Disinformation Watch: The Open Skies Treaty

 

Some weird stuff has popped up in my Twitter feed this week. Fortunately, I follow experts who are trying to figure it out.

Steffan Watkins is a Canadian who follows ships and planes via the internet. If you like that sort of thing, I recommend you follow him. He is also very sensitive to disinformation and occasionally given to lectures about it. He is very knowledgeable about the Open Skies Treaty.

The Open Skies Treaty (text, fact sheet) allows the nations that have signed it to fly observation planes over other signatories’ territory. It’s an arms control treaty in that it allows nations to follow up on suspicions or just keep an eye on each other. It says nothing about numbers of weapons. The simple fact that nations are open to each other in this way builds trust, which is needed to negotiate on more difficult subjects.

Every arms control treaty has an information side to it: inspections may be requested, or numbers and types of weapons are reported to the other parties regularly. When the US government abrogates a treaty, we lose a window into what the other side is doing. Of course, they get to see the equivalent of what we’re doing.

The Open Skies Treaty, like all well-made treaties, has very specific provisions for what kinds of aircraft, cameras, and routes may be flown. Arrangements must be made to schedule the flights. For flights over the United States, the airplane must be inspected by Americans, an American is on board, and the photos are shared after the flight. Other nations have the same rights for flights over their territory.

Russia does several flights a year over the US, and we reciprocate with flights over Russia. Watkins follows those flights and others that interest him. Last year and this, he told me when the Russian plane was in my area. I think I saw it last year, but this year it didn’t come close enough to Santa Fe.

This week, Michael Carpenter tweeted that the Russians were up to nefarious activities, FLYING OVER CHICAGO AND TAKING PICTURES! This is precisely the kind of thing Watkins likes to debunk, and he did, with places and times for the Open Skies flight. What is surprising is that Carpenter was in charge of the Open Skies program under President Barack Obama and is associated with the Penn-Biden Center. When he was questioned by Watkins and others knowledgeable about the program, he insulted them and cited an old New York Times article containing Republican propaganda. Republicans don’t like this treaty, along with all other arms control treaties. Watkins debunked that article here.

Tom Moore also got into the act. He is a former professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations committee. He didn’t believe what Carpenter was tweeting either.

Here’s Carpenter retweeting his first tweet that got the reaction.

And Moore’s reply

There’s more in the thread with others chiming in.

And this morning,

That’s RT, the Russian propaganda network, gloating that Americans are overreacting to an agreed flight. Watkins also identified Russian bots that were pushing Carpenter’s claims.

It’s not clear to me why Carpenter would do this. It’s the kind of thing that can be exploited by Russian propaganda all too easily, and they are going with it. They are both happy to spread Carpenter’s misinformation and to sneer at American overreaction.

So if you run into someone claiming that the Russians are sending spy flights in, now you know how to debunk that. And please do. The disinformation is only going to get worse in the leadup to the election.

Top photo: Defense One

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner






85 replies
  1. 1
    Ohio Mom says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that the Russian government means us harm, but they ain’t using airplanes.

    Every time a thought like that crosses my mind, I have a moment of astonishment that I who had little patience for the old Cold War mentality, now worry about what Russia is/could do to our apparently fragile democracy. As Adams says, Through the looking glass.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    trollhattan says:

    Ugh. Does the Republican prion disease honor party lines? Somebody is showing symptoms.

  4. 4
    delk says:

    It’s the Air and Water Show this weekend in Chicago. As usual planes/jets have been zooming around the skies all week.

  5. 5
    Hob says:

    I realize this isn’t supposed to be logical, but… I’m still stuck trying to figure out why surveying “critical infrastructure” would be more of a dangerous aggressive act than surveying military installations. And if the idea is that they’re planning an insidious covert attack, what exactly can you see about the “critical infrastructure” of downtown Chicago from a plane that you can’t see by… being in Chicago?

  6. 6
  7. 7

    @Ohio Mom:

    little patience for the old Cold War mentality

    One of the oddities of the fall of the Soviet Union was finding out that the paranoid xenophobes were right about some stuff.

  8. 8
    MattF says:

    My guess: Russians have figured out that poking at the partisan hornet’s nest in the US makes everyone distracted and stupid. Are they actually up to something nefarious? Who knows?

  9. 9
    trollhattan says:

    @delk:
    Air+Water=chemtrails. Just sayin’.

  10. 10
    MattF says:

    @trollhattan: But… ‘It’s water vapor’ is so boring.

  11. 11
    Spanky says:

    @MattF: Of course the Russians are up to something nefarious. But they don’t really need the ost to do it.

    And “critical infrastructure” can be easily surveilled by satellite. Just sayin’.

  12. 12
    trollhattan says:

    @Hob:
    IIRC when we were actively engaged in arms reduction (remember when we actually did such things?) we and the Soviets would leave the dismantled weapons out in the open so that they could be observed by surveillance.

    [bothers to check]

    An example.

    Maybe Chicago has some dismantled military hoverboards or something?

  13. 13
    Another Scott says:

    Not many, but enough people have something snap after they leave government that one can’t assume that just because they were on the good side while working for Uncle Same that they continue to be on the good side later.

    Thanks for helping to push back against this disinformation and fear-mongering.

    Similarly, I noticed this letter to the editor in my local community newspaper. People who disagree with him just don’t understand, see. Equating AR-15s with M-16s or M-4s is “a deliberate act of lying to the public…”, you see. He then mansplains about magazines and the usual stuff. Yes, he even talks about hog hunting. (groucho-roll-eyes.gif) It’s so tiring, but we can’t give up.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  14. 14
    Mary G says:

    Carpenter is in the pay of/being blackmailed by the Russians to stir up shit? I like Tom Moore.

  15. 15
    Immanentize says:

    @Hob:
    Hell, Google Street view can tell you all you ever wanted to know — plus a whole lot more! — about critical infrastructure. It is such a fake scary thing.

    ETA. Maybe the Ruskies want to know how much our critical infrastructure has deteriorated and degraded since the 1970s?

  16. 16

    @Mary G: I don’t know Carpenter’s motivations and don’t want to guess. Another Scott has the best guess. I assume good will with misjudgment first, will change that if evidence otherwise shows up.

  17. 17
    trollhattan says:

    @Immanentize:
    Street View has no images of my tiny Midwest home town. What are they hiding?

  18. 18
    Immanentize says:

    @trollhattan:
    Obviously number 7 on the nuclear Target list….

  19. 19
    lumpkin says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Hard to see anything but bad faith here. Most troubling is that this is the sort of thing the gullible fool could pick up on and become obsessed with, leading to another scuttled treaty.

  20. 20
    Baud says:

    We still have critical infrastructure?

  21. 21

    @lumpkin: This is what I worry about – losing another treaty and the information that goes along with it.

  22. 22
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @delk:

    It’s the Air and Water Show this weekend in Chicago. As usual planes/jets have been zooming around the skies all week

    Yup. Thursday and Friday turn-arounds over the lake can be heard a mile away.

    I think the Red Arrows are flying right now.

  23. 23
    MatfF says:

    @Baud: Yeah, but it’s all data centers and Amazon warehouses.

  24. 24
    MattF says:

    @Baud: Yeah, but it’s all cloud data centers and Amazon warehouses.

  25. 25
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @trollhattan: Two separate parts of the show. :P

    Thar be boats in them that thar show too.

  26. 26
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @trollhattan:

    Maybe Chicago has some dismantled military hoverboards or something?

    They aren’t dismantled. A bunch of companies made them into electric scooters, and we hate them.

    Methinks a fighter jet is nearby.

  27. 27
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Immanentize: Sergy, look at the streetcar tracks visible through the pavement. Hahaha

  28. 28
    Brachiator says:

    So, what’s wrong with this Carpenter guy? Has he lost his mind?

  29. 29

    @mrmoshpotato:

    Thar be boats in them that thar show too.

    Oh crap. It’s contagious!

  30. 30

    @trollhattan:

    The thing is, when flying over Chicago, they were not taking any pictures at all. They were not at the right altitude, speed, or even the right area (they were headed to SoCal and Hawaii to conduct the mission). I would like to think Mike made a mistake, but rather than walking it back, he double and tripled down, and then it was too late. If it wasn’t that, I’m very concerned Team Biden is already the DNC pick and this is some sort of “tough on Russia” propaganda they’re polishing.

  31. 31
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Is this basically an aerial version of the old military liaison missions? I have my old SMLM card in a box somewhere in my storage room.

  32. 32

    @Hob: No pictures of Chicago were taken, that’s step one to identifying what he stated was total baloney
    They fly at specific heights and speeds, and were not at either. Their mission plan included California, and Hawaii – not Illinois.
    They were just flying from A to B, and Mike jumped at the chance to sling mud from 2016, that has been since debunked. Really bizarre.

  33. 33
    germy says:

    Russian Doctors Say They Weren’t Warned Patients Were Nuclear Accident Victims:

    One doctor was reportedly later found to have a radioactive isotope in their muscle tissue.

    FSB agents had doctors sign non-disclosure agreements.#Russia https://t.co/4ilAwG3sy1

    — Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) August 16, 2019

    Peak #Russia:Injured men arrived at the hospital naked,wrapped in translucent plastic bags.

    “No one — neither hospital directors, nor Health Ministry officials, nor regional officials or the governor — notified staff that the patients were radioactive.”https://t.co/lkfeDkgtf4

    — Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) August 16, 2019

  34. 34
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    So Twitler is considering designating ANTIFA as terrorist organization. Could anyone explain this lunacy to me? ANTIFA has been responsible for *checks notes* 0 deaths. White supremacists have been responsible for 500+. The FBI knows what the problem is but Twitler thinks he knows better and designates ANTIFA? WTF?

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    Could anyone explain this lunacy to me?

    He is a fucking fascist.

  36. 36
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: she’s not going to understand that; she’s British. Try:

    He is a bloody fascist

  37. 37
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @John Revolta: It’s the ‘water’ part. :P

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Steve in the ATL: Thanks for the assist.

  39. 39
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Well put.

  40. 40
    waratah says:

    @Another Scott: Beto walked into a gun show in Conway Arkansas today to talk to them about gun laws and to listen to what they had to say. He noticed a sign that said AR -15 $395. Later on Twitter he said the plan he just released you will not be able to buy them at that price, you won’t be able to buy them at all. He later said on Twitter insulin cost $450 a month. The AR-15 $395 for a lifetime. Said it should not be more affordable to kill than to live.

  41. 41
    Chris Johnson says:

    @Ohio Mom: Me too. I find it intensely disconcerting to be a lefty Red Dawn type.

    But they came by it honest. Which is to say, dishonest.

  42. 42
    Jay says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    Faux News is ranting and lying again, so Wussolinni is mainlining it again.

    Lou Dobbs is encouraging people to run over protestors.Dobbs even accused the demonstrators – who were victims of assault w/ a deadly weapon & attempted murder – of committing assault themselves because they banged on the hood of the truck attempting to run them over. https://t.co/X3EWhOH8Zs— Ana Kasparian (@AnaKasparian) August 16, 2019

  43. 43

    @Litlebritdifrnt: The Proud Boys are having a demonstration in Portland, Oregon. Antifa is particularly strong there. Notice that there is no Presidential tweet about the Nazis.

  44. 44
    MattF says:

    @Jay: Sounds like Dobbs is dancing right on that red line.

  45. 45
    Jay says:

    ICE detainees are on hunger strike to avoid being returned to India, where their lives would be in danger. Instead of giving them freedom, ICE is doing this: https://t.co/Zg0f45oJzN pic.twitter.com/ggYgKCwSK5— ✡️ Never Again Action ✡️ (@NeverAgainActn) August 16, 2019

  46. 46
    NotMax says:

    Russia trying to steal the secrets of deep dish pizza?

    To arms!

    //

  47. 47
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @NotMax: So many pizzerias to surveil!

  48. 48
    Jay says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Portland has an over 40 year history of out of town Nazis trying to terrorize their community. The Portland communities also have intergenerational experience in how to run the Nazis out of town.

    Antifia does not exist. There are only anti-facists.

  49. 49

    @Jay:

  50. 50
    Brachiator says:

    @Another Scott:

    Similarly, I noticed this letter to the editor in my local community newspaper. People who disagree with him just don’t understand, see

    Hmm. Let’s see. Only people who understand guns can comment on gun laws. And if you understand guns, you will love guns and see no need for gun laws.

    Just sad.

  51. 51
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Brachiator:

    And if you understand guns, you will love guns and see no need for gun laws.

    I did not realize until now that I do not exist.

  52. 52
    trollhattan says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: @Jay:
    Curiouser and curiouser.

    The national president of the Oath Keepers, a prominent anti-government militia, is urging his members to stay away from a far-right demonstration in downtown Portland Saturday.

    The event is being billed as a rally against antifa. It’s been condemned by Portland’s mayor and a broad coalition of civil rights, law enforcement and business groups as a pretext for violence.

    In a lengthy statement published online, Oath Keepers President Stewart Rhodes said people who attend the event risk associating themselves with white nationalists and could expose themselves to criminal charges for rioting.

    “We do not, and cannot, knowingly associate with known or suspected white nationalists,” he wrote.

    Rhodes said he does not consider the organizers of the event, a Florida man named Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a fraternity that describes itself as “western chauvinist” and espouses parts of white supremacist ideology, to be white nationalists themselves. But he faulted the men for not getting a permit for their march and failing to take other steps to exclude known white nationalists from joining it.

    “The left in this nation is desperate to paint all conservatives and, especially, all Trump supporters as ‘white nationalists’ to the point of absurdity. Allowing any actual white nationalists into an event where attendees are encouraged to bring Trump flags as well as American flags would be a grave mistake,” Rhodes wrote.

    Rhodes also said he was concerned that angry videos and violent memes the organizers of the march have posted online suggest they want to incite violence and could expose attendees to prosecution for rioting under state and federal law.

    As he urged organizers to cancel their event, an Indiana group that calls itself The American Guard confirmed it plans to attend.

    “Florida Man vacations in far-away state” always leads to hilarity. Or stupidity. Why not both?

    Fun fact: Oregon is an open-carry state.

  53. 53
    David Fud says:

    Seems like a stupid question, but did a Russian or other black hat hacker type hijack his twitter account? That might be the easiest explanation, though I don’t know enough to say how plausible that is.`

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    @Jay:

    ICE detainees are on hunger strike to avoid being returned to India, where their lives would be in danger. Instead of giving them freedom, ICE is doing this…

    Remember, the ICE agents are only following orders.

  55. 55
    Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho says:

    @Immanentize: True, and slightly alarming. (OT:you’ve got mail 😊)

    @trollhattan: HA! Only you know…

  56. 56
    trollhattan says:

    @trollhattan:
    Now the BBC has the Portland street theater front-paged.

  57. 57

    @David Fud: That was my first thought, but it doesn’t look that way.

  58. 58

    Tracking this week’s flights

  59. 59
    Jay says:

    @trollhattan:

    A bunch of the “Oath Keeper Cult” are LEO or Military. A key component of anti-facist activity is identifying them, then doxxing them. Actions have consequences.

  60. 60
  61. 61

    @trollhattan: There’s nutjobs and nutjobs. I believe the Oath Keepers are more
    antiabortion nutjobs than racist nutjobs.

  62. 62
    trollhattan says:

    @Another Scott:
    Their graphics game is ON.

    It seems to be a local strong point–the Providence Park banner quality is the best I’ve seen at any sports venue.

  63. 63

    @Brachiator:

    Only people who understand guns can comment on gun laws. And if you understand guns, you will love guns and see no need for gun laws.

    It’s a bit more direct: believing in restrictions on gun ownership is proof that you don’t understand guns and thus have no right to comment on them.

  64. 64
    Jay says:

    @John Revolta:

    Oath Keepers is an anti-government[1][2][3][4][5][a] American far-right[7][6] organization associated with the patriot and militia movements.[8][9] The group describes itself as a non-partisan association of current and former military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath that all military and police take in order to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.[10] It encourages members – some of whom are current and former U.S. military and law enforcement officers – not to obey orders which they believe would violate the United States Constitution. The organization claims a membership of 35,000 as of 2016.[11]

    At the point in time when you need a vast menu to keep the various flavours, patches and ideologies of your violent reichwing nutjubs straight, it’s easier to lump them all into the catchall category of Nazis.

  65. 65

    @Roger Moore: Well, it’s a common phenomenon. For example, people who disagree with my tastes in music clearly know nothing about music, and therefore aren’t entitled to an opinion.

  66. 66
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Another Scott: Respect to the lower back muscles of the dinosaur.

  67. 67
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Jay:

    it’s easier to lump them all into the catchall category of Nazis.

    Yup. Not fucking around with their manifestos to keep the snowflakes’ feefees from being hurt. Nazi scum.

  68. 68
    trollhattan says:

    @Jay:
    The two groups are separated by the Willamette River, so things will hopefully run their course and the fuckheads can go crawl under their bestest rocks. OPB is keeping pretty good track of things.

    Sure hope the counter-demonstrators have an ample supply of “No step on snek” flags.

  69. 69
    Brachiator says:

    @Roger Moore:

    It’s a bit more direct: believing in restrictions on gun ownership is proof that you don’t understand guns and thus have no right to comment on them.

    A mere quibble over small difference. But the letter writer insisted on offering his military background bona fides and also had a need to explain about magazines. So he was supposedly speaking from a position of authority or something.

    This reminded me of billions of gun debates which go “You don’t know the difference between a clip and a magazine! You couldn’t possibly have a valid opinion about anything relating to guns!!”

  70. 70
    debbie says:

    @Another Scott:

    Looking at the other photos on that feed, I’m surprised at how many of the “Boys” are far too old to be called boys.

  71. 71
    chris says:

    Better view of the flag here, it’s a banana peel. I love it.

    You can hear the police tellig people there is no permit to protest in the street as the “Banana Bloc” marching band plays on. This #portlandprotest feels like a literal circus. pic.twitter.com/BjdffO8y0j— Sarah Mirk (@sarahmirk) 17 August 2019

  72. 72
    NotMax says:

    @Brachiator

    “You can’t use the word sforzando in a sentence! Shut your mouth about anything to do with music!”

    :)

  73. 73
    Formerly disgruntled in Oregon says:

    @trollhattan: From that OPB article:

    The article describes the violent white supremacists from out of town thusly…

    …the Proud Boys, a fraternity that describes itself as “western chauvinist” and espouses parts of white supremacist ideology

    And the homegrown resistance to these fascist bullies this way…

    …antifa, a far-left, anti-fascist group that has engaged in violence

    WTF? Fuck the mainstream media, and its coddling of white supremacists.

  74. 74
    Jay says:

    @trollhattan:

    @chris:

    The Nazis don’t have a permit to protest either. But they were allowed to march, were protected by the PPB, which does not have a good reputation anymore.

    Why are the police coordinating with a violent extremist group that bussed people across state lines to terrorize a city? #Portland #PortlandProtest https://t.co/RsaArdibi5— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) August 17, 2019

    The PPB is very quick to deploy violence to arrest non-violent counter protestors, and very slow to arrest violent Nazis who have committed assault and attempted murder.

    At the last protest, they coordinated with the Nazis to allow Nazis with open arrest warrants to attend, with a promise they would not be arrested.

    This time, they arrested a bunch of the most violent Nazis before the protest, some on open warrants dating back 5 years.

  75. 75
    Formerly disgruntled in Oregon says:

    @Formerly disgruntled in Oregon: I mean, why not “…the Proud Boys, a far-right, fascist group that has engaged in violence”? Come on, Oregon Public Broadcasting, this is ridiculous bullshit.

  76. 76
    Jay says:

    May 2018: In leaked chat logs, the Proud Boys discussed injuring & even killing protesters at rallies. Among other things, they discussed specific weapons & tactics, as well as how to use optics to claim self-defense if they faced charges for the violence.https://t.co/yg73oikyna— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) August 17, 2019

  77. 77
    Yarrow says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I don’t know Carpenter’s motivations and don’t want to guess. Another Scott has the best guess. I assume good will with misjudgment first, will change that if evidence otherwise shows up.

    That’s generous of you. The guy has been given opportunities to walk back his comments and claims. He hasn’t and has doubled down. He easily could have said he was wrong and thanks for the correction and the whole episode goes away. But, no. Can’t do that. And how he’s being quoted approvingly by RT. Something doesn’t doesn’t smell right about the whole thing.

  78. 78
    Jay says:

    CNN has also frequently minimized the threat posed by extremist groups like Patriot Prayer. They’ve been doing it for years, and will do it again (tomorrow), by equating antifa with far-right extremists. https://t.co/HVDW4NQnAA— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) August 17, 2019

  79. 79
    Jay says:

    Cops just told Joey to get in the car and get out of here, are pointing weapons at everyone else.— ROCKY 🥊 CLXI (@rockyhorrorrr) August 17, 2019

    That’s Joey Gibson, leader of Patriot Prayer, who has open arrest warrants for violent assaults being protected from counter protestors by PPB Officers pointing loaded guns at the non- violent counter protestors.

  80. 80
    Bill Arnold says:

    @MattF:

    Sounds like Dobbs is dancing right on that red line.

    FWIW Dobbs did not explicitly encourage drivers to run over demonstrators in that video. It’s a stretch to say that he encouraged it. He was mostly going on about demonstrators blocking the the ICE agent’s car, which people like that consider to be a sin. Disappointed to see what is essentially a fabrication, because the fascist right will point it out at length.

  81. 81
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    I have a map like that drawn by my father. (94th Infantry, started in France, ended in Czechoslovakia west of Prague)
    He could smell Germans; he was the Company nose. (Something about goulash I was told.)
    RIP, but pretty sure he would be OK with today’s disorganized antifascists; amused, disorganization really not his style, but OK with it.

  82. 82
    Jay says:

    Holy shit, the NBC reporter on the ground just repeated the lie that antifa was planning on showing up to Portland dressed at MAGA supporters on @msnbc. That was a bullshit troll spread by the far right. @NBCNews fire that shit reporter asap.— Zach D Roberts (@zdroberts) August 17, 2019

  83. 83
    kindness says:

    Sounds to me like Obama could have picked a better guy for the job than Carpenter. That’s OK. Obama was still the best president of my lifetime.

    Carpenter just wants us all to piss in our pants. Buddy………

  84. 84
    Procopius says:

    @trollhattan:

    … Carpenter was in charge of the Open Skies program under President Barack Obama and is associated with the Penn-Biden Center.

    No crossing party lines. I guess Biden feels a need to try to revive the RussiaRussiaRussia hysteria to distract from… something. Or maybe Biden has nothing to do with it (which I would prefer to believe) and Carpenter is just a loose cannon, as General Flynn became is reported to have become when he was chief of Defense Intelligence Agency.

  85. 85
    karen marie says:

    Why did Carpenter do this? I know! I know!

    He’s trying to sell a book but so far no publisher has made an offer. He’s trying to change that.

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