Remember the days when you had to carry a map with you to get from here to there? With the advent of the military’s global positioning system (GPS), civilians soon reaped the benefits of being able to punch in a location and simply follow the arrows. But make no mistake, GPS is first and foremost a military tool, and it’s accuracy and stability are vital for national security. That is… unless the president happens to be Barack Obama. Then, politics and pressure are all that matter.
As reported by The Daily Beast, the Pentagon “has worried for months that a project backed by a prominent Democratic donor might interfere with military GPS.” The company is called LightSquared, and according to The Hill, it plans to “provide high-speed wholesale wireless service nationwide through a network of satellites and land-based cell towers, but tests earlier this year revealed it interferes with GPS devices, including those used by the military.”
End of story, right? Clearly the Pentagon can’t support a project that could jeopardize the accuracy and stability of GPS devices, right? Not so fast. The Daily Beast reports that LightSquared is primarily owned by “an investment fund run by Democratic donor Philip Falcone.” And with ties to the White House, along comes the pressure:
The four-star Air Force general who oversees Air Force Space Command walked into a highly secured room on Capitol Hill a week ago to give a classified briefing to lawmakers and staff, and dropped a surprise. Pressed by members, Gen. William Shelton said the White House tried to pressure him to change his testimony to make it more favorable to a company tied to a large Democratic donor.
According to officials familiar with the situation, Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked in advance to the company. And the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, officials said.
The Center for Public Integrity obtained hundred of pages of documents including e-mail communications between LightSquared executives and members of the Obama administration.
Wireless firm LightSquared pressed its case for government approval of a new national broadband network in numerous contacts with presidential aides, at times citing its fundraising for Democratic causes and President Obama, White House emails show.
On the day that LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja made a $30,400 contribution to the Democratic Party, two of his deputies appealed to the White House for meetings with top technology advisers to Obama, according to emails obtained by iWatch News.
According to The Hill, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces subpanel, “called Thursday for an investigation of whether the White House inappropriately intervened to support wireless startup LightSquared.” The congressman summed up the situation perfectly by saying, “We cannot afford to have federal telecommunication policy, especially where it affects national security, to be made in the same way this White House has parceled out a half billion dollars in loan guarantees to the failed Solyndra Corporation, a large political campaign contributor of the president.”
Fox News reports that the spectrum in the LightSquared project would be “5 billion times stronger than the military’s GPS system, rendering the military’s system almost useless.” And yet a general was pressured to down play this problem? Is this how Obama officials view national security? As an annoyance that gets in the way of political payoffs?