Don’t Freak Out About Russian Nukes in Space


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On Wednesday morning, House Intelligence chair Mike Turner delivered a cryptic and concerning announcement. His committee, he said, had told all of Congress about “information containing a serious national security threat” from a “destabilizing foreign military capability.” The Republican did not provide more information, leading to wide speculation, not all of it serious, over the specifics. Was war with Russia at our doorstep? Did Congress finally have some proof of aliens in our midst?

That first question is at least near the right ballpark: According to ABC News, U.S. Intelligence officials say the intel is related to Russian plans to put a nuclear weapon in space. At first, that sounds like a Cold War Bond movie, which is to say pretty frightening. But sources familiar with the intelligence told ABC News that such a nuke would not be deployed on Earth but potentially used on satellites already in orbit. Which is still quite bad, but less than total-world-destruction bad.

After Turner caused alarm with his vague announcement, others in D.C. urged calm. Democrat Jim Himes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the warning was “not a cause for panic.” The Washington Post reported that “the information does not concern an imminent threat,” according to security officials who spoke with the paper.

Another detail in the Post may explain why Turner pulled this move in the first place. The information in question was obtained by intelligence officials under an electronic-surveillance law, Section 702, that is currently being debated in Congress; it allows the National Security Agency to obtain emails, texts, and phone calls from non-Americans living abroad. Turner is fighting to keep the provision, so it appears his scare tactic might have been a political ploy — even if the threat he described is real, at least theoretically.

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