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When The Wall Street Journal broke a story last August on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) decision to provide state and local authorities access to information gathered by the U.S. military's fleet of spy satellites, it ignited a minor firestorm in Congress.
The National Applications Office (NAO) according to published reports, would coordinate how domestic law enforcement and "disaster relief" agencies such as FEMA utilize imagery intelligence (IMINT) generated by U.S. spy satellites. But as with other Bushist "security" schemes there's little in the way of "oversight" and zero concern for the rights of the American people.
Indeed, in a scathing letter from House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Thompson wrote,
Unfortunately, I have had to rely on media reports to gain information about this endeavor because neither I nor my staff was briefed on the decision to create this new office prior to the public disclosure of this effort. ...
I am also concerned about the Department’s failure to vet this program with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which was specifically created to ensure that concerns with respect to privacy and civil liberties are appropriately considered in the implementation of executive branch policies related to protecting the Nation against terrorism. The failure to consult the Board on a matter as controversial as using spy satellites for domestic homeland security and law enforcement purposes is particularly worrisome.
Perfectly suited for handing local SWAT teams "actionable intelligence" to bust up a meeting by antiwar, union or environmental activists, we have no criteria for assessing how the use of IMINT by "law enforcement" will impact our lives since DHS won't say. Considering that the full-capabilities of these systems are unknown outside the intelligence "community" and are among the most closely-guarded state secrets, only those inside NAO will actually know who is being monitored from space.
Simply put, if Chertoff's plan passes congressional muster NAO will greatly enhance the formidable technological police state architecture already in place through current "warrantless wiretapping" and data mining programs.