An inside look at the single largest public outreach program for the Department of Defense — and the Pentagon’s most elaborate propaganda operation.
But the number printed in the newspaper in December 1955 had a digit wrong — and was instead the direct line into the secret military nerve center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the Pentagon was on the lookout to prevent nuclear war. The Air Force officer and World War II fighter pilot who took the first call that day for Father Christmas thought it was a crank — and Col. Harry Shoup sternly said so.
“The little kid started crying,” Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, recalled in an interview. “So Dad went into his ‘Ho ho ho’ and got the kid’s list.”
Sixty-two years later, the Continental Air Defense Command is now the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and its interactive NORAD Tracks Santa has become the largest single public outreach program for the Defense Department. It’s also, you might say, the Pentagon’s most elaborate propaganda operation.
On Christmas Eve, while monitoring the heavens for North Korean missile launches or Russian military aircraft flying too close to the U.S. or Canada, NORAD will also be reporting the progress of Santa and his reindeer as they travel from the North Pole around the world delivering presents and holiday cheer. It will correlate the jolly elf’s journey with its network of 47 radar stations, spy satellites in “geosynchronous” orbit 22,300 miles above the earth, fighter jets and a suite of special high-tech “SantaCams.” Or so the publicity stunt’s plan goes.
“The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America,” says NORAD’s detailed 14-page internal handbook for the operation, which is replete with Santa stats (first flight believed to be Dec. 24, 343 A.D.) and even talking points for that uncomfortable question many parents also confront: “Is there a Santa Claus?”
It’s all part of the ornamented script that more than 1,500 volunteers — including the four-star general in charge of defending North America — are using to field an anticipated 150,000 calls and an avalanche of emails and social media posts (2 million Facebook followers so far) who are all seeking to locate Ole St. Nick on his starlight odyssey.
“As soon as you’re hanging up there’s another kid wanting to talk to you,” Preston Schlachter, NORAD’s Track Santa program manager and its director of community outreach, said of the 23-hour period leading up to Christmas when volunteers work in two-hour shifts, backed up by dozens of sponsors ranging from Microsoft to the National Defense Industrial Association, Taco Bell and the local Amy’s Donuts in Colorado Springs.
In the past, VIPs like former first lady Michelle Obama have also taken a turn at the phones.
“It is the best two hours you’ll ever experience,” Schlachter added in an interview. “You are getting these calls from all over the world. One of the coolest things I like about the program is the multi-generational aspect of it. We are seeing feedback on social media, people who call in and tell us they tracked Santa when they were kids and they’ve introduced it to their kids and now they’re introducing it to their grandkids.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Cheyenne mountain bunker is a half-acre cavern carved into a mountain in the 1960s that was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack.
Washington (AFP) – The US military command that scans North America’s skies for enemy missiles and aircraft plans to move its communications gear to a Cold War-era mountain bunker, officers said.
“My primary concern was…are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I’m not at liberty to discuss who’s moving in there.”
Admiral William Gortney, head of NORAD and Northern Command, said that “because of the very nature of the way that Cheyenne Mountain’s built, it’s EMP-hardened.”
“And so, there’s a lot of movement to put capability into Cheyenne Mountain and to be able to communicate in there,” Gortney told reporters.
“A lot of the back office communications is being moved there.”
“My primary concern was… are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I’m not at liberty to discuss who’s moving in there,” he said.
The Cheyenne mountain bunker is a half-acre cavern carved into a mountain in the 1960s that was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack. From inside the massive complex, airmen were poised to send warnings that could trigger the launch of nuclear missiles.
But in 2006, officials decided to move the headquarters of NORAD and US Northern Command from Cheyenne to Petersen Air Force base in Colorado Springs. The Cheyenne bunker was designated as an alternative command center if needed. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian Bombers More Aggressive Near U.S. Territory
Sam LaGrone reports: While Russian military aircraft have stepped up their activity everywhere from the North Sea to the Baltic to the Black Sea in the last year they have also been spotted more frequently closer to the U.S. territory in the Arctic, the head of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) told USNI News on Tuesday.
In particular – flights of Tupolev Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ Bombers have increased recently NORTHCOM’s Adm. Bill Gortney said.
“They’ve been very aggressive – under my NORAD hat – for us in the Arctic. Aggressive in the amount of flights, not aggressive in how they fly.”
Since the March seizure of the Ukrainian region of Crimea by Russian forces Moscow has significantly stepped up air patrols in Europe, Asia and near the Americas.
The flights extend as far North as the edge of American air space near Alaska and as far South as U.S. holdings in Guam.
In December, two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets intercepted a two Bears near the Beaufort Sea entering a U.S. and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Read the rest of this entry »
Weakness Invites Aggression. Putin’s Only Responding to Passive U.S. Leadership, Happily Accepting the Invitation
Update 5:50 P.M.: This story has been updated to include developing information about the Russian incursion off the coast of Alaska
Bill Gertz reports: Russian strategic nuclear bombers carried out air defense zone incursions near Alaska and across Northern Europe this week in the latest nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.
“They are having a very aggressive nuclear readiness exercise now as a show of force. Whereas the U.S. has been on a path of nuclear zero which they think is ridiculous.”
Six Russian aircraft, including two Bear H nuclear bombers, two MiG-31 fighter jets and two IL-78 refueling tankers were intercepted by F-22 fighters on Wednesday west and north of Alaska in air defense identification zones, said Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Two other Bears were intercepted by Canadian jets on Thursday.
Russia, under Putin, is engaged in a large-scale nuclear buildup that includes new missiles, submarines, and a new bomber.
A day later two more Bear bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18 jets in the western area of the Canadian air defense identification zone near the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, he said. Read the rest of this entry »
NORAD’s Santa Tracker: Fanciful ‘Fighter Jet Escort’ for Santa Under Fire from Child Psychologists and Public Health Experts?
It was only a matter of time before some humorless finger-wagging scolds indulged their paranoia and accused the government of sponsoring a harmful military-industrial brainwashing campaign against children (to induce them into military service later in life?) and succeeded in getting the media to pay attention.
I think we should celebrate when these imaginary grievances make national news. It reveals how silly the academics, psychologists, and culture warriors can get. When allowed to walk outside of their University offices and talk to members of the press, without supervision, they unintentionally provide us with comedy gold.
One of the advocates of this campaign, Amy Hagopian, a professor of public health at the University of Washington, should be
fired given a toy airplane, a basket of candy canes, some cupcakes, and a yo yo. Then taken on a trip to the zoo, then taken out for an ice cream, and read a bedtime story. She deserves a happy childhood, but perhaps didn’t get one. I propose that we bury her in love, kindness, and holiday cheer, ’cause she needs it. Send her an email, let her know what you think.
Without NORAD’s official protection, securing North American airspace for Santa and his reindeer, Santa’s annual global delivery route–and Santa himself– could be at risk! I hope the fine men and women at NORAD ignore the Scrooges and screwballs, and continue their volunteer efforts to keep Santa’s supply routes open and safe! Props to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, for standing his ground in this (manufactured) controversy. A fictional controversy about an imaginary NORAD mission. It’s perfect.
WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Some child advocates are upset that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is providing Santa Claus with a fighter jet escort around the globe in this year’s tracking program.
Since 1955, NORAD Tracks Santa has been operated by the joint U.S.-Canada command. Its purpose is to provide children with information and details about Santa’s whereabouts as he drops off presents around the world.
This year’s program depicts Santa flying over snow-capped mountain peaks with a military aircraft keeping up with him on either side.
Will Saletan writes: To believe that the US government planned or deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks, you’d have to posit that President Bush intentionally sacrificed 3,000 Americans. To believe that explosives, not planes, brought down the buildings, you’d have to imagine an operation large enough to plant the devices without anyone getting caught.
To insist that the truth remains hidden, you’d have to assume that everyone who has reviewed the attacks and the events leading up to them – the CIA, the Justice Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, scientific organisations, peer-reviewed journals, news organisations, the airlines, and local law enforcement agencies in three states – was incompetent, deceived or part of the cover-up.
And yet, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl points out, millions of Americans hold these beliefs. In a Zogby poll taken six years ago, only 64 per cent of US adults agreed that the attacks “caught US intelligence and military forces off guard”. More than 30 per cent chose a different conclusion: that “certain elements in the US government knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military, and economic motives”, or that these government elements “actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attacks”.
How can this be? How can so many people, in the name of scepticism, promote so many absurdities?
The answer is that people who suspect conspiracies aren’t really sceptics. Like the rest of us, they’re selective doubters. They favour a world view, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites.