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US Set to Use Spy Satellites on US Citizens 513

Posted by samzenpus
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
duerra writes "A plan to use U.S. spy satellites for domestic security and law-enforcement missions is moving forward after being delayed for months because of privacy and civil liberties concerns. The plan is in the final stage of completion, according to a department official who requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about it. While some internal agencies have had access to spy satellite imagery for purposes such as assisting after a natural disaster, this would be the first time law-enforcement would be able to obtain a warrant and request access to satellite imagery."
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US Set to Use Spy Satellites on US Citizens

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  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrbcs (737902) * on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:16PM (#22414354)
    1984? Shit, America is making Orwell look like an optimist.
    • by Carnildo (712617)

      1984? Shit, America is making Orwell look like an optimist.


      Only if they can use the images without a search warrant.
      • Only if they can use the images without a search warrant.

        Yeah, because that's been a huuuuuge hurdle to clear lately.

        I keep asking you people: What purpose does this pedantry serve? Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe you're just a karma whore.
    • I think Orwell should've tilted his book 2084, probably is going to be true by then.
      • by anagama (611277)
        I'm not waiting till 2084 -- I'm making a tinfoil sombrero tonight!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        2084 is a bit optimistic.

        I predict that WW3 will be in about 15 years. We'll call it the Freedom Suppression War, the one where the corporations & elites remove whats left of out rights. Just like Terminator, Matrix but with humans ruling over other humans.

        Anyone know John Connor or Thomas Anderson?
      • by owlnation (858981)

        I think Orwell should've tilted his book 2084, probably is going to be true by then.
        No. It's mostly true today, especially in the UK. Hopefully by 2084 there will be a revolution and the fascists will finally be out of power. Considering how fat, drunk, and apathetic most of the population is, the revolution sure isn't going to be anytime before then.
    • by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:31PM (#22414502)
      Over on this side of the pond we don't need no stinkin spy satellites.....

      Every major city & town is already 90% covered by CCTV. You can't walk from one side of the street to the other without appearing on a CCTV system.

      We're already covered.. Say cheese :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FromTheAir (938543)
      The people don't realize the power they have yet when acting in Unity. They divide us with fictions.
    • Oh, bullshit. Assuming a warrant is obtained and proper procedure is followed, I don't see the problem with this. It's certainly easier than police surveillance.
  • And the sheep do nothing about their masters in the government as all their liberties are taken away one by one.
    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:06PM (#22414806) Homepage Journal
      Ok, it is easy to blather on (blah blah blah sheep blah cattle blah blah), but seriously, what the hell are we supposed to do? It isn't like I don't vote. It isn't like I don't write my senators and congressmen long, thought out, well worded letters.

      It seems like the only option is to leave... yeah... where they require a passport for you to cross the canadian border on foot. Where a passport takes months to get. Where even if I go, I pretty much can't take my most valuables (AKA my computer), because they will likely look all through it or even take it.

      Seriosly. We are already too far gone. Nothing can be done.
  • If only... (Score:5, Funny)

    by CormacJ (64984) <cormac&boris-natasha,org> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:17PM (#22414358) Homepage Journal
    I'd be all for this, if I was allowed to use its search engine and see what I did after I went to the bar last night. ..

  • Starting now? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpengo (1148351) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:20PM (#22414396)
    Does this mean they are just now starting to do this or just now admitting to doing this? ;)
  • by cunina (986893) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:23PM (#22414422)
    It's well known that the FBI used satellite imagery to observe Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber, before arresting him.
  • FEMA MAC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by penix1 (722987) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:23PM (#22414430) Homepage

    While some internal agencies have had access to spy satellite imagery for purposes such as assisting after a natural disaster


    Get it right. The "internal agencies" is FEMA. See:

    http://www.gismaps.fema.gov/ [fema.gov]

    The GIS specialists don't have direct access to classified data but instead are given polygons of requested data which is based on those satellite images. Only the military, NSA, Other Security Agency has access to the output of the sats directly.
  • Ben Franklin said that those who trade liberty for safety deserve neither. The fascists have won. We elected them. It's our own damn fault.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:02PM (#22414792)
      In that quote, Franklin is excoriating Quakers in Pennsylvania who have given up "essential liberty" in order to make themselves less of an immediate target to raiding tribes who supported the French in the French and Indian War (known in Europe as the Seven Year War, IIRC).

      Here it is: [franklinpapers.org]

      In fine, we have the most sensible Concern for the poor distressed Inhabitants of the Frontiers. We have taken every Step in our Power, consistent with the just Rights of the Freemen of Pennsylvania, for their Relief, and we have Reason to believe, that in the Midst of their Distresses they themselves do not wish us to go farther. Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. Such as were inclined to defend themselves, but unable to purchase Arms and Ammunition, have, as we are informed, been supplied with both, as far as Arms could be procured, out of Monies given by the last Assembly for the King's Use; and the large Supply of Money offered by this Bill, might enable the Governor to do every Thing else that should be judged necessary for their farther Security, if he shall think fit to accept it. Whether he could, as he supposes, "if his Hands had been properly strengthened, have put the Province into such a Posture of Defence, as might have prevented the present Mischiefs," seems to us uncertain; since late Experience in our neighbouring Colony of Virginia (which had every Advantage for that Purpose that could be desired) shows clearly, that it is next to impossible to guard effectually an extended Frontier, settled by scattered single Families at two or three Miles Distance, so as to secure them from the insiduous Attacks of small Parties of skulking Murderers: But thus much is certain, that by refusing our Bills from Time to Time, by which great Sums were seasonably offered, he has rejected all the Strength that Money could afford him; and if his Hands are still weak or unable, he ought only to blame himself, or those who have tied them.
      Franklin is slamming those that have given up the "essential liberty" of arming themselves in the face of "insiduous Attacks of small Parties of skulking Murderers".

      Franklin is referring to bearing arms as an essential liberty. And he says that those who give up that essential liberty has only himself to blame for getting victimized by raiding parties.
    • Don't blame yourselves. You were manipulated and deceived.
      • Re:They've won. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru@gmaiTIGERl.com minus cat> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:54PM (#22415274) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, right.

        It's easy to be deceived if you are ignorant, arrogant, complacent, and passive. Those of us who saw the US moving down this path right from the start (using 2007.09.11 as the start, because that seems to be when the massive powergrab started, though the symptoms where there long before) were derided as paranoid, "tin-foil hatters". We were told, "This is America. Stuff like that can never happen here." We were told to "Calm down. It will never get that bad."

        You know what? The US Constitution IS just a goddamn piece of paper. You know why? Because it is a contract from the people to the Government telling the government exactly what it can and cannot do. It's up to the people to enforce that, and when they don't, then it stops having any value greater than the paper it is written on. Your actions, or lack there-of, speak for you, and what they are saying is you don't care that this is happening.

        You know what the US reminds me of? In the old cartoons, when a character ran off the cliff, he didn't start falling until he looked down and noticed that it was too late. That's where America seems to be. I hope I'm wrong, but I honestly don't see enough people caring to actually set things right.

        I'm glad I left.

        /cue the "good riddance" comments

        • Re:They've won. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by T.E.D. (34228) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:23PM (#22422284)
          This has to be the best example of a truly insightful post I've seen in a long time.

          However, I think you are being a bit too pessimistic. I was around in the 70's when serious commentators were asking if the Republican party was in its death throes. In the previous 30 years it had elected only 2 presidents and never controlled congress. Huge social strides were being made, and the Left seemed in total control. Wiser people argued that these things run in cycles, and that the Right would eventually come back.

          Boy did they. I never lost faith that things would eventually swing back to Liberalism, but I did fear that it might not happen in my lifetime.

          So now what has happened, almost 30 years later (on cue)? Bush and merry band have, through herculean efforts, pushed the pendulum as far to the right as they can shove it. But it is clear to anyone looking that they have nearly hit the stops. The American people are now starting to awaken and take a good look at what is going on, and they don't like it one bit. The pendulum is about to swing back with a vengence, and woe betide those in its way.

          I could of course be wrong about this, but if I am I'm about the wrongest on anything that I have been in my entire life. The signs are all around. The last election 2006 was all set to be a good one for Republicans. Nearly all the vulnerable Congressional seats were Democratic held. Instead, they got waxed. They didn't just loose a bit more than they won, they *everything* that was competitive, and some that weren't supposed to be. *This* is the election where the vulnerable Republican seats were up, and if anything the mood in the electorate for them is worse now than it was in 2006. Twenty Nine Reps so far have announced that they aren't even going to try. Party identification is swinging Democrats' way. Young voters (the electorate of the future) are turning out to be overwhelmingly Democrat. The Rep's only hope for the future, our rapidly growing Hispanic population, they have spent the last 2 years insulting (with no signs of stopping). The count of Democrats voting in the primaries is shattering records. I'm not talking by 5 or 10%, but in some cases 300%! Nearly every state has had more voters in the Democratic primary than the Republican, even though both are contested and on the same day. In Georga (a solid Republican state since '76), *two* different Democrats got more votes than the entire Republician slate!

          Still not impressed? The Democrats are actually raising more money. They have been since 2006. I always thought that was physically impossible. Even in the 70's when things were good, we had the people, they had the money. That's just the way things work. Well, apparently not anymore.

          Now I'm normally the most pessimistic guy you can meet, but I just don't see how the Reps pull this one out. So personally, I'm sad for you that you left. Even if you aren't of the Left == good, Right == bad mindset that I am, its clear that something major is going on. I have never in my life seen anything like this. The closest equivalent was the mood around Regan's election back in '80. For better or worse, change is comming. This is a very exciting time.
    • I wonder, if sometime in the future, the next world power wants to be the 'world police' and finds that WE, AMERICA, need to be 'freed' and have democracy restored.

      wouldn't that be a real kick in the pants?

      no change is going to happen from within. in modern countries, that seems to be the way it works. you need change from 'outside'.

      I wonder who will step in and invade the USA to save it?

      to save the US, you might have to raise the US. so to speak.

  • by Orange Crush (934731) * on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:27PM (#22414472)

    . . . this would be the first time law-enforcement would be able to obtain a warrant and request access to satellite imagery.

    With the way things have been going, I'm surprised they're still even pretending to care about due process. And really, I wouldn't have a problem with law enforcement gaining access to spy satellite photography as long as they can only get it after supplying evidence to establish probable cause that a specific person committed a specific crime in a specific time and place. But I'm very concerned that little requirement is going to fall by the wayside and they'll be able to spy on citizens waiting for anybody to slip up.

    Slippery slope indeed . . .

    • Umm... just a quick note here...

      You are inferring a dependency or an order in time that doesn't seem to be strictly in the text you quoted.

      It's

      a) Obtain a warrant
      b) request access to satellite imagery

      The conjuction was "and"... not "and then" nor "in order to".

      There will be times, of course, when due to urgency or an emergency that the authorities must get data as fast as possible. But I'm certain we'll create up a Fast Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in order to make it feasible to get warrants in so
    • really, I wouldn't have a problem with law enforcement gaining access to spy satellite photography as long as they can only get it after supplying evidence to establish probable cause that a specific person committed a specific crime in a specific time and place.

      Wait, did you seriously just say "I'm okay with omnipresent surveillance"? Oh boy, do you need a smack upside the head with the Constitution.

      And how long will this language remain?

      Like the Bush administration has been paying any attention

      • by Orange Crush (934731) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:57AM (#22416472)
        Wait, did you seriously just say "I'm okay with omnipresent surveillance"? Oh boy, do you need a smack upside the head with the Constitution.

        Well, I'm not thrilled by it, but the satellites are already there and we frequently send new ones up. It's potentially a privacy-destroying technology, but the bitch of it is that (to steal a bit from Arthur C. Clarke) nature doesn't keep secrets. You can't uninvent anything. We just have to learn to live with it.

        Besides, does it really matter if it's law enforcement going after satellite imagery, or law enforcement subpoenaing private security cameras (almost as omnipresent in densely populated areas)?

        Whether the cameras are in someone's pocket, mounted on a building, or flying overhead on a satellite, the fact remains we've got cameras EVERYWHERE. We're not getting rid of them any time soon, so the only thing I think we can really do is make sure the rules are *very* strict for when law enforcement can get their grubby little hands on them.

  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:38PM (#22414564)
    That is, if you even care [dhs.gov].

    Given the level of comments to this article so far, I'm guessing that is not the case.

    This is part of the spirit of the mandate of the sweeping Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which prioritizes information sharing, including between federal, state, and local entities, and enabling state/local/tribal governments to leverage federal intelligence resources across the spectrum.
  • Interesting quote (Score:3, Insightful)

    by g1zmo (315166) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:43PM (#22414614) Homepage

    Under no circumstances, for instance, would the program be used to intercept verbal and written conversations.

    No, that phase was already implemented.

  • by microbee (682094) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:49PM (#22414656)
    There are two pre-911 movies that I think everyone should watch: The Siege [yahoo.com] and Enemy of the State [yahoo.com].

    Many things have become true, or look like they'll become true after 911.

  • ...is nothing to get excited about.

    Much less get ones panties in a wad over.

  • I mean, can we pay for this like how GoogleMap does it? Every Pay-Per-Click for `terrrrist` receives 2 cents. I see future in this.
  • In related news, sales of Green Laser Pointers have shot up 200%. Favorites now include several models 5 or 10 mW on the side of decidedly unsafe! Gov't looks into sunglasses for spy satalites
    • And subscriptions to Sky & Telescope:Satellite Edition have gone up by 400%.

      But that's because the page count has now doubled.
  • Ok, I read the article and wow....it says exactly what the summary lays out. Very directly, in fact. It's very clear what the intentions are as they are spelled out in the Associated Press article.

    I was expecting some nutjob blogger but this is actually on the AP newswire with attribution (Eileen Sullivan [leadershipprofiles.com]) so it has some credibility.

    This is disturbing because....it's...just...so...blatant. :(
  • by Swift Kick (240510) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:07PM (#22414814)
    I understand the outrage at having our government use spy satellites to spy on us, but I haven't seen anyone complain about Google virtually doing the same thing. If anything, we think it's cool, and applaud all the numerous 'mashups' that have emerged and whatnot.
    For that, we volunteer all kinds of information, because it's not The Man(tm).

    At least the government is still trying to convince detractors of this program that they'll ask for warrants and whatnot; Google does it with impunity, daily, and you think it's cool!

    Wake up, people. Be consistent in your positions. If you're going to whine about how The Man(tm) is trying to make 1984 look like child's play, then complain about Google basically doing the same exact thing, with *YOUR* help (but in a much cooler way).
  • by peccary (161168) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:10PM (#22414850)
    is at least part of what this is about. Should make it much easier to find hidden fields of cash crops. I don't see needing a warrant to be a real impediment: "Your Honor, we have a confidential informant that tells us that there is a 1/4 acre plot of pot plants somewhere in the Adirondack National Forest. We could just go fly a plane over it for a few days at a cost of $2000, or we sure could use those high-res satellite photos."

    From what I've seen, the Google Earth photos are good enough to locate a clearing in the woods, but not good enough to differentiate pot from, well, weeds.
  • Your are all "work units"
  • "If you're not going anywhere you shouldn't be, then what do you have to worry about?"

    I hereby give you permission to stalk anyone who says the above non-sarcastically.
  • Now when I put on a tin foil hat, and start making rude signs at the sky and gesticulating angrily at random, I'll be able to point out that it's not paranoia!!! I wonder if I'm committed will I be able to obtain a warrant to get images that will prove I'm not paranoid and dillusional? After all if someone's taking the pics I'm not just imaging things am I!?
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:32PM (#22415016) Journal
    There isn't a satellite made that can see into your mom's basement.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:01PM (#22415370)
    Up here in space
    Im looking down on you
    My lasers trace
    Everything you do

    You think youve private lives
    Think nothing of the kind
    There is no true escape
    Im watching all the time

    Im made of metal
    My circuits gleam
    I am perpetual
    I keep the country clean

    Im elected electric spy
    Im protected electric eye

    Always in focus
    You cant feel my stare
    I zoom into you
    You dont know Im there

    I take a pride in probing all your secret moves
    My tearless retina takes pictures that can prove

    Im made of metal
    My circuits gleam
    I am perpetual
    I keep the country clean

    Im elected electric spy
    Im protected electric eye

    Electric eye, in the sky
    Feel my stare, always there
    Theres nothing you can do about it
    Develop and expose
    I feed upon your every thought
    And so my power grows

    Im made of metal
    My circuits gleam
    I am perpetual
    I keep the country clean

    Im elected electric spy
    Im protected electric eye
  • by peccary (161168) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:05PM (#22415426)
    Has anyone here ever seen a photo from the spy satellites that was not downsampled? Fuzzed, obscured, obfuscated, if you will? The exact capabilities of those satellites are highly classified, and the way they stay secret is by keeping the photos secret too.

    Now what is going to happen if we start handing out eyespies to every deputy with a warrant? Poof, there goes the secret.

  • by FSWKU (551325) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:36PM (#22415736)
    For all the incessant claims that the world is ending, that we're losing all of our freedoms, and that the "enemy" has won and we are all doomed to live a dystopian nightmare, I've noticed a few things.
    • The sun still shines (unless you live in Seattle, in which case you get "the rain still falls." heh).
    • You're still allowed to rant and scream about the government.
    • Nobody is beating your door down because you think the government sucks.
    What does that mean? It means its NOT too late to DO SOMETHING. And by do something, I don't mean sit in your basement posting long winded diatribes to Slashdot that almost nobody with any power to make policy will ever read. No, posting to Slashdot serves the same purpose as preaching to the choir. Everyone here knows what's going on. You have to tell everyone ELSE about it. Make people aware, vote for people who will protect privacy and freedom. CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. Letters, phonecalls, and ballot boxes, people. This means getting off of your ass and getting something done.

    Will one or two of you doing this make a difference? Not a chance in hell. However, if in the process you get one or two others, who also get more people to act, then eventually a big enough noise will be made that those in power will have no choice but to listen. Calling people to action on Slashdot is about as effective as pouring water on a grease fire. It accomplishes absolutely nothing. Get out in the real world and tell people why things like this are bad in words that they will understand. You can't make a difference from your keyboard, so put on some comfortable shoes and get out the door!
  • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:10AM (#22416054) Journal
    I'll bet that the very first use of this will be to spot a field of marijuana. Any takers?

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