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Space and Security

An Interview with Dr. Jack Spencer

Jack Spencer is a Defense and National Security Senior Policy Analyst in the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation. He has published numerous papers and articles on missile defense, modernization, readiness and other national security issues. Mr. Spencer is also a featured radio and television commentator for such news outlets as the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, the Oliver North Show, and National Public Radio. He earned a B.A. in International Politics from Frostburg State University, and a M.A. from the University of Limerick, in Ireland.

What do you think about the Bush Administration's position toward the weaponization of space, as a citizen of the United States?

I am not sure that the Bush Administration's position on the weaponization of space is so different from those who have come before him--certainly not his position to begin putting offensive weapons into space. But at the same time, I think this administration does recognize the utility and the necessity to begin to view space as a strategic asset. I think this administration does understand that the United States and Japan, and the western the world for that matter, are becoming more and more dependent on space with each day that passes. It is incumbent upon us--the United States and western powers--to be able to defend those assets with the understanding that those assets, just like assets on land and in the air and on the sea, may well become targets of some future adversary. Sometimes people confuse the weaponization of space with other things. I would argue that space is already weaponized. A ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead goes through space before it hits its target. The United States and most western militaries use assets currently in space to conduct combat operations. So, certainly space is already used in combat, though it is true that at this point in time, we do not station weapons in space. As far as I know, there is no plan to do that. But if the requirement emerges, then we should not be afraid of doing it, just like we should not be afraid of weaponizing the oceans, the land and the air--which nations already do, unfortunately, because warfare is a reality.

In Larry Wortzel's article, "China Waging War on Space-Based Weapons," August 11, 2003, he stated "The weaponization of space is inevitable." Could you explain your position toward the weaponization of space?

The weaponization is inevitable. As long as human beings reserve the right to resolve conflicts violently, they will continue to seek ways to ensure victory. Space is going to be an evolution of that reality. We see already that countries like China and the United States, and many other countries, are developing the capability to exploit space more and more. That does not mean that wars are going to be fought in space like the way we see them being fought on the land and the sea. But what it does mean, and what we need to understand, is that we have assets in space, assets used for combat and assets that will become targets. We need to understand that current military capabilities already transverse through space--ballistic missiles, for example. So, the evolution is occurring. Given human society as it is now, I think it is inevitable. It was inevitable that warfare moved from land to sea, and then from land and sea into the air. It is going to go into space. We fight--I wish we didn't, but we do. That is the reality. So, we have to ask ourselves how can we manage that reality to hopefully decrease the likelihood that violence will be used to resolve conflicts. So far, there are only a couple of ways that have worked. One is that governments that are like-minded share interests. Democracies, for example, do not go to war. It is not in our interest to do so. So, one way to avoid conflict is to spread democracy, for example. Short of that, it is to deter and dissuade potentially hostile powers from acting violently to advance their interests. One way to do that is through what Ronald Reagan called "peace through strength"--building military capability, along with diplomatic and other tools, to ensure that any potential adversary will not see it as advantageous to engage in military conflict because they will lose. It very well may be the case that militarizing space, putting weapons in space, will allow us to do that--to ensure that any adversary will understand, beyond doubt, that military conflict will lead to a bad outcome for them. Therefore, they will hopefully be deterred from engaging in such conflicts.

Is the Heritage Foundation anti-weaponization of space, or pro- weaponization of space?

I would not say we are anti- or pro-weaponization. We are not against the weaponization of space. We think that we should do whatever is necessary to defend the interests of this country and our friends and allies. If that requires putting certain military assets into space, then I do not have a problem with that. 4. In Larry Wortzel's article, China Waging War on Space- Based Weapons, August 11, 2003, he mentioned that China has been developing a "piggyback satellite," an advanced anti-satellite weapon, a "micro satellite", and other types of satellite killers while the US has also been establishing the ballistic missile defense system.

How do you think other Asian countries will respond to the impact of China's space development?

I think it is an area of concern. Here you have a large, growing country that has demonstrated time and again its interest in being the predominant power in that region. Really, the main obstacle in its way is the United States and its alliance relationships with those countries. I think that when you look at some of the writings of Chinese military officials, you can see China developing a capability to engage in warfare that exploits America's vulnerabilities. A part of those vulnerabilities is our reliance on space assets, so it is not surprising that we see China developing the piggyback satellite and things like that. The response of other Asian countries should be to nurture and ensure the health of their relationships with the United States. I do not think that China's developments are going to cause Japan or South Korea to develop nuclear weapons or anything like that, but they will want to ensure that there is a balance of power in that region.

How can the US prevent the development of Chinese space weapons through diplomatic or other means?

I do not know that the United States can prevent China from developing weapons in space. What we should attempt to do though, it is to appeal to reason with them--to ask why it is in their interest to do that, and improve our relationship with them through trade and diplomatic efforts. That is how to increase the value of such weapons, on our part and their part. If we see China as a threat and they see us as a threat, then we will build weapons to defend ourselves, to dissuade each other from acting aggressively. So the way to prevent China from building such weapons is to create a relationship where it is not in China's best interest to invest resources into those capabilities.
What should the UN do? What kinds of international treaties are necessary to prevent an arms race in outer space? The UN has a role to play in facilitating communication between different parties. It is not the UN's role to dictate behaviors to other people, certainly in this realm. I do not think international treaties are necessary to prevent arms in outer space. In fact, I am not aware of any international treaties that have prevented any arms from getting into the hands of people we do not want them in. So, by creating these treaties, what we do is create a sense of security, when in fact there is no security. North Korea demonstrates that every day. The Soviet Union demonstrated it time and again throughout the Cold War. Japan demonstrated it when we signed the 1922 treaty with them, where we were not supposed to build big navies, and Japan built a big navy. So, arms control treaties alone do not provide security.

In the near future, the US Air Force is planning to deploy the Counter Surveillance and Reconnaissance System (CSRS) by 2010, which jams imagery satellite signals from the ground. Do you think such kinds of reconnaissance satellites are necessary to prevent an arms race in outer space?

I do not think that that capability prevents arms races or causes arms races. It is simply a response to evolving technology. It is no different from a radar jammer that messes up the signal of an incoming cruise missile. Given the fact that imagery satellites will give future adversaries the strategic high ground and information that they can use to become a more formidable threat, then it seems completely reasonable to me to develop capabilities to deny them access to that information. It is no different, in fact, than some countries perhaps developing capabilities to deny the United States the access it needs to forward basing areas or to be able to set up ships in the region off of a coast that we might need to launch further attacks. It is just part of the evolution of technology. So I do not think it causes an arms race or stops an arms race; it is just an evolution of technology.

Do you think the 1967 Outer Space Treaty needed to be revised? (The treaty does not prohibit placement of anti-satellite weapons and development of radio-electronic jamming devices in space.) If so, what kinds of treaties are feasible, and what would you propose? What would be the outcome of the modification for the US, Russia and China, in particular?

I do not think the Outer Space Treaty needs to be revised. What that treaty says is that you cannot have orbital nuclear weapons in space. I think that is fair enough. But I do not want to be prohibited from putting anti-satellite weapons into space because as I said before, treaties do not prevent adversaries from doing things. Because we are a democracy, what tends to happen is that those countries that pose the greatest threats against us are dictatorships that do not abide by international laws. So treaties do not protect us, but they open the door for exploitation. I do not think we need a new treaty because I think it will only provide that sense of security without providing actual security.
Humans have been engaged in state-to-state relations with treaties like these since the 1600's, with the Treaty of Westphalia. There is not one example, in all those years, where countries decided to have a global or regional arms control treaty prohibiting weapons, and it was followed between adversaries. Not between friends--the US and Japan could have a lot of treaties and we would follow them, because we are not against each other. But there is not one between adversaries that has worked.

The ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) treaty is a good example. The ABM treaty was supposed to limit the arms race and was signed in 1972 with the Russians. We built 2000 warheads in 1972. The idea behind the treaty was that no one would build defenses, so it was supposed to address the security dilemma of the US building defenses and the Russians then building more missiles, and the US building more defenses and more missiles in response--back and forth. So we signed this treaty so no one would have to build any more. What happened in 1970s? We built a whole lot of missiles. In 1972 we had 2,000; when the Cold War ended in 1991, both sides had 12,000. Now, that is not arms control. No matter how much we want to think that treaties prevent arms, they do not. Then, we had the ABM treaty from 1991 to 2002, and we saw North Korea develop ballistic missiles despite having the ABM treaty that was supposed to stop proliferation. India and Pakistan also built ballistic missiles. We saw China continue to engage in a huge strategic buildup and modernization plan. We saw Iran build ballistic missiles. We have seen a lot of countries build ballistic missiles. So, I am just not sure how well it works.

How about the Biological Weapons Convention? How afraid are you that maybe one day you will inhale a nice, big breath of anthrax? It is a possibility, isn't it? It is not supposed to happen, because we signed the treaty, but it does not work that way. That is why the Outer Space Treaty is not going to keep us from hurting each other--that is not how you achieve peace and stability. You achieve peace and stability by creating relationships between countries, so that it is not in either country's interest to fight with one another, and so that violence should not be a means to achieve their goals. Treaties do not do that--relationships do that. Like-minded governments do that. That is why I am not afraid of a Russian missile right now. Look at all the treaties we had with Russia during the Cold War. Did even one of them make me feel like we were not going to have a nuclear war with Russia? Maybe they did and maybe they didn't, but what really made me feel we were not going to have a nuclear war with Russia was the end of Communism. At that point, it was not in either country's interest to have a nuclear war. That is what has changed it.

What is the ideal effective role the UN should play to maintain the power balance among countries to deter an arms race in outer space?

The UN should play no role. I do not think the UN can prevent an arms race in outer space. The UN is not effective in issues of war and peace; it never has been. That does not mean that countries involved cannot use the UN as a forum, but the UN itself cannot drive policy for issues of war and peace. The UN should not be thought of an entity in and of itself, with its own interests, although it has evolved into that. It should be thought of as an institution to advance the interests of its member states. An international institution should only be as strong and as powerful as what the member states that are a part of it want it to be. The institution should advance the interests of the nations; the nations should not advance the interests of the institution.

That being said, if there is going to be an arms race, the UN cannot stop it. Likewise, if there is not an arms race, we should not give the UN credit. The UN did not stop the arms race between the United States and Russia, or the arms race between Pakistan and India. It did not prevent the US and Britain from engaging in an arms race either. What prevented that was the nature of the relationships between those countries. If there is an arms race between two countries--for example, between Brazil and Canada--they may decide that they are not achieving anything with the arms race and that they need help disengaging. There is a role the UN could play if those two countries went to the UN and asked for help arbitrating an agreement. What could not happen is the UN, and other countries through the UN, telling those two countries they cannot have an arms race. They will ignore it, just like Saddam Hussein ignored the UN resolutions. In issues of war and peace, the UN is just not strong enough--that may be a good or bad thing.

I think we can work with the UN to create an environment that brings about more avenues for conflict resolution. I think the international community can use the UN to create a system that is more effective than arms control. But we should fix what we have before we go adding more on to it. From my perspective, one of the flaws of international relations that we see today is that people think that just because something is said, it is. But just because the UN told Saddam Hussein to fully cooperate with the weapons inspectors does not mean that he did. Just because we have a treaty that says we are not supposed to have biological weapons, it does not mean that no one has them. Just because we have a missile control technology regime that says that certain technologies should not be traded, that does not meant that they are not traded. Instead of saying that on top of this broken system we are going to add something about space, why not go back and try to fix the system we already have?

Russia and China are asking the UN disarmament commission to begin a series of negotiations on an international ban on weapons in space. The US is refusing to participate in those discussions. Why is the US taking this position not to attend the discussions?

It is not in the United States' interest to engage in that discussion. Russia and China know full well that if it came to an arms race in space, they could not compete. Therefore it becomes in their interest, if they want to dominate their region or do something that may not be in the interest of the United States, to put in place a treaty that limits our ability to act and puts us on a level playing field. It is not in our interest to do that. I am not saying Russia and China have big plans to dominate anything, but what matters is that if anyone decides to do that, they cannot, because we have maximum flexibility. There is no reason to detract from our flexibility at this point. It is in China and Russia's interest to do so, because they are falling behind and want everyone to be at their level.

It is risky not to have an arms control agreement, allowing other countries to continue developing weapons capabilities. But it is more risky to sign a treaty with Russia and China saying we are not developing space weapons, and have them continue to develop space weapons while we adhere to the treaty, and they surpass us. That is more risky, and that is what I want to avoid. That is what we have seen time and again when we rely on arms control to limit arms races. It does not work.

Instead, what we need to do is work with one another, with Russia and China and other countries, to build trade relationships and make it so that it is not in anyone's interest to engage in combat and violence to achieve objectives. If you have that, you do not need an arms control treaty. You only need an arms control treaty if there is some kind of tension between you that is leading both parties to engage in an arms race. A treaty does not take away that tension. What takes away that tension is relationships, trade, developing societies, cooperative efforts--that kind of thing. Once you institute a treaty, you codify tension. That is why the ABM treat was so bad after the Cold War--it codified the tensions of the Cold War, and until we got rid of that treaty, we were stuck in the binds of the Cold War. So why would we want to begin that now, when the US and Russia and China have relatively good relationships? Why do we need a treaty mechanism to codify tension between us? I do not think we do.

How do you think countries can maintain a balance in development of outer space between national security, economic development, and international responsibility? How can they do this while still promoting stability in the world?

I think a good model is the high seas. If you look at oceans historically, you find a threat of pirates and thieves--it has been a sort of rough area around the world. You had countries developing large navies to control other countries, to invade to do these things. That is not really a problem today. There is some piracy in Indonesia and other places in Southeast Asia, but generally speaking, the high seas are fairly safe today. That is because the United States and its friends and allies around the world, led by the United States, have created a system in which it is not in any country's interest to try to build a blue-water navy that could challenge US power. The Unites States is the only country in the world today with a strong blue water navy. With that blue water navy, we do not go around dominating the world or stealing from people; we maintain stability on the high seas, out in the oceans. So, we have trading agreements and treaties with other countries, but it is the presence of that blue water naval asset that the United States has that underpins the stability of that system. Without that blue water naval asset and underpinning stability, it would create an incentive for others to build a navy to try to upset that system. There is not one country in the world right now that could even begin to build naval assets that could challenge that system, because the United States and its friends and allies are so far ahead. So, the responsibility of maintaining freedom of access to the seas is falls upon the United States and its allies. We do not dominate the sea; we only prevent others from dominating it. That is the same way I think we should approach space. I think we should take it upon ourselves, because we have the capability to provide freedom of access to space, not to dominate it but to prevent anyone else from ever dominating it. Should someone attempt to dominate it or attempt to upset that stability, it becomes incumbent upon us to have the capability to counter that threat right away. So, I think the way we handle the seas is the same way we should handle space.

National security and economic development are intertwined. If we did not have the military capability to provide stability, we would not be able to achieve the economic development. So national security and economic development are not counter to each other--they are on the same side. A good example of the importance that military strength plays in economic development is in Europe. During the Cold War, you had the NATO countries in Western Europe. Because of the military strength they had, they were able to grow economically. That military strength provided the stability. They were relatively sure that no one would attack them--that it would not be in anyone's interest to attack them. What you saw was Western economic growth in the 20th century. Eastern European countries did not have that same protection. The Soviet Union attacked them all the time and occupied them, as was the case with Hungary and Czechoslovakia. So, they never had that stability through strength to allow the economies to grow. When the Cold War ended, NATO incorporated those Eastern European countries. They then had that security and stability, and their economies started growing. So, a strong military is integral to having a strong developing economy.

How do you feel about other nations' programs to develop space-based defense systems to counter the US programs? Are these programs reasonable, or should they be restricted to prevent an arms race in space? and what kinds of international treaties are necessary?

As far as other nations' programs to develop space-based defense systems, I do not have a problem with that--it is incumbent upon every nation to provide for its own defense. But we should recognize it for what it is, that every nation has a right to provide for its own defense, and continue to develop relationships with other countries so that we do not have to spend billions of dollars creating weapons that we do not need. That is how you prevent these things--free trade is the key to all of this. Countries that trade together do not need to fight, because it is not in their best interest. Trade, democracy, promoting openness--that is the answer to all of these problems. That is sort of the idealistic view. The reality is that we might find ourselves in a situation where we see another country developing capabilities in direct response to what the US has or is able to do, and if that is the case, then we need to act in kind--not to overblow it and engage in a big arms race for a war we may never fight, but just be aware of what is there, and have the capability to address it appropriately.

Do you feel it is beneficial or detrimental for the private aerospace industry to supply technology used in space- based defense?

Absolutely, it is beneficial. It is the Department of Defense that gives the aerospace industry funds to develop those technologies, so if the military did not need satellites, Boeing would be out of business. It is absolutely beneficial. Those companies can then spin off military technologies for civilian uses. The Internet is a great example.

How can countries balance commercial technology and military technology in space?

I do not think we need to worry about commercial technology necessarily driving military technology in space. What we will see is military technology spinning off into civilian uses. Weather satellites are a great example. Weather satellites are great to let us know if it is going to rain, but they are even more useful if you are in the military and you are trying to conduct operations in a far-off region of the world. If you have a military capability that operates well in cloudy weather, and you know your adversary cannot see through the clouds, you may want to attack on a cloudy day. So, the weacting out to private entities for technological capabilities, whether it is for satellites or anything else.

What is the relationship between civil and military space development projects? Do they collaborate closely and share crucial information? Does the government promote cooperation, and if so, how?

Boeing and Lockheed Martin work with both NASA and the Department of Defense, so they do civil and military projects. There is some cooperation between civil and military space projects, with transferring programs that the military is no longer interested in over to NASA, for example. But the real cooperative efforts are between private and public sectors on projects, whether the end goal is to achieve a military capability or a civilian capability. It is not so much about direct cooperation between civil and military sectors. But that does not mean that things developed on the civil side do not make their way over to the military side, and vice versa. The program to develop ballistic missiles is a great example. The military drove the ballistic missile program, which moved technology to the civil side to give us a rocket capability. The same is true with satellites

In the long term, what do you foresee for the movement of the world toward outer space? Do you think that weaponization of space will be pushed further? What do you feel are the most important political and economic effects of weaponization of space? What would you do to constrain the space arms race, and how would you educate the next generation to prevent it?

It depends on how long "long term" is. I think that we will eventually get to the point where we do not need to weaponize space. But before we get to that point, we are going to weaponize space. The reason I think that is because I think all countries are marching toward democracy--some more slowly than others, but the only form of government that is consistent with human nature is democracy, because we all want to be free. That is just my idealism, I admit, but I think that is where we are going eventually. It may take us 3,000 years to get there, but when we get there, we will not need to put weapons in space, because we are not going to fight. But on our way there, there will continue to be conflict, and we are going to continue to have to do the things we do now to manage our current situation and avoid conflict. I think we will move toward the militarization of space before we move away from it.

The most important effect of the militarization of space is peace. I believe that you achieve peace through strength. We are not going to weaponize space just for the fun of weaponizing space. We are going to do it for a reason, because we see a threat emerging that we want to get in front of. We want to convince potential adversaries that the use of violence against us will not help them achieve anything. The way to do that may be, at some point, to weaponize space. So peace is the most important effect. The most important economic consequence is growth, because if we find ourselves in a situation where we see threats emerging, and we need to weaponize space and defend ourselves by defending our assets in space, not doing so would put us in an untenable position that could lead to conflict and war that would have negative economic consequences. So my idea about the weaponization of space is peace and economic growth.

It makes sense for developed countries, but what about developing countries?

Developing countries do not need to weaponize space, just like they do not need to build a big blue water navy.

Do they need the new space technologies to activate their domestic economies?

I think it will be like computers--20 years ago you and I could not afford computers, but the technology has developed to the point that everyone has access to it. I think the same is true with space. Every day, access to space becomes more universal. You and I have access to space, cheaply--for example, with an everyday device that has a GPS signal. I think that will trickle down to all countries--they do not need to engage in space-based warfare for that.

Does it widen the gap between developed and developing countries?

No, the way you close that gap is through trade--as long as we have free trade, all countries will move up. I simply disagree with a lot of the arguments about the widening gap between the rich and poor in the world. The fact of the matter is, there is a formula for economic success. It is based on free and open trade and democracy. Countries that do that are successful. I do not know of one country that engages in free trade and is democratic, and is not successful. You can say that, for example, North Korea is in bad shape, and that as the free trading democracies get richer and North Korea continues down this road of destruction, it gets poorer, and this widens the gap. But that does not mean that the countries that are doing well should change what they are doing; it means that North Korea should change what it is doing so that it can rise with the rest. The gap exists because of the decisions those countries are making.

For the next generation, I do not think there is going to be a space arms race, just like there is not an arms race on the open seas. The only way there is going to be a space arms race is if a peer power emerges--like China, Russia, Brazil, the European Union--that is not only able to challenge US power, but also has it in its best interest to do so, and whose vision of the world is in direct conflict with the United States' vision of the world, as it was with the Soviet Union. But I do not see that happening; I think we are past that. It could happen, but if it does, that is something for that generation to deal with, and hopefully they will learn from the Cold War and other times when there were global arms races. They should also understand that arms races are not always necessarily bad--it was the arms race that finally defeated the Soviet Union. I disagree with the premise that there is definitely going to be an arms race that we need to prevent, and that the next generation is going to need to be educated to prevent it.

How should the US take initiative to prevent other countries from developing space-based weapons, as a member of the UN and international community?

The US should make other countries part of "our team"--with missile defense, for example, we try to get other countries like Russia and Japan to be a part of the United States' efforts so that we are all part of the same team, and so that those countries do not need to build space-based missile defense. Look at nuclear weapons--there actually was a successful treaty for that. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was relatively successful. There was a bargain that said that the five countries that had nuclear weapons would share civil nuclear technology with everyone else, and those countries could not build nuclear weapons. This arrangement worked for a while, and that is an approach that can be taken, not just with space military assets, but space in general, because it is an expensive process. We should engage other countries as part of a team and make them stakeholders in the system, so that they are responsible for a part of it.

What can be done to prevent terrorism, since it is often individuals that commit such acts, as opposed to a government that has signed a treaty and engages in diplomacy?

Terrorism is a tactic that has been around forever and is going to be around forever. Anyone who feels disenfranchised or like they cannot do anything, if they are crazy, might strap a bomb on themselves and run through a mall and blow up a bunch of innocent people. But what we can stop, or at least minimize, is this globalized, state-sponsored terrorism, and terrorism with weapons of mass destruction. If you look at the Al Qaeda type of terrorism, I think that while we may have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia, a lot of the terrorists may come from Saudi Arabia. I think that is a function of a lack of democracy. That does not mean that terrorists never come from democratic countries--Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist. There were cult terrorists with serin gas in Japan. There are always going to be crazy people like that. But if you look at this Al Qaeda type of terrorism, this global terrorism that we are facing today, I think that is largely a function of dictatorship. There is a whole group of people who, because of their dictatorship, are disenfranchised from the rest of the world. These dictatorships justify their own existence by creating scapegoats out of west, out of the US and Israel, and feeding this frenzy. Then you have people like Osama Bin Ladin providing the means for terrorism. The answer, again, is bringing about democracy so that people have a way to express themselves other than blowing people up. Democracy also gives people access to information so that they are not led astray. All of the information being fed to these people is wrong--it is lies being fed from above and from all directions. Not that that justifies it--I do not believe that poor people commit terrorism. Bin Ladin was not poor, Mohammed Atta was not poor--but they grew up being bombarded by this false information that was born out of the dictatorships who created support among the people by casting themselves as the protectors against the western world or Israel.  

**Larry Wortzel discusses his article, "China Waging War on Space-Based Weapons"

In your article, China Waging War on Space- Based Weapons, August 11,2003, you mentioned that China has been developing "piggyback satellite", "micro satellite", and other types of satellite killers while the US has also been establishing the ballistic- missile defense system.

How do you think other Asian countries will respond to the impact of China's space development?

I don't think many Asian countries pay much attention to this, with the possible exception of Japan (which has its own space program) and Australia, a US ally.

How can the US prevent the development of Chinese space weapons through diplomatic or other means?

It cannot prevent this development. It can control its own technology exports to limit or slow the development and work on countermeasures.

What should the UN do?

The UN is not much more than a debating society, particularly on these kinds of security issues. It cannot do much on this, especially since China and the US have a veto in the Security Council

What kinds of international treaties are necessary to prevent an arms race in outer space?
I do not think arms treaties that are not fully verifiable are of any value at all. In fact I don't believe in arms control, I believe in deterrence, defense, and a strong offense.

Submitted by:
Tomomasa Nagano, spring 2004 intern