

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Surely you've heard of the southern strategy? [] It's not exactly a fringe theory.

                [posting as A/C because I already modded in this thread]

      • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LateArthurDent ( 1403947 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:00PM (#43239153)

        To be fair, McCarthy was right. There really were Communists in the State Department.

        Even if that's true, it doesn't make McCarthy right. In this country, the government isn't allowed to prosecute people for their political beliefs. The problem with McCarthy wasn't just that there was a witch hunt in place. The problem was that if every single person he accused to be a communist was indeed a communist, the proper response is, "so what?"

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          They were not just communists, but communist sympathizers of a major hostile foreign power to whom they were transferring valuable secrets, such as nuclear technology, in the middle of the Cold War. I don't think "so what?" quite covers the possibility of treason by State Department employees.
          • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            The cold war was not a war, so I am not sure how that factors into it.

            They might have been guilty of espionage, I am not sure how it goes to the level of treason unless they also plotted to overthrow the government.

          • Re:oh no (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Linux Torvalds ( 647197 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:32PM (#43239523)

            I don't think "so what?" quite covers the possibility of treason by State Department employees.

            Well, "so what?" seems to covers the reality of treason [] in the Oval Office, so I don't see why the State Department should be held to tighter standards.

            • That is interesting that a Republican would cut a deal with the Communist government we were at war with to deny a Democrat an election.

              Interesting thing is, Nixon went to China later, and Kissinger was a pragmatic politician. He regularly flew around the globe with briefcases full of money to buy promises from foreign governments.
          • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Rufty ( 37223 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:32PM (#43239527) Homepage
            If they transfer valuable secrets, prosecute them for that, and if they didn't then leave their political beliefs out of it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward


            No. The vast majority of the victims of McCarthyism were not transferring secrets to the USSR and being homosexual certainly doesn't make people into communist sympathizers.

          • All those names of reputed Communists, and only two convictions of reputed Communists for 'treason'. Google up the Rosenbergs sometime. All Tailgunner Joe did was freak a lot of people out and make damned sure that his campaign warchest was filled. Being one of those who lived through those times, I'm not a damned bit surprised the country made a drastic swing to the left in the 60's. Course, in the 70's, it went back to the right and pretty much stayed there til today.
        • In this country, the government isn't allowed to prosecute people for their political beliefs.

          Bullshit. Try running for office without a (D) or (R) next to your name and see how far you get.

          You can do it your own way
          If it's done just how I say

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Bullshit right back at you. Sure you won't win, but the government doesn't prosecute you if you run as a third party candidate.
            • No, your followers, if any, will be relegated to 'free speech zones' and never heard from again. If you're not one of the Big Two, you won't be invited to any presidential debates no matter how many followers you have (They learned that one with Perot).
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That doesn't necessarily justify his policies.
        Is there any prohibition against Communists being in the State Department?
        Espousing a certain socio-economic or political viewpoint isn't illegal, nor does it disqualify one from employment at the State Department.

        • At the time, I believe Communist party membership was illegal, at least in some sense of the word. I'm not sure when or if that ever changed.

          I guess we have more "freedom" in this country than we can handle.

          • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            Making communist party membership illegal would have been unconstitutional.

          • Still is, technically. The communism control act (50 USC, Chapter 23, Subchapter IV), which outlawed the Communist Party of the United States, was never repealed or struck down, the latter because it was never actually enforced, and thus never went to court.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        There really were witches in Massachusetts, too.

      • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

        by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:12PM (#43239309)

        If McCarthy was right it was entirely by accident. Many innocent people were smeared as Communists simply for advocating policies that McCarthy personally disagreed with. Among the many was George Marshall, the man responsible for the Marshall Plan and thus one of the people most responsible for saving Western Europe from a Communist takeover. The character of the McCarthy-like senator in "The Manchurian Candidate" is uncomfortably close to the truth.

        • Re:Right by accident (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:13PM (#43240033)

          Actually, not an accident. IIRC the man who gave McCarthy his list was (unknown to McCarthy) KGB. Everybody on that list was deemed either expendable (to make it seem more legitimate) or someone they wanted marginalized (like Marshall). It also served to distract people from the agents they had in place in the CIA and DOD by de-legitamizing any real investigations.
          I have heard it said that the one thing the KGB was very good at was spreading dissent. McCarthy served that aim very, very well.

      • which is why Hoover cut him off and worked with the president to shut down his hearings.

        meanwhile the guy who wrote High Noon was chased out of the country, as was the guy who wrote Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, as was t he guy who wrote Threepenny Opera,

      • And a stopped clock is right twice a day.

        McCarthy didn't know that was true, and had no reason to think it was true, he just lied about it. It was total coincidence that it happened to be true. And since he had no real information, he was no good at actually ferreting them out. And it's bad counterintelligence to just publicly identify enemy agents -- you're better off feeding them disinformation, turning them, or using them to find more, all very quietly.

        The man was a drunk and a lout and deserves nothing

    • Got to love those politicians. Unwitting, often clueless but trying their best []. God bless em, cause blessings are probably in short order from elsewhere.

    • The sad part is the space department NASA made this country great. I mean we worked hard to be the first one to the moon and so many great things came out of nasa and now they pretty much can't do anything because they have no funding.
  • lol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @04:51PM (#43239023)

    The Chinese, Russian, North Korean, whoever governments probably all have a complete copy. The only ones this is gonna hurt is ourselves.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've referred to the NASA archive several times during my own research (based in the US, by the way). The only documents I've downloaded are from pre-1980, and they're all marked as "unclassified". I'm pretty sure that my university doesn't have a microfiche archive of this information, so now my only means to access has disappeared without warning. So, yeah, I'd agree that this is only going to harm ourselves. I find it unlikely that the evil Chinese scientists developing doomsday devices would have mu

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I've referred to the NASA archive several times during my own research (based in the US, by the way). The only documents I've downloaded are from pre-1980, and they're all marked as "unclassified". theory all of NTRS is reports that have already been reviewedthe only possible issue is if the review was done wrong, but at this point its too late anyways (the information has beeb up there for decadesor if there are specific new pieces of concern, just pull those down not the whole site).

        I'm pretty sure that my university doesn't have a microfiche archive of this information, so now my only means to access has disappeared without warning. So, yeah, I'd agree that this is only going to harm ourselves.

        Not just your university. Many current folks working Day-to-Day on NASA projects use NTRS regularly to find reports of interest--usually a good general overview, and even if some of the technical details are exc

      • You're talking apples and oranges.

        Classified technologies must be kept secret from everyone not authorized to see them, regardless of their nationality.

        In the U.S., export-controlled technologies [] are technologies that may be freely distributed to anyone in the country -- and indeed, to anyone in most countries -- but not to members of certain "lists." [] One of the lists is for entities, and includes, "China." Such technologies may be even discussed in public forums -- stadiums, even -- as long as one is ass

    • Re:lol (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hardie ( 716254 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:02PM (#43239903)

      This is usually referred to as closing the barn door after the horse gets out.

      Maybe some other country will post the reports so we can have access to them.

  • by game kid ( 805301 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @04:52PM (#43239045) Homepage

    "Export control", just like DRM, deprives good citizens from the ideas of their own peers, while still allowing malicious types with connections and know-how to have the controlled ideas anyway.

    Both forms of idea control fight a smarter making non-enemies even dumber.

    • This reminds me of the 128-bit encryption "export controls" from back in the day. All this paranoid political hubbub does is make the entire world (including ourselves) poorer.

    • by neonv ( 803374 )

      If you're a citizen, you can have access to it.

      Export control information usually involves technology that can be used to create missiles or others armaments. NASA works with rockets, so some of that material may have information involving missiles. It's a good idea to have some control over where that information goes so it doesn't help a hostile entity and come back to us.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No doubt the Chinese have that covered.
            Just more security theater, move along.

  • Barn Door (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#43239131) Homepage Journal
    Would not the first thing one would do, if interesting in these technical reports, is to download them all. I have done such things in the past with documents sets I wanted to review. Taking them offline does not make all the copies already generated disappear.

    I wonder how much money has been wasted discussing this, making it happen, and how much money will be wasted reviewing the documents. I am glad sequestration hasn't done anything to impair congresses ability to waste money.

    • sitesucker rules

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )

      Would not the first thing one would do, if interesting in these technical reports, is to download them all

      You mean, like Aaron Schwartz did ?

    • by spitzak ( 4019 )

      According to the movies, when you delete a file it vanishes simultaneously from every screen that is viewing a copy of it. I'm sure that is what the people who proposed this are relying on.

  • by leehwtsohg ( 618675 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#43239133)

    I mean, we could ask really nicely, no?

    Hey, china, how about it? In the name of humanity? Openness?

  • There's the party affiliation right in the story! It's an (R) again. Whenever a (D) does something reprehensible, the party affiliation is omitted. Is this a rule or something?

    It's always "both parties are equally bad, there is no difference between them" until the offender is identified as an (R), when the narrative about-faces in pure "we have always been at war with Eurasia" fashion to "those (R)s are uniquely horrid".

    What are the bosses trying to do with these tactics? Divide and conquer? Perhaps w

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:07PM (#43239247)

      The (Party-State) thing is pretty common for both parties, especially when talking about someone less known. If I were writing about Dick Cheney or Barack Obama or something, I wouldn't put it there, but if we're talking about regular Congresscritters, it seems like useful information to know their party affiliation and where they come from.

      If you're seeing a pattern, perhaps rather than a conspiracy, it's simply that one party is attacking science more than the other one is, at least lately?

      • Mmmmm no, I think it's media bias. Quick question: is the New York Times a liberal newspaper?
        • by cusco ( 717999 )
          Quick answer: No. Longer answer: The NYT has for decades received inside information from intel and military agencies in exchange for printing their propaganda pieces. That newspaper also had the single largest number of reporters involved in Project Mockingbird, even more than the Washington Post where the project was headquartered.
        • by Trepidity ( 597 )

          If I had to label The New York Times, I'd say it's a newspaper for whatever type of people it is who like David Brooks and Thomas Friedman.

  • from the American natives.

  • Brilliant (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:01PM (#43239161)

    The reports were on line so we can assume the Chinese have already downloaded all of them. Now we take them offline so that US businesses can't take advantage of the technical data that they contain.

    Then we will add a likely complex and expensive process of vetting the reports which will delay any future releases - except for organizations that are good enough to hack the NASA computers and download them immediately.

    Whose side are WE on????

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:02PM (#43239167) Homepage Journal

    Of course there is - it's in Beijing. We just don't have access to it, nor do we have access to the original anymore.

  • Context (Score:1, Troll)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

    This is all in the context of a Chinese national who was arrested at the airport,
    on his way to China, with NASA materials he wasn't supposed to have.

    This isn't some random act of political pressure.
    The reality is that NASA is trying to get its house in order.

    • Re:Context (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:10PM (#43239283)

      I don't see how taking down an archive of publicly available documents, many of which have been publicly available for decades, is reasonably related to someone stealing documents that aren't publicly available.

      • Re:Context (Score:4, Insightful)

        by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:59PM (#43239877) Journal

        Does the phrase "absurd knee-jerk overreaction" ring a bell?

        The panic spasms of a bureaucracy discovering they've facilitated espionage are so powerful you could probably do pinch-confinement fusion in their rectums.

        • by Trepidity ( 597 )

          The bureaucracy didn't come up with this idea of their own accord, unless by "the bureaucracy" you mean the U.S. Congress rather than NASA. The chairman of the Congressional committee that oversees NASA's funding explicitly and very specifically demanded that they take down this archive. And they gave in, and did so.

  • If China or any country wanted to study this information they would have already downloaded and saved this stuff. It would have taken them 5 minutes. The information is already in every countries' hands and there is nothing that can be done about it.
    • As a regular user of that site, you are wrong about it taking 5 minutes to download. There are over a million documents there. Amusingly, the DOD equivalent report server, which has twice as many documents, is still online.

  • NASA's still moving? Quick find something to drain its budget!

    How many millions of dollars will have to be spent on this "export control review"?

    • by cusco ( 717999 )
      Somehow it wouldn't surprise me at all to find that this was the actual motive. I'm not a fan of either of the big parties, but when it comes to science the Rethugs are definitely the worse of the two.
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:07PM (#43239243)

    What's wrong with the observation "NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review"? If China already had it, they wouldn't have a spy trying to carry it back to their country.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      If they could get what they wanted from documents that have been publicly available for decades, they wouldn't have a spy trying to carry it back into their country, either. The archive has been online for a long time, and China hardly needs to spend spies into the U.S. to copy it. They probably already made a local archive, anyway. All taking it down does is harm researchers.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    NASA also just announced that they're cutting a bunch of other stuff thanks to the sequester. A whole lot of US scientists won't be attending international space conferences this year.

  • What the fuck were the congressmen thinking?

    What the fuck was NASA thinking when it complied?

    Ok, NASA has been shut off in everything that it was meaningful.
    • by mbkennel ( 97636 )

      "What the fuck were the congressmen thinking?"

      Evidence for Red-baiting to smear Obama.

      "What the fuck was NASA thinking when it complied?"

      These idiots are in control of the future of our entire space program and get their panties all twisted because of something stupid and trivial, but if we anger them they may start cutting billions out of spite.

  • Horse, Barn, Door Open.. No Horse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:11PM (#43239291)

    Much of the kind of information on NTRS (the recent stuff that would be a valid export control concern, not the historic archive--which while useful seems to be a much less reasonable concern--"OMG the durn commies might find out about Republic's failed proposal for the X-15") is also available in published journals, or in multiple independent online archives/cache's...just NTRS provides easy access without a paywall and at one place.

    Of course the end result is that those of us who are funded by NASA and find NTRS useful in are day jobs end up spending three times as long to find the information we need (guess it's time to renew those AIAA, AAS, IEEE journal subscriptionsor go to a technical library). BUT, if the Chinese accidentally delete their copy of NASA TN D-683 and all their backups, now we'll force them to walk to a librarythat's sure to slow down their rocket program.

    I have no doubt that in an archive that size/scope, there might of been somethings that slipped through, but everything I've had published over the years has had to go through an export review process before it would even be accepted for NTRS.

    This is just stupid.

  • All that stuff was only "science".
  • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:15PM (#43239337) Homepage
    My father worked at NASA for 30 years. He was involved in guidance and navigation. Worked on the IU on the Saturn V.

    In the '90s, he told me the only thing classified at NASA was the vehicle destruct system details. Don't want someone intentionally blowing up a manned rocket on its proper course. He said that they were denied access to classified gyroscope materials from the spy satellite and ICBM world. Other secrets may have fallen under "trade secret" status as NASA contracted the building of most things.

    However, just the other day I downloaded information about the F-1 rocket engine. At one time the documents I downloaded were classified. I guess they didn't want the Soviets to learn more about our tech.

    Then the DART mission occurred. Within the report, there was information that might make it easier for bad actors (terrorists/states) to use GPS navigation for munitions. That information is restricted as is some more recent information.
  • Mirror (Score:4, Funny)

    by zmooc ( 33175 ) <(zmooc) (at) (> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @05:45PM (#43239695) Homepage

    So.. anybody in China reading this kind enough to put up a mirror?

  • by cyberfringe ( 641163 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:22PM (#43240153) Journal
    I have direct experience with submitting a number of my technical reports to the NASA Technical Report Archive, a requirement for reports of research sponsored by NASA. The submittal process included a third party assessment of the applicable technology export control laws. In my case, this was performed by our Office of General Counsel. However, I was also asked whether controlled information was included in the report or not under the assumption that it was my responsibility to know the rules. While I believe I was personally scrupulous, I will wager that many report authors saw the whole process as a poor use of their time and were not so careful. So I believe the archive probably does contain export controlled information. On the other hand, the really interesting work gets published in the relevant journals and professional society conferences, and there is no way to control that except through the classification process.
  • by thebiss ( 164488 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:24PM (#43241599)

    Instead of looking at this as a way to stop a leak of non-exportable information, the purpose of a review is to determine what has already been leaked, and therefore, what's no longer really a secret.

  • With the exception of medics and the like, it doesn't really matter how you are assaulting the enemy.
  • As NASA will never be given the budget to perform the reviews.
  • Once, long ago, there was this supersonic transcontinental aircraft named Concorde.
    Then, after years and years of use, for various good reasons it was halted, and same good reasons explained there wouldn't be other civilian supersonics anymore. (but most of us were considering PROGRESS was continueing, weren't us?)

    By the last years of Concorde, I graduated a space engineer in Europe.
    At that time, when there was a flaw in one of the european spacecrafts or launchers, a commission was created but its results

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.