Friday, April 8, 2011

the little things you do

A really good toss-out screener never gets caught. We
can only judge among those toss-out screeners who get
caught. There is no question who the greatest one was:
Stanislov Petrov. No one else comes close . . .

You say you've never heard of him. This indicates the
power of government. There are some stories that
governments do not want to get out.

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (born c. 1939) is a
retired lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air
Defence Forces who deviated from standard Soviet
protocol by correctly identifying a missile
attack warning as a false alarm on September 26,
1983. This decision may have prevented an
erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the
United States and its Western allies.
Investigation of the satellite warning system
later confirmed that the system had

There are varying reports whether Petrov actually
reported the alert to his superiors and questions
over the part his decision played in preventing
nuclear war, because, according to the Permanent
Mission of the Russian Federation, nuclear
retaliation is based on multiple sources that
confirm an actual attack. The incident, however,
exposed a flaw in the Soviet early warning
system. Petrov asserts that he was neither
rewarded nor punished for his actions.

The Wickipedia article describes what happened. The USSR relied
on satellite systems to warn the military of a missile
attack by the United States. The computer system sounded an
alert. The attack had begun.

Think of this as the most important piece of junk mail
in history.

Shortly after midnight, the bunker's computers
reported that an intercontinental ballistic
missile was heading toward the Soviet Union from
the U.S. Petrov considered the detection a
computer error, since a United States first-
strike nuclear attack would be likely to involve
hundreds of simultaneous missile launches in
order to disable any Soviet means for a
counterattack. Furthermore, the satellite
system's reliability had been questioned in the

It is the task of screeners to assess the accuracy of
junk mail, and then decide: send it up or toss it out.

Petrov dismissed the warning as a false alarm,
though accounts of the event differ as to whether
he notified his superiors or not after he
concluded that the computer detections were false
and that no missile had been launched. Later, the
computers identified four additional missiles in
the air, all directed towards the Soviet Union.
Petrov again suspected that the computer system
was malfunctioning, despite having no other
source of information to confirm his suspicions.
The Soviet Union's land radar was incapable of
detecting missiles beyond the horizon, and
waiting for it to positively identify the threat
would limit the Soviet Union's response time to

He decided to toss it all out. You and I are alive
because he made the correct decision.

While he was investigated for not acting as ordered,
no charges were brought against him. It would have been bad
publicity. "Soviet Air Force officer sacked for not
starting World War III."

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