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Homeland Security's Space-Based Spying Goes Live 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
BountyX writes "While America's attention has shifted to the economic meltdown and the presidential race between corporate favorites John McCain and Barack Obama, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) National Applications Office (NAO) '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.' NAO will coordinate how domestic law enforcement and 'disaster relief' agencies such as FEMA use satellite imagery intelligence (IMINT) generated by US spy satellites. Based on available evidence, hard to come by since these programs are classified 'above top secret,' the technological power of these military assets are truly terrifying."
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Homeland Security's Space-Based Spying Goes Live

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  • by Robber Baron (112304) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @08:51PM (#25307859) Homepage

    Sales of golf umbrellas and large-brimmed sombreros went through the roof.

  • above top secret? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@NoSPAM.gamerslastwill.com> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @08:52PM (#25307863) Homepage Journal

    that doesn't sound like it's legal. Does DHS have the legal authority to spy on American citizens going about their business? Should it?

    This system sounds like big brother is finally coming online and when you run a red light, the satellite will track you home since only terrorists run red lights!!!!111

  • So there's this entire questionably legal surveillance system going up. Real big brother type stuff, yet I at least haven't heard of this at all until now, not to mention the US at large. If people who actually watch out for these kinda things don't hear about this, than what's the chance of their actually being public backlash? Yeah so....I'm moving to Sweden.
    • by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @09:32PM (#25308183) Journal

      One of their rationalizations is that if you have widespread secret spying on your population, but if individuals don't know/can't be told they are being spied on, then there is nothing for the individual to complain about.

      Of course, say, your boss or your bank gets an NSA letter requesting all the information they have about you (but they can't tell you they are doing this), you may just happen to find yourself the first to be laid off if there is some kind of economic downturn (if they wait that long), and you may find getting a loan slightly more difficult (as in, impossible), but it most definitely won't be because of these secretive spy programs. You must just not be a reliable, honest citizen anymore.

  • ... if they could have spend the money on something more important....

  • [...] on top of yesterday's news that datamining for terrorists is not feasible due to false positives) of just how badly the use of these lists can be abused.

    Uhm, that study may be pointing out at potential misuse of the lists &mdash treating the entries as actual terrorists, rather than mere suspects — but not at abuse. Software is not going to care. It takes an actual overzealous cop to abuse the list by placing a person on it, against whom no reasonable suspicions exist.

    That said, considerin

    • Pft (Score:4, Interesting)

      by inKubus (199753) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @11:04PM (#25308815) Homepage Journal

      The stupid stuff that happened in the 60's and 70's != 9/11 pal. TOTALLY different in every way. To combine the two is like saying that McCain's torture has something to do with his erratic behavior, or the fact that he's a child molester. Ok, bad example.

      The FOUNDERS of this country were terrorists in the eyes of King George. But what they did was fight to create a better situation for themselves. You saw that again in the 60's and 70's with civil rights and the youth movement. Yes, the Weather Underground were a bunch of idiots but it's important to note that the changes some of their peers helped bring about have made this country a massively better place for everyone. And anyway, the real fear is religious fanatics with a nuclear weapon, not some dumb kids with pipe bombs.

      And you sir are a fool to think that it has anything to do with "WAR". It's just that war epitomizes the separation of class. In the 70's there were drastic (though not as drastic as today) gaps between rich and poor. A horrible economy, an unending war, caused by foolish leadership, taken advantage of by the rich while the poor starve and are jobless, well, what's worse than that?

      What this is doing is placing still more power, surveilence power (control), into the hands of a few people in the government. The same people who have pretty much given the government to corporations they formerly ran, and now are giving 700B to the same people. It's in the largest worldwide corporations' interest to A. have control of a government B. Erase worldwide borders caused by multiple currencies/legal systems/etc. "War" rarely physically involves the rich, unless it's a passtime they get off on. It's about money. Now what we have are the makings for a massive shift in government, from multiple countries to one world government. It is 100% enevitable. The people who control the wealth of the world talk to one another, you know. And it sure would be simpler for them if they didn't have to mess with different legal systems..

      WWII was between capitalism (The allies), corporatism or fascism (the axis), and communism (the Soviets/China). We the U.S. were actually on the fence and were supporting both the forces of corporatism and capitalism. See also The New Deal [wikipedia.org]. The problem is that the American constitution has separated public and private as much as it does church and state. In the end, money won. The plans showed that if we joined with England, Germany could be beaten. Frankly, there were just more English decended families in power in congress at the time. Obviously in Germany corporatism was over-stateist and led by a madman, which led to extremes that made the choice a no-brainer. The important thing to note is that it was not the economic policy of Hitler but rather other more personal reasons that caused us to ally with the Allies. Likewise, Japan bombed us because they were invading China and the Phillipines, whom we had relations with/had a territory. So, it was a no-brainer.

      But NOW, we have an entirely different power structure. There are many "free market" scholars who have long admired the structure of corporatism. So, you see some of these people's last gasp in the political arena as trying to make this leap. And so, just as Bush Cheney has broken the barriers of Church and State, they have also broken the barriers of public and private. And in many ways they have flat out BROKEN the LAW (and the constitution). They declared early that the president decides the law, so they made up their own book. And with Globalism, what will be the enevitable structure of this one world government? Not capitalism, that's for growth. Not communism, that's for stagnation. No, a perfectly controlled business environment, neo-corporatism, with some facets of democracy.

      So now the competing philosophies in the high end of world leadership are differing only by what to do with US, the worker bees. I think corporatism could wo

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That said, considering the present-day prominence (and a comfortable life of a tenured professor) of an anti-war protester turned terrorist [nytimes.com] (to this day unrepentant), the Maryland cops' action is not that unconscious...

      Yes it is. If he did something illegal, arrest and charge him. If he didn't, then he should be considered on an equal footing to every other innocent man. You do not get to come up with an arbitrary third category of "didn't break the law but I still don't like him" and then persecute people in that category.

  • Eyeroll (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @09:35PM (#25308201) Homepage

    ...since these programs are classified "above top secret"...

    Cripes, are people really this freakin' dense? Take a look in the dictionary under "top" and figure out what the word means. It means there ain't nuthin' above it!

    The classification levels--- UNCLASSIFIED, CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, TOP SECRET--- are all there are, and simply determine what general degree of security is required. Now, individual subjects or programs will be compartmentalized, which is the more specific degree of access limitation within the general classification (referred to as Sensitive Compartmented Information - SCI and Special Access Programs - SAP). Compartmentalization tells who, where, and how much information can be revealed, and is based entirely on need to know. For example, I had a TOP SECRET clearance when I was in the Army, but I was specifically cleared for only a narrow subset (i.e. a compartment) of TOP SECRET information which pertained to my specific job, that of HUMINT Collector. Since I did not need to know about the whatever the latest hypersonic spy plane test bed is, I could not drive into Area 51 and go look at it, despite it certainly being classified TOP SECRET, and me holding a TOP SECRET clearance. The idea that there's some super-secret classification level above top secret is idiocy spouted by moron UFO conspiracy nutjobs who can't even consult Wikipedia for a simple overview of the classification system [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MadnessASAP (1052274)

      *cough*ULTRA*cough

      Sorry, I was going to say that there is a certain precedent for clearence levels so high most people don't even know they exist. That's not to say that it's the case here, just that in general it's would be foolish to think that TOP SECRET is as high as you can go.

      • by Kagura (843695)
        Are you serious? A key point of the classification system is that the system itself is not classified.

        As for "Ultra", perhaps you are referring to the British code name for all documents and intelligence related to the broken Enigma machines:

        There are also compartments, or "code words", which pertain to specific projects, and are used to more easily manage which individuals require certain information. Code words are not levels of classification themselves, but a person working on a project may have the code word for that project added to his file, and then will be given access to the relevant documents. Code words may also label the sources of various documents; for example, there are code words used to indicate that a document may break the cover of intelligence operatives if its content becomes known. The WWII code word ULTRA identified information found by decrypting German ciphers, such as the Enigma machine, and which â" regardless of its own significance â" might inform the Germans that Enigma was broken if they became aware that it was known.

        It is a form of the modern "compartmentalization". The information is still classified Top Secret, but only the members of certain intelligence communities may have access to that information. Look around on the comments, there are plenty of good posts on this alre

        • Re:Eyeroll (Score:4, Informative)

          by angio (33504) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:59PM (#25308785) Homepage

          That's only partly true. While the classification system is not classified, the names of specific compartments or special access programs can be and are classified. A nit, but might as well be accurate. :)

          • by Kagura (843695)
            Oops, I was wrong on this point, and it is an important distinction to be made.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Dun Malg (230075)

              Oops, I was wrong on this point, and it is an important distinction to be made.

              Well... you're both right. Many SCIs and SAPs have their code names classified the same as the programs themselves, but the only the full name of the program is unclassified. For example, there might be a program called BLUE ROOSTER LATERAL, and that name would be classified, but the cover sheet and external program references would be labeled "TOP SECRET - SCI/BRL", and that name reference would not be classified.

      • Re:Eyeroll (Score:4, Informative)

        by Dun Malg (230075) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @11:00PM (#25308789) Homepage

        *cough*ULTRA*cough

        Sorry, I was going to say that there is a certain precedent for clearence levels so high most people don't even know they exist. That's not to say that it's the case here, just that in general it's would be foolish to think that TOP SECRET is as high as you can go.

        Jeebus, like I said, you need to read the Wikipedia link, you UFO nutcase.

        First, the uses of "ULTRA" seen in the UFO conspiracy rags is as a caveat to the classification "TOP SECRET".
        Second, there is no caveat of "ULTRA" in the current collection, and no, there are no "secret" caveats. There are classified SCIs and SAPs, but they are never indicated by a single word, much less a meaningful word like "ULTRA".

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Before you continue to go off at this guy, wasn't ultra a WWII classification (I don't know about the current conspiracy theory stuff and I doubt it's relevant) and isn't that why the words "certain precedent" are used? I think you are arguing about different things here.
        • by pla (258480)
          Second, there is no caveat of "ULTRA" in the current collection, and no, there are no "secret" caveats. There are classified SCIs and SAPs, but they are never indicated by a single word, much less a meaningful word like "ULTRA".

          You mean like the CIA's now-well-exposed and fairly well documented MK-Ultra [wikipedia.org] program, wherein they dosed unaware and nonconsenting American citizens with LSD (and other less well-known drugs)?


          Nope, they'd certainly never use words like that...

          ...Again.


          The only real questio
          • by Dun Malg (230075)

            Second, there is no caveat of "ULTRA" in the current collection, and no, there are no "secret" caveats. There are classified SCIs and SAPs, but they are never indicated by a single word, much less a meaningful word like "ULTRA". You mean like the CIA's now-well-exposed and fairly well documented MK-Ultra [wikipedia.org] program, wherein they dosed unaware and nonconsenting American citizens with LSD (and other less well-known drugs)? Nope, they'd certainly never use words like that... ...Again. The only real question involves what they call it now; not whether or not they still do crap like that.

            Heh. Well yeah, MKULTRA is where all the nutjobs get the idea that ULTRA is a classification level, because of the meaning of the word. It was, in fact, just a program name. They did name secret projects like that back in the day, but it was soon realized that doing so only draws attention to them. The current protocol is to use meaningless code words. ULTRA would be considered too "loaded" to attach to anything secret.

    • by rhsanborn (773855)
      Similarly absurd, I must share this story. I work for a company that provides services for a couple hospitals. These hospitals sent a request to the group running the system that handled laboratory reports. They requested that they add a new level of importance. High importance labs are sent STAT. But since every doctor sent his orders as STAT to get them faster, it turned out that everything was fifo. So, they requested that a new level be created, they wanted it to be SUPER STAT. Rather than work on chang
      • by Llywelyn (531070)
        That's what compartmentalization is for.

        TS isn't about processing order, it is about access. They already have TS compartments that require polygraphs, lifestyle checks, etc. If they wanted an additional level of security, they'd just add a new compartment rather than try and create something "above" TS.
      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        Heh. Look out, because I get the feeling that DOUBLE SECRET STAT is coming...
    • by chord.wav (599850)

      Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
      Obligatory Spinal Tap quote:

      Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
      Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
      Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
      Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there?

    • by eclectic4 (665330)
      "The idea that there's some super-secret classification level above top secret is idiocy spouted by moron UFO conspiracy nutjobs who can't even consult Wikipedia for a simple overview of the classification system."

      Well, if that's what it says in Wikipedia then it must be true. There are no government documents that certain people with "Top Secret" clearance can't view. Period. There is nothing "above" Top Secret, and therefore nothing exists there. And besides, the government wouldn't just make stuff up
    • The article does sound rather garish, but considering systems within systems, parallel to systems, and funky classifications invented by paranoid department heads and Dick Cheney coming up with his own stamps with his own classifications of, "Shhh. Don't Tell Anyone" I find it hard to believe that things are nearly so well-ordered as you portray.

      Do you have any odd memory gaps or personality quirks which you didn't have before you entered the service? Even if there has been zero improvement over the mind c [sharebee.com]

  • This is yet another reason that USA appears to have lost its way.
    FTFA "But as the Journal reported, Congress' "partial funding" for the program in "a little-debated $634 billion spending measure," "

    Now assume for a second that this funding figure is correct, (the article reads a little like one of those conspiracy theory types are writing it) WTF is congress thinking?

    The country is in meltdown that will NOT be stopped, the healthcare system is screwed (I am waiting for our system in Australia to fall that f

    • I cheered when the first bailout bill failed. I hoped that it represented an outbreak of common sense. I hoped that the bailout would save the little guy, but NOT the banks.

      Hint: If the banks fail, the little guy can't cash his paycheck. He won't even get a paycheck if there are no banks to write the check against. (Assuming he still has a job that is.)

    • we spend 50% of the worlds military budget and whine about a dwindling military.

      How do you read that? How do you justify it in our current state? And no one could get elected on the idea of disbanding 3/4 of our military (we'd still be out ahead of the rest)
  • Great... (Score:3, Funny)

    by actionbastard (1206160) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @10:21PM (#25308515)
    Another reason to never go outside. Ever.
  • Limited utility (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jzanu (668651)
    Considering the cost of these satellites and the relatively small amount of attitude control fuel, I can not see much use here. Drone aircraft are cheaper, and are effectively invisible at high altitudes. Especially since the shuttle is being retired, and the U.S. has no other satellite maintenance platforms.
  • "NAO will coordinate how domestic law enforcement and "disaster relief" agencies such as FEMA use satellite imagery intelligence (IMINT) generated by U.S. spy satellites."

    First off, lets set the record straight. FEMA is not a '"disaster relief"' agency. It is a disaster. Period. I cannot believe these people have nothing better to task these satellites with than watching ordinary citizens, scurrying about on the ground, going about their daily business. How about finding UBL? Wasn't that a 'pry-or-a-ty'
    • Satellites are pretty constrained in their orbits. They're going to pass over the US at certain times no matter what. While they're passing over the US, they probably can't help with the search for Mr. bin Laden. As such, how do you think that these resources could instead go towards finding him?

    • by Dun Malg (230075)

      How about finding UBL?...why don't they find that asshole and put a Hellfire missile up his ass?

      We know where he is. He's in Pakistan, where we can't get near him. Pakistan is ruled by a creepy mix of thieves and Islamists that just barely manage to hold power. Letting the US Army into the "backwoods" to hunt down a friend of the jihadi locals would flip out enough people to essentially start a civil war, so the odds of us getting bin Laden are approximately nil.

  • slashkos (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)

    I remember when distrusting government spending our money on spying on us, violating our rights, was a favorite "value" for Conservatives, not just some kind of sign of weakness by "liberals".

    Liberals always said that Conservatives were just fascist lemmings. Now that Conservatives have created this huge infrastructure for spying on us and violating our rights, rather than protecting them, it's obvious that liberals were right.

    • Well that's why they attacked the ideas of liberals before doing it... now thinking like that is 'crazy hippy crap, the guv't isn't spying on you, there are terrorists!'... Attack the idea of opposition before it opposes you
  • The public knowledge of feasible technology today is laughably behind. We've had radically advanced aircraft since the late 50s that are still not publicly disclosed, other than a few blueprints due to the FOIA.

    http://www.cufon.org/cufon/Silverbug.pdf [cufon.org]

    That is just the aircraft our government has not disclosed to the public. With advances in computers, satellites, and optics, is there any question that some part of our government can see almost anything on the planet, at any time? This combined with the un

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Digital End (1305341)
      Ending your genetic chain isn't a victory... having kids that will bring the fucking thing down is... or growing the balls to bring it down for your kids.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990

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