Satellite-Surveillance Program to Begin Despite Privacy Concerns

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn’t yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws.

Congress provided partial funding for the program in a little-debated $634 billion spending measure that will fund the government until early March. For the past year, the Bush administration had been fighting Democratic lawmakers over the spy program, known as the National Applications Office.

The program is designed to provide federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery — but no eavesdropping — to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism.

Since the department proposed the program a year ago, several Democratic lawmakers have said that turning the spy lens on America could violate Americans’ privacy and civil liberties unless adequate safeguards were required.

A new 60-page Government Accountability Office report said the department “lacks assurance that NAO operations will comply with applicable laws and privacy and civil liberties standards,” according to a person familiar with the document. The report, which is unclassified but considered sensitive, hasn’t been publicly released, but was described and quoted by several people who have read it.

The report cites gaps in privacy safeguards. The department, it found, lacks controls to prevent improper use of domestic-intelligence data by other agencies and provided insufficient assurance that requests for classified information will be fully reviewed to ensure it can be legally provided.

A senior homeland-security official took issue with the GAO’s broad conclusion, saying the department has worked hard to include many layers of privacy protection. Program activities have “an unprecedented amount of legal review,” he said, adding that the GAO is seeking a level of proof that can’t be demonstrated until the program is launched.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said department officials concluded that the program “complies with all existing laws” because the GAO report didn’t say the program doesn’t.

Addressing the gaps the agency cited, Ms. Keehner said current laws already govern the use of intelligence data and the department has an additional procedure to monitor its use. The department will also work with other intelligence agencies to “ensure that legal reviews and protection of classified information will be effective,” she said.

In response to the GAO report, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi and other Democrats asked Congress to freeze the money for the program until after the November election so the next administration could examine it.

But the bill Congress approved, which President George W. Bush signed into law Tuesday, allows the department to launch a limited version, focused only on emergency response and scientific needs. The department must meet additional requirements before it can expand operations to include homeland-security and law-enforcement surveillance.

The restrictions were “the most we could have required without a complete prohibition,” said Darek Newby, an aide to Democratic Rep. David Price of North Carolina, who heads the House homeland-security spending panel.

But California Rep. Jane Harman, who heads a homeland-security subcommittee on intelligence, said that even limited funding allows the department to launch the program, providing a platform to expand its surveillance whether or not privacy requirements are met.

“Having learned my lesson” with the National Security Agency’s warrantless-surveillance program, she said, “I don’t want to go there again unless and until the legal framework for the entire program is entirely spelled out.”

Rep. Thompson vowed to fight expansion of the program until privacy issues are further addressed.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at siobhan.gorman@wsj.com
By SIOBHAN GORMAN
OCTOBER 1, 2008

Source: The Wall Street Journal

1 thought on “Satellite-Surveillance Program to Begin Despite Privacy Concerns

  1. My name is Darren M. and I’m being targeted with satellite D.E.W.’s (directed energy weapons). I believe I’m being targeted for experimentation purposes. This satellite D.E.W. targeting is most probably being performed by an entity within the Pentagon and U.S. defense corporations.

    I am being targeted with concentrated directed energy, possibly microwave, in the form of a narrow beam and/or laser. Multiple times throughout the day, I will experience either a painful burning sensation on the top of my head, or the painful sensation of a pin/nail entering the top of my head, both of which are followed by pain within my head, and a feeling of sickness and weakness throughout my body. The pain and sickness I experience following each D.E.W. hit to the top of my head varies directly with the intensity of the initial hit. This satellite D.E.W. targeting of me has been physical and mental torture. It causes me pain and sickness many times throughout my day and depresses my mood. It has isolated me from my friends and family. I do not like to go out in public places such as restaurants, stores, etc. because I never know when I will be hit by the satellites.

    I believe the purpose of this satellite D.E.W. experimentation is to see what short-term and long-term negative health effects can be produced by targeting humans. From my personal observations of the pain and sickness I experience following each hit to the top of my head, I believe it is possible for these satellite D.E.W.’s to cause strokes and cancers in humans. I believe this experimentation is also being performed in order to refine the use of these satellite anti-personnel weapons to the point where future targeted individuals will not be able to detect what is causing their pain and sickness. If this goal is achieved, these D.E.W.’s will likely be used on targets such as activists, journalists, and other people deemed as threats. I believe these weapons have the capability to slowly kill individuals with little to no trace of evidence.

    These satellite directed energy weapons are a serious threat to our democracy, and human rights on our planet. They are silent and invisible, and therefore not easily detectable. They employ laser technology which allow their operators to target specific individuals, without detection by others, even when in close proximity to the targeted individual.

    Darren M.
    dewtarget05 AT
    yahoo DOT com
    716-541-7062

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