Friday, November 5, 2010


A generic American code name for a series of  satellite surveillance systems launched since 1960 by the National Reconnaissance Office, designated with sequential KH numbers, the first being the CORONA series, KH-1. Within the KEYHOLE compartments are subcategories, such as  TALENT and  BYEMAN, which indicate whether they have a signals intelligence or imagery collection function. The purpose of the compartmentalization is to isolate the platform designers from the contractors who build them and the technicians who analyze the product, thereby preventing anyone from gaining knowledge there was no reason to have. Thus individual code-word security clearances are required for indoctrination into specific classified projects, enhancing their integrity. The necessity for such high levels of secrecy was illustrated when a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, William Kampiles, compromised the KH-11 satellite by selling a technical manual to the GRU for $3,000 in 1977.