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Homeland Security Committee to Hold Hearing on Spy Satellites

August 28, 2007

From the Committee on Homeland Security:

Thompson to Hold Hearing on DHS Spy Satellite Program

August 28, 2007 (WASHINGTON) — On Thursday, September 9th, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will hold a full Committee open hearing on the privacy and civil liberties implications of the National Applications Office, the new office in the Department of Homeland Security charged with civil/domestic intelligence gathering.

Thursday, September 6, 2007 @ 10am
311 Cannon House Office Building

“Turning Spy Satellites on the Homeland: the Privacy and Civil Liberties Implications of the National Applications Office.”

Full Committee

Witnesses (partial): Charles Allen, Chief Intelligence Officer, Department of Homeland Security; Hugo Teufel, Chief Privacy Officer, Department of Homeland Security; Dan Sutherland, the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer, Department of Homeland Security.

Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen
Joby Warrick, Washington Post – August 16, 2007

The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.

Administration officials say the program will give domestic security and emergency preparedness agencies new capabilities in dealing with a range of threats, from illegal immigration and terrorism to hurricanes and forest fires. But the program, described yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, quickly provoked opposition from civil liberties advocates, who said the government is crossing a well-established line against the use of military assets in domestic law enforcement.

Although the federal government has long permitted the use of spy-satellite imagery for certain scientific functions — such as creating topographic maps or monitoring volcanic activity — 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.”