Feds Use Regular-Looking Trucks to Ship Secret Cargo in Plain Sight
CREDIT: Paramount Pictures
In the new movie "Super 8," a small town find itself facing a dangerous alien life form after a crash derails the secret government rail car carrying the E.T. That's pretty much par for the course in the movies, where the government always moves secret cargoes in the dead of night, using mysterious-looking trucks, black helicopters and remote airfields.
The reality, however, is much more prosaic, and is not nearly so elaborate.
Far from using dead-of-night operations, the Feds do most of their secret transportation during the day, and in good weather.
One expert in the military, who spoke to InnovationNewsDaily anonymously because he did not have permission to comment on the matter, said sometimes keeping a mission carrying sensitive material under wraps is just a matter of scheduling. Nobody notices a truck that leaves during the day as part of a normal run, and there isn't necessarily any reason to tell anyone what is in it.
Take transporting nuclear material. Moving nuclear weapons is done by the Office of Secure Transportation (OST), under the umbrella of the National Nuclear Security Administration within the U.S. Department of Energy.
It's a mouthful, but transporting something that sensitive is actually done relatively openly. That's because the agency has to tell local law enforcement agencies what is happening, if for no other reason than to be ready for an emergency, such as a Super 8-style train crash , (there is even an 800 number for local law-enforcement questions), according to the OST.
This doesn't mean there is no security at all. According to the OST's web site, the trucks are guarded by armed Federal agents. The agency also has a specialized fleet of trucks that look like typical tractor-trailers, but are designed to withstand fires and severe accidents. They are accompanied by unmarked government vehicles that look like SUVs.
When transporting people, the simplest thing to do is put them on the same planes as all the other servicemen or government agents. Private planes are costly, and usually reserved for high-level officials. On a commercial flight, all the passenger has to do is keep quiet on the flight, the anonymous soldier said.
Of course, some human cargo can't always be trusted to stay quiet during a regular flight. That was the case with the so-called "torture flights" operated by the CIA.
A terrorism suspect would be picked up and shipped to a country where they might be tortured during their interrogation, but that could not be done openly, nor could the U.S. admit that it was sending people to a place where they may be tortured. The flights came to light as a result of several news stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times, among other outlets.
In many cases, the work was contracted out. One such company, according to a 2006 New Yorker story, was Jeppesen, which handled flight logistics. Other cases involved the CIA using front companies to alter a plane's registration with the Federal Aviation Administration database.
But such measures aren't perfect. In one case, as reported by The Guardian in the U.K., a Gulfstream jet that was being used for rendition flights was tracked using the observations of plane spotters at various airports.