National Security: Top-Secret Souvenirs

A particular Navy surveillance satellite program is so secret that officials are not even supposed to utter its code name, Project Whitecloud, over the telephone. Yet at NASA's Johnson Space Center gift shop in Houston, souvenir envelopes decorated with detailed drawings of the satellite, clearly labeled PROJECT WHITECLOUD, had been on sale at $1 apiece for years. The envelopes even explained how the satellite dispensed three smaller craft in 700-mile-high orbits to scan the ocean, monitoring "shipboard radar and communications signals." It was hardly a hot seller: only about 35 had been purchased since 1981.

NASA said it has nothing...

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