September 6, 2007 12:25 PM PDT

'Spy satellite' plan draws fire on Capitol Hill

'Spy satellite' plan draws fire on Capitol Hill
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August 29, 2007
WASHINGTON--Under sharp questioning from politicians, Department of Homeland Security officials on Thursday defended a new plan to make detailed satellite images available to a broader swath of government agencies, including state and local police.

At a U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee hearing here, Democratic and Republican politicians alike accused the department of leaving them in the dark about the proposed October 1 launch of its new subset called the National Applications Office (NAO).

According to the department, the new office will be a "clearinghouse" for what it expects to be a broader set of requests--particularly by law enforcement, border security and other domestic homeland security agencies--to tap into devices that have mostly collected data for scientific or military purposes in the past.

The idea for expanded domestic use of satellites grew out of recommendations in fall 2005 by an independent study group appointed by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) after the September 11 attacks. In May, Homeland Security received official authorization to set up an office designed to meet that aim.

But committee leaders fumed that they didn't hear about those plans until they were leaked during their August recess by The Wall Street Journal. Politicians from both parties questioned whether such a scheme jibes with Americans' privacy and civil rights under federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

The most blistering criticism came from Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), formerly the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She called for an immediate halt to the program's launch until Homeland Security officials have presented Congress with a satisfactory explanation of the program's legal underpinnings.

"It is very serious business to use a satellite feed for domestic purposes," Harman said. "Not only is it serious right now, but six months from now, the capabilities will evolve further and they will be able to do more and more."

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the committee's ranking member, said he, too, was concerned that Congress wasn't informed of the program until after the Journal piece appeared. But he nevertheless said he does not see "constitutional issues" with the program based on the briefings he has received so far.

Others, however, questioned whether the plans would hold up to the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. A few Republicans sought specific guarantees that the program would never use thermal imaging to snoop on people in their homes.

"If you could be very explicit in your rules that that's not what you're doing, I think you resolve a lot of the problems we have here," said Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.). "And the American public then realizes we're not talking about looking into your bathroom, looking into your bedroom, we're talking about (looking at) things that are otherwise visible in closer proximity?"

Homeland Security Chief Privacy Officer Hugo Teufel said such uses would not be permitted unless a warrant was issued and attempted to reassure the committee that "necessary" privacy protections are in place.

Chief Intelligence Officer Charles Allen said the satellites in question cannot "penetrate buildings" or homes, but he acknowledged that thermal imaging has been used in the past to help to spot forest fires or other hot spots and didn't directly rule out other uses. (Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican, cited a Virginia court case that ruled using infrared radar to detect heat to apprehend marijuana growers was improper. But the Homeland Security officials assured him they would make a full assessment, considering the Constitution and case law, when deciding whether to grant agencies' requests for the imagery.)

A 'broader customer base'
Allen, who is presiding over the project, also attempted to downplay the extent to which "new" surveillance will be occurring. He said the technique has been used for decades for scientific research and during natural disasters and has also been employed by the Secret Service and FBI for "certain applications." For instance, when an infamous series of sniper attacks swept through the Washington, D.C., area in October 2002, the CIA and FBI were cleared to use images provided by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to look for places snipers might hide along highways between Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The major difference under the new plans will be a "broader customer base" in the non-military sector, such as Homeland Security officials charged with disaster response and border security, and state and local police, he said. But both during the hearing and in an informal meeting with reporters afterward, Allen declined to speculate on the circumstances in which satellite imagery would be provided to police, saying that area would be hashed out over the next year through a working group.

Daniel Sutherland, the department's civil rights and civil liberties officer, did acknowledge his office should have been brought into the process earlier than July, though he said the DNI's civil liberties officers became involved in the project last fall. Sutherland and others also argued the establishment of the National Applications Office is preferable to today's "ad hoc" process for providing imagery to various government clients because it adds an additional layer of bureaucratic privacy review that hasn't previously existed.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) urged the department to delay the office's launch until Congress is assured the activities won't intrude on Americans' private lives. He repeatedly attacked the department's admitted failure to brief the Homeland Security Committee on its plans, for which Allen apologized and called "an oversight." (Homeland Security did, however, brief the congressional intelligence committees and politicians in charge of appropriating funds to set up the office.)

"There's still significant discomfort on the committee," Thompson said.

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3 comments

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I can already see one pro-argument.....
That the only people who would have to be worried about this are people who are doing illegal things.... a fallacious argument to be sure, but one that most people take without questioning it at all.

We need to realize that government needs to have STRICT limits on how far and when they can spy on someone, especially an American in this country.
Otherwise, some ******* like the famous one from the FBI will be using surveillance to spy on people who political views they find distasteful.
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Greetings Citizen...
Dear Citizen/Suspect,

Domestic surveillance-satellite #1138, clearly shows you ("REAL-ID", Citizen-Identification #114354334534387) mowing your lawn after 5:00 PM, on Aug. 19. As you know, this is a clear violation of Federal "City-Ordinance" #166325432297857746 (also known as the "Environmental-Pacification, and Social-Tranquility Act"). As per the requirements of the Act, your bank-account has been electronically-debited a(n) $120.00 fine.
Please note: under provisions within the "EPaST Act", it is unlawful to challenge such judgments, or you may be assessed additional fines.
Also, an atypical "heat-signature" (emanating from the attached "garage" on the, identified, property) has been detected. As this is sometimes associated with illegally growing "marijuana", you have been flagged as a potential "drug-dealer", and thereby are subject to preemptive-arrest. Please do not resist the, possibly-impending, arrest or you, and potentially your family, may face extreme use of force by Law-Enforcement (based upon the "reasonable-suspicion" which has been created by the aforementioned surveillance-data). Rest assured you will have a chance to attempt to prove your innocence, once you are in custody, and all aspects of your life have been properly-investigated.
Also, since it is known that such, flagrant, violations of the Law, are frequently associated with "Aiding Terrorism", your case has also been submitted to the "Dept. of Homeland Security" for further investigation. At this time, we can neither deny, nor confirm, that all of your "private" communications may be, henceforth and retroactively, subject to "interception" and analysis. The total-cost of these investigations (disclosed, or secret) will also be automatically-deducted from your (mandatory Federally-registered) "Bank-Account".
And again, please note: announcing any of this information to any outside-party, is a direct-violation of the "U.S.A. PATRIOT Act", and may result in your being declared to be an "Enemy Combatant". If such a declaration (made publicly, or secretly) occurs, Federal-Law allows the immediate suspension of all of your civil-rights (which, previously, were specified in the "U.S. Constitution"). This will be done without prior, or additional, notification. Additionally, you are henceforth, compelled by Law, to refrain from attempting to access any method of redress (to insure "national-security" interests).
Failure to comply may result in further penalties.

Your total cooperation in this matter is, both, appreciated and required, by Law.

Case Reference #22FU-43883653092-BFD

Thank You, for helping us make America a safer-place.
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SPY SATEELLITE DRAWS FIRE
ABOUT THREE DAYS AFTER THE DEPT OF HOMELAND
SECURITY--(DHC) GETS A MEDIOCRE ASSESSMENT OF ITS
PROGRESS AND EFFECTIVENESS, THEY PRESENT A 'STEALTH'
PROPOSAL TO CONGRESS ON THE USE OF INVASIVE
INFORMATION GATHERING TO AUGMENT THEIR ANTI-
TERRORISM SUITE OF SYSTEMS.

TWO DAYS EARLIER, THE PATRION ACT, A KEYSTONE OF THEIR
TOOL BOX HAD A MAJOR PORTION OF ITS INASIVE INFORMATION
GATHERING DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL. NOT GOOD
TIMING

EXECUTIVE BRANCE ABUSE OF THEIR PUBLIC TRUST FOR
POLITICAL REASONS HAS ERODED THE 2 TWO KEY OBJECTIONS
TO GRANTING INVASIVE POWERS. 1. PROTECTION BY 'SPECIAL'
COURTS AND 2.LEGAL INCLUSION OF CHECKS ANS BALANCES IN
THE LAWS THAT ARE BLATENTLY IGNORED.

DHS WAS A KNEE JERK POLITICAL REACTION TO COVER THE
EXECUTIVE BRANCH'S COMPLETE BREAKDOWN IN NATIONAL
SECURITY. CUTE NAME FOR POLITICAL CYA FOR AGENCIES
MANAGED BY TEXAS POLITICAL HACKS. FBI, CIA, NSA, NSC,
DIA....

EACH FAILED UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP.

WHAT AN INCOMPETENT PRESIDENT CREATED CAN BE DISOLVED
BY A COMPETENT PRESIDENT. EXECUTIVE BRANCH INTERNAL
PROPAGANDA--CIA USING HIRING BOGUS NEWS COMPANIES TO
PLANT OFFICIAL SOUNDING NEWS TO THEE PRESS, ETC--ABUSED
THE PUBLIC TRUST WITH FALSE AND MISLEADING THREATS.

DISSOLVE THE DHS.

THE RESPONSE THAT ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE CRIMINAL INTENT
HAVE ANYTHING TO FEAR IS A STANDARD PROPAGANDA
TECHNIQUE USED BY GOVERMNENTS TO RATIONALIZE A STEADY
MARCH TOWARD A POLICE STATE. SHAME ON YOU.

A CITIZEN AND VOTER HAS BEEN A VICTIM OF SUCH
EXECECUTIVE BRANCH THREAT ABUSE, THE EXTENT OF
WHATEVER THREATS EXIST AND THE OVERALL STRATEGY TO
COUNTER THEM HAS GENERATED WIDESPREAD GENERAL
CYNICISM. REAL AND GENUINE THREATS DO EXIST.

THE THREATS ARE GLOBAL, EFFECTING ALL OF THE ALLIES THAT
WERE REFERRED TO AS ' OLD WORLD THINKING'. IN 13 MONTHS
WE WILL HAVE A NEW EXECUTIVE AND EXECUTIVE BRANCH TO
ADDRESS THESE ISSUES.

CAREFUL RECONSIDERATION AND EVALUATION OF THE FULL
COLLECTION OF LAWS NOW IN FORCE IS A CRITICAL FIRST STEP
IN EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH. NOW IS THE TIME TO
CREATE A LEGAL BASE AND FRAMEWORK THAT ADDRESSES THE
NEXT 20 YEARS OF THREATS THAT WILL REPLACE THE
INCOHERENT CURRENT COLLECTION DESIGNED FOR 'COLD WAR'
THREATS.

REGARDING CURRENT AND FUTURE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
PROPOSALS SUBMITTED BY DHS AND OTHER CURRENT
EXECUTIVE BRANCH ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE THREAT
RELATED. GIVE THEM A FAIR HEARING BEFORE IGNORING THEM.


THE NEW PRESIDENT WILL BE LEFT WITH THE RESOLUTION OF
THE CURRENT WAR(S) AND THE REPAIR OF THE INCALCUABLE
DAMAGE, BOTH DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL.

HOPEFULLY, IN THE NEXT 13 MONTHS THE COURTS AND
CONGRESS WILL PREPARE THE WAY TO MAKE THE REPAIRS
NECESSARY EASIER BY REMOVING THE TRASH, NOT ADDING TO
IT.

IN 1932 THE NEW PRESIDENT INHERITED THE REPAIR OF A
COUNTRY ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE. 2008 REPRESENTS AN
EQUIVALENT CHALLANGE TO REPAIR A COUNTRY IN DESPARATE
NEED

JK
Posted by joelkruissink (3 comments )
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