With GPS technology continuing to strengthen its foothold in our personal and professional lives, it’s getting more difficult to remember a time without it. But an anti-war protest in the early 90s nearly derailed the entire system before it even got started.

The Harriet Tubman-Sarah Connor Brigade

Ax (1)In 1992 two activists named Keith Kjoller and Peter Lumsdaine illegally entered a Rockwell International building in California. Their goal: take out nine satellites the aircraft and space giant was building for the U.S. government. Lumsdaine wielded an ax more than 60 times on one of the satellites.

The pair dubbed themselves by the aforementioned name after the heroines of the Underground Railroad and the Terminator films, respectively. They were subsequently arrested on a charge of destroying government property to the tune of an estimated $2 million. After entering guilty pleas, they served prison terms of 18 months.

Motivation behind the GPS vandalism

At that time GPS was still in its infancy with civilian use of the location system nearly non-existent. While the architects behind Navigation and Satellite Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) always anticipated future civilian applications, Kjoller and Lumsdaine had no way of predicting the technology’s widespread use today.

The duo’s act was actually intended as a pacifist statement. GPS tracking had recently made its first significant appearance on the global stage during the first Gulf War. Soldiers were armed with GPS receivers and cruise missiles used GPS to target and destroy the Iraqi infrastructure.

In a recent interview, Peter Lumsdaine pointed out that crippling a country’s infrastructure is a long-term attack strategy, one that caused the majority of civilian casualties during Operation Desert Storm. Despite its current civilian usage, Lumdaine still considers it to be primarily a government tool.

What about today?

The Brigade’s actions would not be sanctioned any more today than they were during the 90s. What they can do is to serve as a reminder to avoid complacency where technology is concerned. Sometimes it’s necessary to stop for a moment and see where we’re headed. Contact us to learn why our GPS fleet tracking solutions are a step in the right direction for your business.

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