S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"Like an ubiquotous spook" - Part II

Upon closer examination there are many unanswered questions about the current U.S. administration decision to turn their military spy satellites inward onto American citizens. This news of this expansion is the latest in a long list of revelations about domestic surveillance programs now publicly acknowledged.
It feels like they will be everywhere doing surveillance. Remember the old saying, "just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not after you." My blog post's look-see began yesterday with this,
"U.S. to Expand Domestic Use Of Spy Satellites" - This [Wall Street Journal] story . . . now feels like a blockbuster to me, given how much I have followed the domestic surveillance issue, and given how ubiquitous these hidden eyes in the sky would be. . . Today's word again, boys and girls, is - "Ubiquitous." According to it means:

adj. Being or seeming to be everywhere at the same time; omnipresent: “plodded through the shadows fruitlessly like an ubiquitous spook” (Joseph Heller).
Happy "Customers," Unhappy Citizens - The Defense Department defines those who will utilize their satellite imagery as customers, as if they are selling a product/service. It is designed to characterize the program as "business as usual, not to worry." Shortly after the WSJ first broke the story, the Washington Post (8/16/07) published an article headlined, "Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen - Law Enforcement Getting New Access To Secret Imagery." To quote the WaPo,
. . . the administration's decision would provide domestic authorities with unprecedented access to high-resolution, real-time satellite photos. They could also have access to much more. A statement issued yesterday by the Department of Homeland Security said that officials envision "more robust access" not only to imagery but also to "the collection, analysis and production skills and capabilities of the intelligence community." The beneficiaries may include "federal, state, local and tribal elements" involved in emergency preparedness and response or "enforcement of criminal and civil laws."

Under the new program, the DHS will create a subordinate agency to be known as the National Applications Office. The new office, which has gained the backing of congressional intelligence and appropriations committees, is responsible for coordinating requests for access to intelligence by civilian agencies. Previously, an agency known as the Civilian Applications Committee facilitated access to satellite imagery for geologic study.

Oversight of the department's use of the overhead imagery data would come from officials in the Department of Homeland Security and from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and would consist of reviews by agency inspectors general, lawyers and privacy officers. "We can give total assurance" that Americans' civil liberties will be protected, Allen said. "Americans shouldn't have any concerns about it."

But civil liberties groups quickly condemned the move, which Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit activist group, likened to "Big Brother in the sky." "They want to turn these enormous spy capabilities, built to be used against overseas enemies, onto Americans," Martin said. "They are laying the bricks one at a time for a police state."
The story came out during Congress' summer recess, probably on purpose. Members of the House of Representatives were not all out on their patios at home. Several became very concerned. (See Part I of this story for details of the Homeland Security hearings that ensued). A few days after the revelations in the WSJ, The Raw Story (8/22/07) posted on Maine's Congressman Ed Markey's Inquiry about the program to Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff. To quote,
Eyeing the legality of the proposed spy plan, Congressman Markey inquires as to what "memoranda, opinions or analyses have been prepared" to evaluate the new program, and asks specifically if the spying would violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which regulates the use of the U.S. military for non-military purposes.
Blog watches, too - " Effwit" at Political Skullduggery, wrote two posts, the first in August just after the story broke on Thursday, August 16, 2007. It is titled, National Technical Means To Be Used Domestically, mostly quotes from the Washington Post article. The second was also mostly WaPo quotes from this week. It was about Thursday's hearing. Quote,
Friday, September 07, 2007 - "Questions About Domestic Use of Spy Satellites"
The administration is moving ahead in its plan to use spy satellites for "Homeland Security."

. . . The objections are unlikely to stop the rollout of the program next month, administration officials said. "This program and its capabilities are too important for an all-hazards agency like the department to be pushed aside by politics," said DHS spokesman Russ Knocke. ...

[Lawmakers] questioned whether the plans would hold up to the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure by the government. A few Republicans sought specific guarantees the program wouldn't use thermal imaging to snoop on people in their homes.
The National Security domestic scene is rapidly shifting. Things are changing for good and for ill as National security letters by the thousands are now being overruled, FISA oversight of warrantless wiretapping was diminished by Congress' last minute amendment, and Federal Courts struck down administration decisions and actions in several arenas. Tomorrow's "Ubiquitous = III" will look at the larger domestic surveillance picture for what needs to happen next.
My links: Cross posted at The Reaction.
Technorati tags:

No comments: