Bush’s prying eyes in the sky

The Bush administration plans to give state and local law-enforcement and other domestic agencies access to intelligence from military spy satellites and airborne sensors.

Looked at one way, the program makes a certain amount of sense. We’ve paid for this information, a limited number of federal agencies already have it in hand, so we might as well put it to good use.

The eye-in-the-sky intelligence presumably would be used in combating terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration and tracking assorted natural disasters like floods, wildfires and hurricanes.

Domestic agencies have had access to satellite information before, but sharing it was done on a case-by-case basis and usually for such innocuous purposes as mapmaking and geological surveys.

And these same agencies have access, like the public, to commercial satellite imagery, but military satellites provide real-time images of much higher resolution and have the capability through radar to peer into buildings and underground bunkers.

There is some question how really useful this information will be because the point of spy satellites is to look into places where we can’t go and see for ourselves, which is not a problem in our own country.

The full details of the program, which was formally agreed to in the spring and is to start in the fall, aren’t publicly known and, like other Bush administration surveillance programs, there may be a lot more to this one than we or Congress is being told.

The Department of Homeland Security, which is coordinating the program with the director of national intelligence, promises domestic agencies “robust access” to both the imagery and also “the collection, analysis and production skills and capabilities of the intelligence communities.” In other words, the spy agencies will be collecting and analyzing domestic intelligence.

Homeland Security promises rigorous oversight, but this program cries out for independent and especially congressional oversight because it fudges, and comes close to crossing, the longstanding American principle that military- and foreign-intelligence assets should not be used for domestic law enforcement.


  1. SEAL

    Like everything else, the problem is not the technology or the equpiment or even the application. It’s the people that have the use of it. A gun in the hands of the right person as opposed to one in the hands of the wrong person.

    As technology has advanced over the past 30 or so years we have come under increasing surveillance everywhere we go. Most of this has been a good thing affording protection at places like teller machines and discouraging street crimes and shoplifting. But there is a vast difference between survailance and spying ability. If it is available it will be used to infringe upon the person’s right to privacy.

    The question immediately raised in my mind is would a warrant be required to place a person under this type of privacy infringement. What would be the difference between this and a telephone tap? But, of course, Bush pays no attention to that. And, how would one know they were being spied upon until it was used against them in making the case for an arrest?

    One of the most settled principles in criminal law has always been the right to the expectation of privacy in the home, office, auto, and many other places or conditions. Does the creation of “X-Ray vision” by satellite eliminate that right? It seems that technology is causing a quandry as to what constitutes a violation of the constitutional guaranties we have. What if the only evidence they have if the imagery of one man shooting another man in a house? Will that be admissible without a warrant? Lots of questions to be answered.

  2. Arlo J. Thudpucker

    Apparently, the fact that there were millions of illegal wiretaps and thousands of bogus “NSL” letters illegally used by the FBI did not register with Dale.

    There is no legitimate reason to snoop on Americans.

    No sane person would believe a word uttered by any representative of this administration.


    Arlo J. Thudpucker

  3. www.nazilieskill.us

    I’m thinking of painting “Tax the Rich Filth” on my roof.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  4. JoshuasGrandma

    Guess what? The Will Smith-Gene Hackman movie, The Enemy of the People, has come true.