Thursday, August 16, 2007

Enemy of the State

Bu$hCo Grabs More Domestic Spying Power

Now that they've gotten the spineless DINOcrat-controlled Congress to cave on their NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Program(s?), the Bush crime family is moving on to bigger and better things. Well higher and more expensive anyway - enabling law enforcement agencies to use imagery acquired from spy satellites on US soil. From the Wall Street Journal:
The U.S.'s top intelligence official has greatly expanded the range of federal and local authorities who can get access to information from the nation's vast network of spy satellites in the U.S.

The decision, made three months ago by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, places for the first time some of the U.S.'s most powerful intelligence-gathering tools at the disposal of domestic security officials. The move was authorized in a May 25 memo sent to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asking his department to facilitate access to the spy network on behalf of civilian agencies and law enforcement.
Access to the high-tech surveillance tools would, for the first time, allow Homeland Security and law-enforcement officials to see real-time, high-resolution images and data, which would allow them, for example, to identify smuggler staging areas, a gang safehouse, or possibly even a building being used by would-be terrorists to manufacture chemical weapons.
Unlike electronic eavesdropping, which is subject to legislative and some judicial control, this use of spy satellites is largely uncharted territory. Although the courts have permitted warrantless aerial searches of private property by law-enforcement aircraft, there are no cases involving the use of satellite technology.

In recent years, some military experts have questioned whether domestic use of such satellites would violate the Posse Comitatus Act. The act bars the military from engaging in law-enforcement activity inside the U.S., and the satellites were predominantly built for and owned by the Defense Department.
If you watched the 1998 film Enemy of the State, you may remember the tagline, "It's not paranoia if they're really after you."

If you didn't see the film, spoiler alert! Will Smith is pursued by rogue elements of the US intelligence community after unknowingly coming into possession of evidence implicating the head of the NSA (played by John Voight) in the murder of a recalcitrant Senator. They track him using every means - wiretaps, bugs put in his clothing, and satellites - until he enlists the aid of retired spook Gene Hackman, who helps him shake the tail. It's a good movie, and I recommend it.

The only thing different between reality and this movie is that now you could remove the word 'rogue' from the first sentence of the preceding paragraph. Now OFFICIAL NSA types could hunt you down like a dog using government resources, and there's nothing you could do about it.
Some civil-liberties activists worry that without proper oversight, only those inside the National Application Office will know what is being monitored from space.

"You are talking about enormous power," said Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel and director of the Project on Freedom, Security and Technology for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit group advocating privacy rights in the digital age. "Not only is the surveillance they are contemplating intrusive and omnipresent, it's also invisible. And that's what makes this so dangerous."

Mr. Allen, the DHS intelligence chief, says the department is cognizant of the civil-rights and privacy concerns, which is why he plans to take time before providing law-enforcement agencies with access to the data. He says DHS will have a team of lawyers to review requests for access or use of the systems.

"This all has to be vetted through a legal process," he says. "We have to get this right because we don't want civil-rights and civil-liberties advocates to have concerns that this is being misused in ways which were not intended."
Vetted through a legal process? Like the FISA courts, you mean? We all know how well that works when the government wants to ignore it.

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