Friday, August 17, 2007

Spy in the Sky?

From the WaPo:
Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen

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. more

The Supreme Court already struck down using thermal sensing technology without a warrant so access to this technology would be of very limited use in day to day operations. I see much potential for abuse though and thats what should concern people.

Over at Captain's Quarters Captain Ed brings up this additional point:

Second and perhaps more importantly, American legal tradition has separated military and foreign-intel collection from domestic law enforcement, and for good reasons. The Posse Comitatus Act forbids the military (except the Coast Guard, for certain purposes) from acting in a law-enforcement role, except under emergencies specifically requiring martial law. This law keeps the federal government from usurping power from local and state authorities. Since these satellites were launched with strictly military and foreign-intel missions in mind, using them as tools for law enforcement may not entirely cross the PCA, but it gets too close for comfort.

Unless the use of the satellites is strictly limited to national-security applications, such as a counterterrorist operation or immigration enforcement (both of which are legitimate national-security concerns under federal jurisdiction), satellites should not be used as law-enforcement tools. We did not put those military assets in orbit to be deployed against the people of the United States.

Its really starting to seem to me as though there is an accidental war being waged against privacy these days in the name of security. Whats sad is that privacy is being eroded to fight symptoms of larger problems (badly waged war on drugs, crappy middle eastern policies, poverty etc etc). How much privacy are we going to allow to slip away before we start fighting the fire rather than the smoke?

And then there's corporate data mining.......