DHS Finalizing Spy Satellite Program To Watch Americans Without Congressional Oversight

Posted: September 8, 2008 in 2007, Articles
Tags: , ,
DHS Finalizing Spy Satellite Program To Watch Americans Without Congressional Oversight
Plans also include “cyber-security strategy” to “protect” domestic computer networks
Steve Watson
day, Dec 20, 2007
The Department of Homeland security is forging ahead and finalizing plans to use a network of spy satellites for domestic surveillance despite the fact that the Congressional committee supposedly overseeing the program has had no update on it for over three months.
Satellite-Surveillance Plan Aims to Mollify Critics
December 20, 2007; Page A4
WASHINGTON — After delaying a domestic satellite-surveillance program for more than two months, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff expects to finalize a new charter for it this week, a move that attempts to quell civil-liberties concerns and get the program back on track.
Mr. Chertoff also plans soon to unveil a cyber-security strategy, part of an estimated $15 billion, multiyear program designed to protect the nation’s Internet infrastructure. The program has been shrouded in secrecy for months and has also prompted privacy concerns on Capitol Hill because it involves government protection of domestic computer networks.
Both areas put Homeland Security in the middle of a public debate over domestic spy powers, kicked off by the revelation two years ago that the National Security Agency had been eavesdropping on some conversations in the U.S. without a warrant. In the fall, the department put the satellite program on hold after an outcry on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have also asked Mr. Chertoff to delay the introduction of the cyber-security initiative. “One lesson I’ve learned is it’s not enough to say we know what we’re doing is going to be OK,” Mr. Chertoff said in an interview. “We’ve got to really make it clear to the public that we’re doing this, but we’re not doing that.”
The satellite program, which would be run by a new department branch called the National Applications Office, would expand the domestic use of satellite imagery by federal and local authorities.
Congress lashed out at the department when The Wall Street Journal reported plans for the program in August. Mr. Chertoff suspended the program until legislators received more information. The satellite-spy technology was originally developed to monitor activities and people outside the U.S.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi said his committee received its last update on the spy-satellite program three months ago. “We still haven’t seen the legal framework we requested or the standard operation procedures on how the NAO will actually be run,” he said. In a spending bill Congress passed yesterday, lawmakers prohibited the department from spending money on the program until Mr. Chertoff certifies the program is legal and the Government Accountability Office reviews the certification.
In creating the charter, Mr. Chertoff said there had been “back and forth” over keeping the language clear and simple. “If it is jargon-laden, then people look at it and say, ‘What’s the hidden agenda here?'”
The charter will clarify that the satellite program will follow all current U.S. legal restrictions on technical surveillance. Where a warrant is required for collection, one will be obtained before that activity is approved. Under the charter, the program won’t use technology to intercept verbal communications.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s