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US Set to Use Spy Satellites on US Citizens 513

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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  • W00t. 1st post (Score:1, Interesting)

    by speedlaw ( 878924 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:16PM (#22414342) Homepage
    Is anyone here surprised...I mean, anybody ???
  • 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: []

    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.
  • Re:Oblig. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:35PM (#22414544)
    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 MacDork ( 560499 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:36PM (#22414556) Journal
    Funny how they can afford spy satellites to peep in on the citizenry, but budget cuts [] are hampering the ISS. Maybe we can build a few more spy satellites to protect America and let those useless weather satellites crash into the ocean next.
  • by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:45PM (#22414630)

    Wow....all hail the Second Coming. Messiah Obama. He will magically rescue us from all our ills...

    Look, I love the guy, and he is heads above anyone else in this race. But don't think for a second that he's going to represent some wholesale shift in government policies. He'll be corrupted and compromised, at least to some extent, by the realities of D.C. culture and by those who wield the real power. (Hint: it's not in the White House. Think big bureaucracies with three initials. Not to mention nine people in ugly black robes.) Once power is obtained, those who yield it tend to be quite reluctant to let go of it.

    Will we be better off under an Obama presidency? Hell yes, no doubt. Will all government corruption and Constitution-gutting cease? When pigs fly. It's always about choosing the lesser of the evils.

  • 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 [] and Enemy of the State [].

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

  • Re:W00t. 1st post (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalchinky ( 650880 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:51PM (#22414682)
    The process is a little different to what you might think. These imagery birds produce a constant stream of pictures every time their solar panels are lit up with sunlight, a few less if in shade. Obviously areas of interest can be pinpointed as the satellite passes overhead, but these things rarely float around idle.

    A warrant might give some imagery weenie the legal go ahead to distribute specific files, but that doesn't mean the pictures are only taken when a warrant is present. Over the years 'real time' has expanded to include 'sifting' through huge amounts of data storage to pick out not only a location of interest, but also a time of interest.

    If the warrant doesn't include a time frame, then you can bet your backside it will be assumed to mean an unlimited capacity to view any imagery for the location of interest until the warrant expires.

    Depending upon the acquisition method and storage, you might only have a few days of historical info, or you might have years.

    Ex 3 letter agency drone typing.
  • by bryce1012 ( 822567 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @09:56PM (#22414730) Journal
    Sir or Madam:

    First, let me thank you for your service to our country. I am sure that you folks "in the trenches" are hard-working, honest individuals, and as patriotic as any one of us could hope to be. With that said, I urge you not to take it personally when I say: "WE DON'T WANT YOUR HELP."

    There are bad things in the world. I recognize that, and I am glad to hear that there are people like you working to keep me safe from those things. Surly you must realize, however, that no matter what you and the rest of our government do, some element of danger will still exist... but in the process, we are being stripped of the very freedoms that we as Americans used to hold absolutely sacred.

    Look at it like this: I have an 18-month-old son. My wife and I made sure when he started crawling that we had those safety plugs in floor-level outlets, we put some cabinet locks on the cupboards with the dangerous substances, and we put gates across the stairwells. We did these things because there are real dangers around our house that we can very easily mitigate. Of course, there are also dangers that are harder to deal with -- for example, he could fall off the sofa (and has). Does this mean we should get rid of all the furniture, because he could fall off? Maybe we should just take the furniture out of his room, and keep him in there 23 hours out of the day. Perhaps some form of restraints?

    Obviously, I can't make the world perfectly safe for my son. My job as a parent, then, is to try to strike that balance between keeping him reasonably safe and giving him the freedom to learn and grow. Similarly, it's the job of the government to keep myself and the rest of the American citizenry reasonably safe, while still giving us the freedoms we value so much.

    This administration, in my and many others' minds, has crossed far past that balance point. The safety this sort of program would grant is certainly a good thing, but the cost is just too high. Thanks, but no thanks.
  • 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 GiMP ( 10923 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:28PM (#22414982)
    There is a difference between google's 10 year old, blurry images that can hardly see houses and military satellites that are practically live feeds, and can count the hairs on your head... unless you wear a hat.
  • by digitalchinky ( 650880 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:36PM (#22415060)
    I'm not posting as anonymous for obvious reasons, I'm a disgruntled ex defence signals directorate drone. I worked with quite a few domestic and foreign 3 letter agencies during my long stay with these characters. You are absolutely being deceived if you buy the little snippets of info you are given by your leaders.

    Intel collection platforms are no secret, either in purpose or in functionality. The information is readily available to anyone attentive enough to cut through the crap. Google has it all. One thing I learned over the years is that individuals know what they are doing, management struggle to get another rung up the ladder and will do anything to look better than you, and the little boys club at the top have their politics. You know where these leaks come from? If you are a low level nobody then you go to jail, middle level managers get sent off to some red neck field site in the desert where they can't screw anything up much worse than it already is. So who does that leave you with?

    If you are a creature of common sense and dispense with the patriotic blindness for a minute, you'll see that absolutely nothing stays secret. Nothing.

    This is just plain old erosion of rights instigated by some fall guy in the executive branch who was probably just scratching someone elses itch.
  • by sgt_doom ( 655561 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @10:59PM (#22415340)
    In reality (that is to those of us who exist on the reality layer), this has been going on ever since they "privatized" COMSAT back in the '90s. If one looks at who purchased those private satnets one will arrive at some very guilty and interesting parties.
  • by Jaime2 ( 824950 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:15PM (#22415552)
    I don't care if you do or don't know what you are doing. I don't care if there are reasons for these things. Until you can put the sort of oversight into these programs that it takes to earn the public trust, stop expanding the invasion of privacy of Americans -- even the criminals.

    Drop the "brotherhood" attitude and start treating us regular people like we deserve your respect and we'll let you do more. As long as law enforcement or intelligence allows their own to commit even the smallest crimes against the citizenry without jumping all over them, you are not wanted. You are here to protect me, not to protect each other. Show me you are on my side by putting the corrupt 1% of you in jail and I'll change my mind.

    I don't want you. I don't want your help. I don't like you.

    BTW, you are not my parents, you are my security guards. You have been stealing from my fridge and taking the car for joy rides (not all of you, but the food is gone and there is a dent in the fender). Please, don't be surprised when you don't get a Christmas card.
  • Re:They've won. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by interactive_civilian ( 205158 ) <mamoru@gmail . c om> on Wednesday February 13, 2008 @11:46PM (#22415840) Homepage Journal

    will America's potential demise into a police state goof up the rest of the world as well? Almost certainly. But don't let that stop you if you want to leave. No place is perfect, so you might as well go somewhere where you can have fun and not be as angered by the hypocrisy of the politicians. For example, right now, I'm living in Thailand. Freedom of speech is pretty abridged here. The police are corrupt. I'm sure there are a lot of other stupid laws I don't know about. However, at least they are up front about it. At least they aren't claiming to be the beacons of freedom while stripping those freedoms away. Also, the food is good, the women are pretty, the cost of living is cheap, and the weather is warm. It is far from being a perfect place, but it's comfortable enough, and if I stop liking it, I'll just move on.

    Don't let what might happen in the future stop you from doing what you want to be doing today. Carpe diem and all that.

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:12AM (#22416078)
    I'm also a member in the intelligence community, and I'd like to point out a few things. First, Google Earth has allowed people all over the world to view your house in recent color imagery for quite a while now. And frankly, depending on what kind of bird was used to shoot it, the imagery on Google Earth is certainly comparable to military satellite imagery since it's built mostly from low-flying airplanes. Google Earth, as a platform and as a source of imagery, is so good we routinely use it as a GIS application over the much more expensive applications the government has built. Second, there's a real limit to what overhead imagery can provide. It can't see into your home or car, and it can't see if you committed a crime. Granted, there are other types of assets than overhead imagery (which I dare not even allude to), but you've already lost all your privacy in case you haven't noticed. Now everyone's upset that the government's going to use this to catch dangerous criminals and terrorists. Remember when everyone blamed the government for not doing more to prevent 9/11? It's either this or you don't complain when there's a 9/11 style attack every year in a major city in the U.S. Your choice.
  • Re:W00t. 1st post (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:25AM (#22418912)
    Actually, you are both wrong. You forget that a good percentage of those you include in the "armed rabble" are previous US armed services men and women that are familiar with tactics, training, and the latest (and greatest) in US weaponry and technology. If pushed far enough it could get bad...very bad. All you have to really do is look at the previous conflicts in Afghanistan vs. Soviet Russia. A very poorly armed force (comparitive to Russia) held Russia at bay for quite some time and inflicted terrible losses on them.

    In essence any such victory would be clearly Pyrrhic. However, do not discount the abilities of what a comparitively few angry individuals could do against a numerically and/or technologically superior force - Remember the Revolutionary War of the United States?

    I'm sure that I'm not the only one that never hopes to see such a conflict on U.S. soil - I know that Obama agrees - after all he's taking the "preventative measure" (as stated before) of working towards banning firearms. /Sarcasm intended
  • Re:W00t. 1st post (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:33AM (#22418990)
    Agreed. It is much better to work within the system than to destroy the system. All I'm saying is that at present the latter is a real option if the former fails. No sane person wants revolution for revolution's sake.

    I agree with the last part, but if our founders followed your first sentiment, we'd still be part of the UK.
  • Re:W00t. 1st post (Score:3, Interesting)

    by imipak ( 254310 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:15AM (#22419462) Journal
    Hmmm, whilst I'm a card-carrying member of the EFF, FSF, and ORG (and a bunch of similar orgs that aren't so focused on tech issues - Liberty and Amnesty, f'r'instance), and there have certainly been some terrible laws passed in the last decade, we don't have an evil totalitarian regime. We have a bunch of well-meaning idiots who would mostly be horrified to think that the laws they've voted for could be used by a future E.T.R. to enslave the masses, etc etc.

    Incidentally a bunch of Muslim students were just released from jail with their convictions squashed after the defence pointed out that reading Jihadist literature is (correctly) not a crime here. When I get my door booted in at 8am (or others' are having that treatment) without recourse to the law for redress, then we have an ETR. Right now, we just have a framework of law under which some ETR activities could be smuggled through.

    I'm also highly dubious about the ability of British political establishment to have a successful conspiracy to bring an ETR about. Even if all the MPs were secretly plotting to institute a junta, end proper elections, etc, they'd cock it up.

  • Yes- O J Simpson (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:18AM (#22419498)
    The judge in the O J Simpson murder trial suppressed (i.e., did not let the prosecutors use) satellite images of the white Ford Bronco. The reason was they didn't have the license plate numbers, so the fact that a white Ford Bronco was not parked near his house and was parked near Nicole's does not establish it was his Ford Bronco. Therefore, the satellite shots were inadmissable. Most cities now have spy planes with gyro stabilized long lenses today thanks to federal grants (which started a decade ago - everybody has one by now).
  • Re:Canadian? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:39AM (#22419724)
    No, no! Don't listen to him. Best thing that ever happened to us was getting that flood of draft dodgers back in the seventies. If you're a techie / hippy / anyone but a redneck or a neocon, then c'mon up!
  • Re:W00t. 1st post (Score:3, Interesting)

    by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:59AM (#22419944)
    He may well have said such things. However, as a supporter of all of the Bill of Rights (yes, including the second amendment), I don't think this is even close to the top of my list of concerns. If he wants to tilt at that windmill (neither the Congress nor the current right wing Supreme Court would allow something like this), and will in the process help restore the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth, I'd consider it way more than a fair trade.

    BTW: Since you were so worried about moderation, I will point out that I had mod points, disagreed with you heartily, and posted in rather than tried to mod-censor you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:55AM (#22420764)
    I'll answer you as another "member of the intelligence community" for the last 20 years and also posting anonymously for obvious reasons. You, sir or madam, are full of shit. As an operator, I personally grabbed pre-signed "waivers" for "accidental" collection (which in my case was accidental at the time) of intel against US citizens. I've also seen US citizens busted by law enforcement (as many as 15 years ago) through the use of overhead collection as well as manned airborne collection systems. As an engineer I have personally worked on projects that were intended for spying on "the bad guy" that I now know were being used here in the US as well as the locations we designed them for.

    I think there is far more concern with the people who know what they are doing than the people who do things accidentally. The people who know what they're doing have a far more accurate picture of what's happening and continue to do it anyway. They're despicable, and while you and the people you have worked with may not be corrupt, there are plenty who are.

    I've dealt with cops who put guns in my face because of the way I dressed, and been pulled over by feds because my car "looks like it doesn't belong here". I wouldn't trust those people to not abuse the system, and you, as a cog in the machine (whether you believe it or not) will follow right along with what you're told to do because it's easier than fighting the system. (I know, I've been there.)

    I do know the reasons for the spy satellites and UAVs and all the other collection methods out there, and I still say they're bull shit. If you believe they have any true effect on your safety you're mistaken (unless you're in a combat zone).
  • Re:W00t. 1st post (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:40PM (#22421434)
    And if it came to an armed revolt, it would be like the US Army vs Iraq... no not Iraq... Iraq had tanks, rocket launchers, fighter planes, SAM installations, a proper disciplined armed forces each armed and trained with using automatic weapons, etc, etc, etc. And they couldn't hold off the US at all. What do you think some angry rabble with rifles and pistols is going to accomplish in a pitched battle?

    Squat. Jack Squat.

    The same thing that happened the last time we tried it. []

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein