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DHS To Kill Domestic Satellite Spying Program 150

Posted by timothy
from the right-sporting dept.
mcgrew writes "The Bush administration had plans in place to use spy satellites to spy on American citizens. This morning the AP reports that new DHS head Janet Napolitano has axed those plans. 'The program was announced in 2007 and was to have the Homeland Security Department use overhead and mapping imagery from existing satellites for homeland security and law enforcement purposes. The program, called the National Applications Office, has been delayed because of privacy and civil liberty concerns. The program was included in the Obama administration's 2010 budget request, according to Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat and House homeland security committee member who was briefed on the department's classified intelligence budget.'"
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DHS To Kill Domestic Satellite Spying Program

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  • DHS should kill (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xednieht (1117791) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:29AM (#28438629) Homepage
    DHS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by schwit1 (797399)
      That should be just the start. Let's add these:

      ATF
      DEA
      IRS

      • Re:DHS should kill (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @12:05PM (#28440083) Homepage Journal

        I don't know why you were modded "flamebait", but I agree ATF and the DEA should be abolished; alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are legal and the ATF is simply a holdover from alcohol prohibition. Drugs should be legalized, as drug laws cause all the problems they purport to solve.

        But you can't have government without some means of payiing for it, and I, for one, don't want some rich asshole who already has a lower tax rate than me able to easily cheat on his taxes. I pay my taxes and it irks me that someone tries to get out of paying theirs. When you cheat on your taxes, you steal from ME.

        • Oh yes, how ever did we get through the first two centuries of our existence? We can't survive without the IRS! All hail the 16th amendment! Seriously, stop defending bureaucracy and seventy thousand pages of tax code. The IRS, too, is a holdover from the progressive movement.

          Forget tax cheats, we have bigger enemies in Congress and the White House. All spending must become taxes on the people somehow. Now think about this massive debt which we are racking up. The DHS and IRS aren't the only things we need

      • by mrmeval (662166)

        Alcohol, tobacco and firearms should be a convenience store.

        Have you noticed that the ATF gets a new letter with every atrocity?

        Now that's a troll.

  • I think these things are as symbolic as the targetting agreements the USA used to make with the likes of Russia. "Oh, are missiles are no longer pointed at each other." Except that, its really not too hard to change that. Similarly, if the President wants to get a picture, covertly, of USA territory, he certainly can. It's not like the satellites don't ever fly over the USA.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BlueKitties (1541613)
      Do you have any idea how much red-tape laws create? It doesn't matter if people "can" still use these satellites to spy, what matters is that doing so will force people to walk through miles of red-tape. Right now, if the police knock on my door, I can tell them to **** off and there is jack crap they can do about it. If they really want in, they get to jump through hoops to do so. This is a huge deterrent for corruption. It's the same reason we lock our door -- just because someone "can" smash the window t
      • by maxume (22995) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:39AM (#28438753)

        In lots of jurisdictions, a cop could just smash through your door and chalk it up to a mistake, with few consequences.

        Sure, they wouldn't be able to prosecute you, but that wouldn't make the events a whole lot more convenient to you.

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:50AM (#28438913) Journal
          They don't really need to prosecute you when they can just shoot you and plant some weed on your corpse [wikipedia.org].
          • by maxume (22995)

            Well, pushing back on my own comment a little bit, the red tape does make it more difficult to maintain a pattern of such behavior.

            And reading your link, the officers ended up less dead than the victim, but they were punished, and it isn't real likely they will ever be public officials in the future.

          • by jafiwam (310805)
            Don't forget the dog.

            They always shoot the dog.

            Extra points if it's a small one and running away.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcgrew (92797)

          Or simply lie to a judge to get a warrant. Man who beat cocaine rap sues the city; whistleblower's case survives [illinoistimes.com]

          Vose, former head of the SPD narcotics unit, prepared a detailed memo in early 2005 that outlined problems with searches conducted by Carpenter and Graham, specifically the use of "trash rips," in which police sift through a suspect's garbage to find evidence of illegal (usually drug-related) activity and use that evidence to obtain a search warrant.

          A few weeks after Vose submitted his memo, Grah

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tjstork (137384)

        Do you have any idea how much red-tape laws create? ... This is a huge deterrent for corruption

        It only deters people that think they have to follow the law, not be above it, and in our government, we have more of the latter.

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        The real value of "Red Tape" is if a request has to pass through five or six people, they all know about it, so there's at least some chance a particularly stupid or unethical request will become public knowledge. Would the general public have ever heard about how ridiculously big the FBI file on Martin Luther King was if fewer people had been involved in maintaining it?
        The second value is in where records are kept. Without any 'red tape' there may still be one copy of a request for a particu

    • by SputnikPanic (927985) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @11:12AM (#28439273)

      The interesting thing here -- and this comment is partly motivated by your sig -- is that this killing of the domestic satellite spying program is not a liberal action but a conservative one. If you need an example of where real conservatives and today's Republicans differ, here it is. Republicans such as Peter King will say this is "a step back in the war on terror" but a real conservative would say the U.S. government never had any business spying on its citizens in the first place.

      • by tjstork (137384)

        The interesting thing here -- and this comment is partly motivated by your sig -- is that this killing of the domestic satellite spying program is not a liberal action but a conservative one

        That's very true and I think that the decision of conservative pundits to support Obama where he does continue surveilliance powers to remain consistent is dead off. It would be better to admit that we were wrong and move on. The sooner you admit your mistakes, the sooner you can fix them.

        I've also got on my page a prett

      • rofl...there are no "real" conservatives left.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Omestes (471991)

        If you need an example of where real conservatives and today's Republicans differ

        Nice word game, and example of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

        All nice job at partisan baiting. Attribute all positives to the side you identify with, and all negatives to your mythical "liberal" enemies.

        I'm getting really sick of these silly dogmatic partisan statements. 100% of conservatives, liberals, libertarians, socialists, and whatever stupid ideology people identify with are wrong. Some small amount of their greater id

      • by i_b_don (1049110)

        you know... this is a very good point, that this is a huge part of what made me discount all "conservatives" as schmucks the 8 years bush was running our country into the ground. Conservatives (at least in marketing) claim to be for a number of fundamental things, such as a smaller government, less government in our business, a balanced budget, lower taxes, etc... and they just took these ideas and pissed them into the wind and changed their ideals to support bush and his skewed vision of the world.

        I'm a h

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimmyswimmy (749153) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:33AM (#28438663)
    Intel assets should not be used to spy on our own country. They have too much money to spend on this sort of thing. Imagine the DOD budget being spent to enforce laws. Traffic tickets being issued because a satellite saw you going too fast, or jaywalking. Obviously I'm going for histrionics here, but it's a slippery slope once you take away the absolute prohibition.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Celeste R (1002377)

      We are responsible for what happens within our own country. The DHS is responsible for knowing what happens within our own country.

      I agree that domestic spying isn't the way to go; after all, we should be able to earn the trust of the people within our nation.

      I'm not fond of police state policies. After all, it focuses too much power in one location, and power breeds corruption.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by davidwk (1464497)
      At last we have a little good news to compare with the various stories that come from England. They are definitely sliding down the slippery slope. Too bad - I kinda like Britain. Seems like it will take a miracle for them to restore their liberties.
      • Britain is just trying to make V For Vendetta come true. Soon they're going to have a mysterious virus released upon them and a dictator is going to take over (repetitively elected). Soon they will also have this faceless fellow martyr himself as an attempt to incite revolution.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Sobrique (543255)
          That would be a good thing. Oppression and the removal of liberties is the price we pay for getting too complacent and comfortable. And we have. Indolent and lazy, far too happy to blather about Big Brother than to actually care about freedom. Either we won't notice the lack, and will quite happily settle down as the mindless cattle that we are, or something will have to change. Unfortunately, there's some things that don't change evolutionary - when you've got a power system in place, it's a very rare indi
          • Revolution will only change it for a short time. There is a cycle of democracy turning into fascism, with the fascism ended by revolution, and the new democracy started by that revolution, only to end in fascism again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nurb432 (527695)

      But jaywalking is a federal issue, it ummm effects the children, or is a terrorist act, or something like that...

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by icebrain (944107)

        No, no, no... you've got it all wrong. See, there's the possibility that you might jaywalk across state lines while carrying items to be sold. Therefore, jaywalking falls under the "interstate commerce" clause of the Constitution, and federal regulation applies to all street crossings and incidents of jaywalking.

        • by mcgrew (92797)

          I always wondered about how they could justify the "commerce clause" for federal pot laws. If it is illegal, how can it be, or affect, commerce? Too bad the SCOTUS doesn't interpret the Constitution in the plain language it was written in. Another example of the Supremes being deliberately clueless is the Lessig trial, where they concluded that "limited" means whatever Congress says it means.

          "Judicial activism" indeed, the Republicans are hypocrites for accusing the Democrats of "judicial activism", they're

    • Intel assets should not be used to spy on our own country.

      What? And ruin the premises of many popular television programs? If we had nothing to watch but Dancing with the Stars, lame-assed pseudo reality shows, and similarly lame comedy, we'd have nothing to do. And what about films? Or white guys who like guns^H^H^H^H^H^H^H...conspiracy theory buffs?

      Sounds to me like you want to weaken our government. If that happens, the terrorists win.

    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      Imagine the DOD budget being spent to enforce laws.

      Imagine accidentally leaking classified operating parameters of our spy satellites in a (relatively) minor domestic case. And I doubt any prosecutor would want to rely on this kind of information. The defense could just claim that some classified parameters were needed to mount an effective defense, then the judge throws the evidence out when it's clear that they can't do that

      Too much cost for too little payoff, even beyond the fundamental disagreement.

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:35AM (#28438703)

    ...to contract with Google to do it for them.

    Why build when you can outsource?

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:40AM (#28438779) Homepage

      Well, usually what they do to get around regulations preventing the CIA from spying on the US (for example) is simply work out an agreement with an ally, so that (for instance) the CIA sends intel on Israelis to Mossad in return for Mossad sending intel on Americans to the CIA. So in fact outsourcing is often exactly the sort of thing intelligence agencies are up to.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Celeste R (1002377)

      While your post makes sense, I simply don't see Google as being willing to join that group of people.

      Google's policies are generally the "nice guy" approach to things. They might be powerful, but they don't like to put themselves in a situation of potentially big liability.

      (just imagine, google's servers could be hacked, revealing who is where and what they're doing). Google has enough problems trying to fend off the litigation it feels it doesn't deserve; why add to that plate?

      • by Is0m0rph (819726)
        Is helping China censor information from its people being a "nice guy"?
        • by AlecC (512609)

          A much nicer guy than the others - Yahoo and MSN. In my opinion, Google made the best of a bad job there. At least google.cn marks visibly when it is being censored. Yahoo, MSN and, of course, Baidu, censor silently. If they didn't censor, they wouldn't be allowed in - so they have actually forced the wall down a crack by revealing the censorship. And, for those who can bypass the Great Firewall, they can see google.com in Chinese, uncensored. The alternative would have been not to offer google.cn - which w

      • While your post makes sense, I simply don't see Google as being willing to join that group of people.

        "Willing?" Who said anything about "Willing"? What's "Willing" got to do with anything?

  • more use (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Food for thought:

    The best way to maximise the power of these would be to use them day to day. The more comfortable and accurate we can make it on the common stuff, the better the technology will be when we need it for something more serious.

    On that note, where can I get a tinfoil hat to cover my house?

    • You could live in a tin shed...and dig underground ;)
    • On that note, where can I get a tinfoil hat to cover my house?

      I saw a live-action documentary about tinfoil-hatted houses on Broadway...

      I think it was called "LOLCat on a Hot Tin Roof" or something. Google it.

  • So they axe the publicly known plan...

    I wonder just how much more intrusive the "secret" plans that will take the public plans will be.

    Politicians are politicians, parties don't matter when power is on the line. A politician won't give up power unless it is to get ever more power. This publicity stunt just gets them good press for awhile until the other shoe drops which will conveniently happen just after the re-election.

  • Yeah. Sure... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Hurricane78 (562437)

    This was just the moment when they stopped to exist *officially*. ^^

    See if can spot a satellite, spying on your country. I bet you can, and will still be able to in a decade.

  • Kill it? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by nurb432 (527695)

    Or just blacken it so that privacy and rights concerns will become moot? Cant complain about what you don't know about.

  • DHS can probably secretly fund Google to develop a realtime Google Maps/Earth app.

    All in the name of national security of course.
  • by dzfoo (772245) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:50AM (#28438929)

    From the article:
    "Napolitano recently reached her decision after the program was discussed with law enforcement officials, and she was told it was not an urgent issue, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it."*

    Later on:
    "Bratton, in his role as head of the Major City Chiefs Association, wrote on June 21 that the program, as envisioned by the Bush administration, is not an urgent need for local law enforcement."*

    *(Emphasis mine)

    Anonymity. Yes, we've heard of it.

          -dZ.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      It's confusing but correct. An unnamed official is saying that Napolitano reached her decision after hearing from Bratton that it isn't an urgent need.

      Unnamed official != Bratton.

  • Great news, IMO (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shadowofwind (1209890) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @10:54AM (#28438977)

    A problem with camera surveillance, is much more innocent than criminal behavior is in view, so a fairly high proportion of suspicious behavior is actually innocent behavior that looks improbably suspicious. Statistically, its the same problem as with false positives in drug tests. Compounding this problem is that when law enforcement is impersonal and from a distance, the accused often is not given a fair, face-to-face chance to defend themselves before having their lives temporarily wrecked. By the time it goes to trial, it has already cost large legal fees and possibly employment.

    In my own arrest a few years ago, for innocent behavior that looked suspicious from afar, I was never once interviewed by a law enforcement officer or prosecutor and given a chance to tell my story, right up to the morning of the trial.

    There was to me surprisingly little public comment when the domestic satellite surveillance program was announced a couple of years ago. Its nice that the Obama administration seems to be doing the right thing with this anyway.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In my own arrest a few years ago, for innocent behavior that looked suspicious from afar, I was never once interviewed by a law enforcement officer or prosecutor and given a chance to tell my story, right up to the morning of the trial.

      Would that have helped? We are often reminded not to talk to the police. In their current incarnation, the police don't seem to be in the business of maintaining peace and order, but rather in the business of arresting people.

      In the current system, pleading with an officer wouldn't do much good. Their role is only to bring in suspects. It is for the courts to decide on the validity of the accusations. Maybe that's not how it ought to be... but that's the way it currently is. As such, talking to the polic

      • Re:Great news, IMO (Score:5, Insightful)

        by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @11:37AM (#28439717)
        A classic example of this sort of thing is taking photographs in public locations. The law allows for it, but law enforcement has been known to be to lacking in an understanding of that. As a photographer I would rather have the option of explaining to a policeman my rights (and perhaps showing an excerpt of the law) than to be hauled off to court for something that would eventually be thrown out. That latter wastes my time, the courts time and a whole lot of public money.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shadowofwind (1209890)

        Right. The system where any random person or machine with limited information can accuse you of a crime, you get arrested by default, and you have to pay thousands of dollars before even having a chance to argue your innocence, is nuts. Formally, there has to have been an "investigation" before the judge issued the warrant for the arrest. That investigation should include trying to find out whether the accused has done anything wrong, and that should usually involve talking with the accused. The further

    • by OzPeter (195038)
      Common do tell ,, what did you do??? Enquiring minds want to know.
      And if you are worried about anonymity then just post as AC :D
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shadowofwind (1209890)

        I was seen with property that the accuser incorrectly imagined was theirs, and accused of theft.

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      A problem with camera surveillance, is much more innocent than criminal behavior is in view, so a fairly high proportion of suspicious behavior is actually innocent behavior that looks improbably suspicious.

      I and my car were searched [slashdot.org] for parking in front of the wrong house. Two local cops, two FBI agents, and a DEA agent wearing a ski mask (in July in Illinois) came out with guns drawn. Not fun at all. Luckily there were no drugs, and they let us go after an hour or so.

      There was to me surprisingly little pu

      • Re:Great news, IMO (Score:4, Interesting)

        by shadowofwind (1209890) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @12:15PM (#28440257)

        In my case the police showed up at my house at night, cuffed me, and took me to jail, but at least they didn't threaten to shoot me.

        As life tribulations go, this is pretty mild stuff. But I think its instructive. I've always been Mr. Law Abiding, with no underage drinking, no drugs, no speeding, no jaywalking....is the legal system about justice? Not so much as I would have imagined, apparently.

        • by Manchot (847225)
          You can't make a comment like this and not tell us what they thought you did.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by shadowofwind (1209890)

            You can't make a comment like this and not tell us what they thought you did.

            Stealing building supplies. Someone saw me carrying some boards and initial assummed that I took them from a nearby construction site. The initial suspicion was arguably reasonable under the circumstances. The problem in my view was the way the thing went down afterwards, with the physical coercion, the indifference to right and wrong, particularly by the prosecutor, and it costing me several times the maximum fine in legal fees, even though I could easily demonstrate my innocence to anyone interested.

      • by gknoy (899301)

        I and my car were searched [slashdot.org] for parking in front of the wrong house. Two local cops, two FBI agents, and a DEA agent wearing a ski mask (in July in Illinois) came out with guns drawn.

        I'm amazed at the crazy things that seem to happen to you, mcgrew. That said, in this particular case, as inconvenient and frustrating as it was for you, I'm not exactly surprised. The police/fbi/dea were watching a crack house, which you happened to park in front of. Your friends went inside, then came out a li

        • by mcgrew (92797)

          I'm amazed at the crazy things that seem to happen to you, mcgrew

          Well, I live a short walk from the 13th most dangerous neighborhood in the US (I saw that in the paper this morning, will journal about it later). But despite that, I'm amazed at the crazy things that seem to happen to me, too.

  • How is Chloe supposed to track the terrorists?
  • I'd like to make the observation without judging that for a government it's no problem to spy on "them", but they can't spy on "us".

  • I didn't realize that what I did outside was private.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0racle (667029)
      Not private is not the same as government recorded and analyzed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jdunn14 (455930)

      Imagine I have a 7 foot (or higher) privacy fence around my back yard. I have an expectation of privacy. Or I happen to own 150 acres in the middle of nowhere. I have less, but still some, expectation of privacy there as well.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        For those following along at home, it's important to remember that "expectation of privacy" refers to a reasonable expectation that your privacy will be respected, not that your privacy won't be violated by someone intent on doing so. It's a society thing, not a physical capability thing. How difficult it is to violate your privacy has little to do with it.

        Inside your home, or your own back yard (or in the middle of your 150 acres), you can reasonably expect that other members of society won't snoop on yo

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      How do you know those things can't see through your roof?

      • by homer_ca (144738)

        We've already crossed that line: helicopters with infrared to spot marijuana grow houses. They're not yet at the point of detecting body heat through walls from helicopter altitude, AFAIK.

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      So if I assign a team of skilled operatives to follow you at 500 yards using telephoto lenses and parabolic microphones from the moment you leave your door to the moment you reenter, that's cool, right? And you would trust me not to get a little extra data through your windows if you ever leave a curtain undrawn, because by buying into your definition, I've said I'd stop at the edge of inside? But I'm not going to use millimeter wave GSR, because that technology crosses outside/inside lines as if they didn'

  • by Alascom (95042) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @11:55AM (#28439919)

    The title would be less exciting if it read "Bush and Obama has never used satellites to spy on Americans".

    Bush didn't use spy satellites our of privacy and civil liberty concerns. Got it.

    Now that we are straight on this particular issue, let the Bush bashing begin.

  • by kenp2002 (545495) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @12:02PM (#28440037) Homepage Journal

    "... overhead and mapping imagery from existing satellites for homeland security and law enforcement purposes.."

    From what I have heard from certain people, they already have been doing this since Regan. The largest use for this was domestically was tracking the drug trade including but not limited to:

    Large distribution rings by tracking differential images for trafficing patterns (e.g. large number of cars at 2 am at a pier that only stick around for a hour or two)

    Using the IR module for finding growers in remote areas with camoed green houses.

    Using the information to track abnormal warehouse activity.

    Spying seems a slanted term since the cops don't SPY on people, they investigate. Same with the FBI and ATF.

    So what we really have is DHS decides for what appear to be largely buget issues, not taking the information, THAT IS ALREADY BEING COLLECTED, and using it for DHS purposes. Since the DHS is a new agency they probably didn't have access to that data. This sounds largely like a formality to get them access to the data. Now the DHS will have to step through the FBI and local law enforcement channels which was the whole reason we created the DHS in the first place.

    Seriously, this amounts to "The cops can use it, the FBI can use it, but the 'new' intelligence community can't." Here contract a plane to get your imagining instead.

    If there was a privacy issue why not raise it when ATF raids a pot grower? Why now and not under Regan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2? And why no outcry over the fact it has been used for years already? Surely the use of images from those darn helicopters and airplanes must be a privacy conern also? Right? You know those images you can get from the county and local city... Hello? Sensible Dissent where are you? (in my best Shaggy impersonation).

  • Should be: "DHS Claims to be Killing the Domestic Satellite Spying Program"
  • Don't cheer yet (Score:3, Informative)

    by horatio (127595) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @01:37PM (#28441617)
    Don't start cheering how great DHS is just yet, because while they're simultaneously talking about killing this program, they're putting UAV drones in the air. http://www.newswatch50.com/news/local/story/Homeland-Security-drone-patrolling-NNY/8ujqf9M2YkCXVlOmBVxFOg.cspx [newswatch50.com]
    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Cheering good news about the DHS isn't cheering the DHS. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, IMO Congress sould disband the DHS (and a few other agencies as well).

  • Small correction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thethibs (882667) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @05:10PM (#28445379) Homepage

    The program was included in the Obama administration's 2010 budget request

    It seems the opening paragraph should have said, "The Obama administration had plans in place to use spy satellites to spy on American citizens." On the other hand, why let the facts get in the way of a good line?

  • These announcements are kind of funny - how do you ever verify whatever they promise? These are "top secret", "for eyes only", "Heimat - oops, homeland security", "against terrorists", blah, blah systems so no public information, control, whatever needed, you can feel safe now - we don't do it!

    Seriously, if they want to use all the money to track me, they are more than welcome as long as it isn't my tax money! I might allow the same as for election hold in my taxes but only if I can use the satellite tracke

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