Trevor Paglen from the University of California Berkeley's Department of Geography, spoke on "Blank Spots on a Map: State Secrecy and the Limits of the Visible," Dec. 4 at the Eclectic Society. Paglen studies secret government programs from both a political and aesthetic perspective. His talk focused on the secret or "black world" of the military, which is composed of programs, people and places that are officially unacknowledged.
Paglen spoke about his efforts tracking military aircraft patterns, investigating fake military aircraft companies that were set up to fall under civilian laws, and studying the Department of Defense's budget. Pictured is one of Paglen's C-prints, titled "Electronic Warfare Facility/Halligan Mesa, NV/Distance ~19 miles," that he photographed in 2007. Paglen found a $30B discrepancy in budget reports, which he believes fund secret military projects at various bases in the southwest. He discovered more than 2,000 "code names" for projects. "These represent lots of money, but we don't know what their really about," Paglen explained. "It's amazing that we have thousands of people working on these but it never leaks out. It's unbelievable."
Paglen, who was able to join a "black world" alumni organization, explained how patches symbolize military culture. From left, the patch commemorated a flight test of a B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber. According to Paglen, the number "509" refers to the 509th Bomb Wing, which operated the United States’ stealth bombers. The 509th was based at Roswell, N.M. home of the infamous "Roswell incident." The Latin phrase Gustatus Similis Pullus translates as "Tastes like chicken." In the "Bird of Prey" patch, the red sword handle depicts the shape of an experimental Boeing aircraft tested in the between 1992 and 1999. The stealth "Bird of Prey" was declassified in the early 2000s. The dragon patch was used by the "black" space agency, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, which formed in the early 1960s. The agency remained a secret until the early 1990s. "Dragon" was a code name used for the infrared imaging capabilities on "Crystal," advanced KH-11 reconnaissance satellites.
Paglen led a question-and-answer session following his talk and met with students one-on-one to discuss the "black world." Paglen's book, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World, is for sale at Broad Street Books. The talk was organized by Andrea Neustein '09. More information on Paglen is online at http://www.paglen.com/. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)