The hacking group AnonSec recently posted a text file, accompanied by a large data dump, in which they claim to have hacked NASA servers while looking for evidence of "chemtrails". Here's how they put it:
This text file (a pruned version of which is attached to this post) and data release has been used by many groups that promote the "chemtrails" theory as "proof" that chemtrails are real, and that there's some kind of secret geoengineering program going on.
Here's the facts behind these claims.
- Anonsec does appear to have at some point gained access to some data on a NASA Server
- The data appears to be not secret, just public domain data (including the list of employees)
- The data dump is just GPS tracks and videos of NASA research flights. Public domain missions.
- NASA does have several programs studying Aerosols and there effects on the weather, but those are studies of pollution, engine emissions, and natural aerosols like dust.
- NASA does use a Global Hawk Drone, but there's nothing secret about it.
- NASA denies that AnonSec controlled a Drone, and beyond AnonSec's claim, there's no evidence they did.
- Someone at AnonSec really believes in the chemtrail theory, but misunderstands the science of contrails.
The "Data Dump" file released by AnonSec is a 250GB file. It would take me several days to download, so I'm unable to verify its exact contents. However going by AnonSec's own description it is simply flight logs and videos of Global Hawk research flights. This is data that is available over the web in literally seconds.
With a few minutes more (getting a free account at EarthData, which only requires a working email address) you can access the raw files on their server
Once you've signed up, you can access the raw files via a web file browser.
These are the same IWG1 files described by AnonSec, and these are what they used to generate some images of the flights of the Global Hawk. There's plenty of data in there for a variety of NASA missions that have interesting looking flight paths. It's all public domain. Here's some I downloaded in about ten minutes.
So what are these strange flights? AnonSec presents a list in their text file in a way that makes it seem high-tech
> cat NASA_Missions.txt ACE - Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystem Mission; learn about clouds from space, satellites ~ RADEX - Radar Definition Experiment; McChord AFB; ER-2 ARISE - Arctic Radiation - IceBridge Sea&Ice Experiment; Eielson AFB, C-130 ATTREX - Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment; DFRC; 4 NASA GlobalHawks DC3 - Deep Convection Clouds & Chemistry; NCAR; NSF/NCAR Gulfstream-V (GV) aircraft HS3 - Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel; NWFF; GlobalHawk OIB - Operation Ice Bridge;NCAR Research Aviation Facility; P-3B & DC-8 PODEX - Polarimeter Definition Experiment;Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility; ER-2 NEXRAD - Next Generation Weather Radar; 160 Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) SEAC4RS - Studies of Emissions and Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys; ER-2 & DC-8 & C-20A (G-III) - Armstrong;
But these are all just NASA missions, public domain (like all NASA mission), and they each have a web page explaining what they do, and various sites and data portals that allow you to access the data from those missions.
Take, for example, the most "chemtrail" sounding of the programs AnonSec list, the ATTREX mission. It's just a science mission to study water vapor in the stratosphere to help us better forecast the weather. Here's its web page, with lots of photos of the drone it uses (they use drones as 24 hour long flights are not practical with human pilots):
Here's a video explaining what the ATTREX mission is about:
He's one of several data portals that let you get mission data:
So what have AnonSec revealed to the world? They have revealed that NASA conducts missions that involved planes or drones flying around. That's it. Nothing that isn't already on NASA's web site.
So what's the big deal? Well it seems like someone in AnonSec is a hardcore believer in the chemtrail theory. From the text file:
This is the fundamental misunderstanding that underlays the entire chemtrail theory. It's the misunderstanding that I first wrote about in 2007, and continue to write about today, nearly ten year later. It's just wrong. Contrails can persist and spread and every book on the weather going back to the 1940s agrees with this.
For example: 1957: Cloud Study: A pictorial Guide, page 79
Yet AnonSec is laboring under this misconception that contrails cannot persist and spread, and hence they have also fallen for a lot of the the other "Chemtrail" misconceptions, in fact a large portion of the text file is basically going through all the commonly given "evidence" for chemtrails - largely things that were debunked many years ago (on Metabunk, or contrailscience.com). This is interweaved with discussions of hacking, and descriptions of the various NASA programs, in a way that might make the casual reader think they are related. But there's no connection here. There's basically the public domain NASA programs, and then there's a bunch of chemtrail speculation that has been bouncing around the internet for years. Putting them in the same text file and adding some (public domain) flight tracks does not create a connection.
The list of NASA employees seems at first to be a serious data breach, however the list is available for public searching at the NASA Enterprise Directory. You can get all the employes by simply restring your searches to narrow ranges (like, last name=A). No hacking required. Just more public data.
Finally there's the claim that Anonsec uploaded a flight plan for a drone to try to crash it. There's really no evidence this actually happened. Obviously a drone never crashed. NASA says they have no evidence that such a thing happened.
But either way, this is a very good answer to the question of "what's the harm" in conspiracy theories. Anonsec is an actual group of hackers. They do hack things. They probably did get into a bit of NASA's network. They may have even attempted to crash a $200 million dollar drone that was just doing science projects to help forecast the weather. They did this because they believed in the chemtrail theory. That's the harm. They were so swept up in the belief that there's something nefarious going on that they thought it was fine to crash one of NASA's science aircraft.
That's why I think it's important to debunk the baseless claims of theories like these. If a misunderstanding of how contrails works can lead to losing $200 million of taxpayer money, and disruption of valuable science projects, then I think debunking that misunderstanding is worthwhile endeavor.
[This is a summary post from material in the thread below. The original first post follows]