Billions of dollars annually are being used to fund operations conducted by the United States intelligence community, the likes of which allow the government to eavesdrop on emails, listen to world leaders’ phone calls and about everything in-between.
One thing that budget hasn’t bought, however, is subtlety. The US National Reconnaissance Office launched a top-secret surveillance satellite into space Thursday evening, and the official emblem for the spy agency’s latest mission is, well, certainly accurate, to say the least.
The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched a new spy satellite Thursday evening on mission NROL-39 — and the new logo and tagline are quite an eye opener.
The new logo features a giant, world-dominating octopus, its sucker-covered tentacles encircling the planet while it looks on with determination, a steely glint in its enormous eye. The logo carries a five-word tagline: “Nothing is beyond our reach.”
Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst with the ACLU, raised a quizzical eyebrow at the new slogan.
“Advice to @ODNIgov: You may want to downplay the massive dragnet spying thing right now. This logo isn’t helping,” he wrote.
An agency spokeswoman told Forbes that there’s a very good reason for the symbol: The octopus is intelligent, and therefore a good emblem for an intelligence agency.
“NROL-39 is represented by the octopus, a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide,” said Karen Furgerson, a spokeswoman for the NRO. “‘Nothing is beyond our reach’ defines this mission and the value it brings to our nation and the warfighters it supports, who serve valiantly all over the globe, protecting our nation.”
The NROL-39 mission was classified, as are nearly all missions and satellites launched by the secretive NRO. It was carried aloft by a United Launch Alliance rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 11:13 p.m. PST, according to NASAspaceflight.com. Because the launch trajectory matched that used by other launches, it was likely carrying a third satellite for the agency’s radar reconnaissance fleet, the site said.
Along with its secretive payload, the rocket also carried the Government Experimental Multi-Satellite (GEMSat) payload, which contained 12 “nanosatellites” that will perform a variety of science missions.
The NRO mission is to design, build, launch, and maintain America’s intelligence satellites.
“Whether creating the latest innovations in satellite technology, contracting with the most cost-efficient industrial supplier, conducting rigorous launch schedules, or providing the highest-quality products to our customers, we never lose focus on who we are working to protect: our Nation and its citizens,” its website says.
That include those with eight arms.
Looking at the NROL-39 logo, people could be forgiven for mistaking it for a version of the Lovecraftian elder god Cthulhu, who wants to swallow the Earth whole. But that is not the only National Reconnaissance Office emblem with an interesting spin on the space-spying theme: others include Masonic motifs, superhero ones and a few more that, frankly, defy easy classification.