Democrats versus the Satellites–Democrats Win!!

I’ve been writing about the National Applications Office for close to two years–since the time Michael Chertoff tried to sneak through the satellite surveillance program without telling Congress or having the legally required privacy review completed. At that time, Bennie Thompson wrote Chertoff a sternly-worded letter.

Through media reports I learned of the Department’s intent to create a National Applications Office (NAO) that will purportedly be tasked with facilitating the use of “spy” satellites for domestic homeland security and law enforcement purposes. Unfortunately, I have had to rely on media reports to gain information about this endeavor because neither I nor my staff was briefed on the decision to create this new office prior to the public disclosure of this effort.


Turning to the matter at hand, I understand that the target date for NOA operation is October 1, 2007. With less than six weeks remaining until the anticipated “roll out” of this effort, I am concerned that several fundamental issues have not been adequately addressed. For instance, the Department’s failure to include its own Chief Privacy Officer and the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the initial planning stages for the NAO raises serious concerns about the extent to which valid privacy and civil liberties concerns raised by the domestic use of this technology may have been considered and addressed prior to this projected roll out date.

After learning in a hearing that the program was as bad as perceived, Thompson called for a moratorium on the program.

Then, just two weeks ago, Jane Harman caught DHS trying to sneak the program through Congress in its classified budget.

But Siobhan Gorman reports that–after the nation’s police chiefs told Janet Napolitano a bunch of satellite feeds really weren’t going to help them do their jobs as much as old-fashioned information sharing–Napolitano is killing the program.

The Obama administration plans to kill a controversial Bush administration spy satellite program at the Department of Homeland Security, according to officials familiar with the decision.


"It’s being shut down," said a homeland security official.

The Bush administration had taken preliminary steps to launch the office, such as acquiring office space and beginning to hire staff.

The plans to shutter the office signal Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s decision to refocus the department’s intelligence on ensuring that state and local officials get the threat information they need, the official said. She also wants to make the department the central point in the government for receiving and analyzing terrorism tips from around the country, the official added.

Lawmakers alerted Ms. Napolitano of their concerns about the program-that the program would violate the Fourth amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches-before her confirmation hearing.

Once she assumed her post, Ms. Napolitano ordered a review of the program and concluded the program wasn’t worth pursuing, the homeland official said. Department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa declined to speak about the results of the review but said they would be announced shortly.

I’ll be curious to see whether Napolitano had decided to kill the program before Jane Harman introduced legislation to kill it for her. But for the moment I’ll take a victory against Big Brother.m

19 replies
    • emptywheel says:

      I’m developing mid-summer heat and weed-pulling back pain induced insomnia.

      I never mulch like you’re supposed to. Had to rescue the strawberries from being absolute overwhelmed today.

  1. Waccamaw says:

    Once upon a time (back when I was *really* ignorant), I would accept at face value that this plan is fully dead… more. DHS tried to sneak it through this time; they’ll try doing it again.

    Have been doing some fiction reading recently trying to wean off the computer and tv news. Just finished Jeffery Deaver’s The Broken Window which contains a lot of this “big brother is watching you” stuff. The scary part is I don’t think a lot of the watching techniques included are fiction. Shades of Bamford’s Shadow Factory which turned my stomach so much I was never finished it. If you like CSI-type mysteries, try the Deaver.

  2. skdadl says:

    Is there a reason — apart from the usual Orwellian trickery — for the use of the term “Applications” in the name of the office? If the name were all I knew, I wouldn’t be able to tell what that office was about or what it was doing …

    Chertoff gave us a lecture when he was in Ottawa a year or so ago about his “eye in the sky” and about how naive we were to consider our fingerprints and other ID our personal property. He was quite rude, I thought, but surprisingly open about at least some of his plans.

  3. Rayne says:

    Jeebus, even under Obama they were still at it, chewing away like mice?

    This isn’t all of, would put good money on it, especially after digging around in contractor info this past week. It would be so very easy for DOD to have a duplicate system buried in their contracts, and I’ll bet Gates wouldn’t respond the same way Napolitano has.

    • acquarius74 says:

      DOD has done just that, Rayne. Saw last night on DOD’s 24/7 airing on our local PBS (I live near a huge mil base) that they’re so proud of a lately launched rocket eye in the sky. It can detect the difference between real grass and green plastic, even signal back what the fake green material consists of, detect ‘disturbed earth’ and locate enemy troops over the hill, etc. and get the info to troops within 7 minutes — Anyone think it’s not seeing us, too?

      • Rayne says:

        Damn, I wonder if that was the object I pointed out to my son last night; was not on the same path most other satellites we see regularly.

        Next time I’ll wave and then flip the bird at my tax dollars at work.

        [edit: just checked the Satellite Tracker at; it wasn’t either the Hubble or the Int’l Space Station overhead last night.]

        • acquarius74 says:

          Grim, Rayne, grim. I’ll see if a Google search turns up anything on a DOD eye in the sky recently launched.

        • acquarius74 says:

          Rayne, this sounds like the program I saw on the DOD/Pentagon channel of PBS last night. This USA online article dated May 1, 2009 states that the rocket “is to be launched Tuesday” from a VA launchpad. Built by Raytheon, doncha know. Most peculiar article…states it will send back info after orbiting for a year, yet will be useful for our troops in Afghanistan…sounds like they’re planning on a long, long war there.

          • Jesterfox says:

            PBS has a DOD/Pentagon channel? I can understand having some programs about what the DOD/Pentagon are doing, but a whole frigg’n channel?

            • acquarius74 says:

              Yep, I live about 35 miles from a huge Army base. It’s the Pentagon Channel on one “arm” of our local PBS station, runs 24/7. Glorification of wars, past and present.

              While searching for that military spy rocket story I found this; care to comment?

  4. plunger says:

    That Chertoff is/was himself a spy, should be apparent to any who have truly dug into his career path, relationships, coverups and Orwellian initiatives.

  5. fatster says:

    O/T Wonder how much longer we’ll have to wait for the torture report?

    June 23, 2009, 9:05 AM

    New Nixon Tapes and Files Released

    “The National Archives is making public about 125 hours of tape and about 30,000 pages of documents from former President Richard M. Nixon’s administration at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.”


    • acquarius74 says:

      Very peculiar timing, eh fatster? Is this supposed to distract us from our right to know what’s crucial in our own time now? Maybe if the new Nixon info had been released 34 years ago there could have been and should have been prosecutions then that would have deterred the Nixonian take-over by BushCo.

      The elite keepers of all wisdom surely don’t give us useless eaters credit for having much sense, do they?

  6. behindthefall says:

    More on TacSat-3. (Editing functions not working — temporarily, I hope.) Here’s the URL:…..csat3.html

    An ambitious system. One that would have to calibrated by ”ground truth” tests, it sounds. Are they going to limit those tests to tanks parked under trees on domestic mil. bases? Or could they be expected to try it out on urban environments, suburban sprawl, mountain cabins, etc. as well? Rather difficult to walk over to a Taliban hideout and say, ”Excuse me, but did you bring 20 mules over that dusty path last night?”

  7. DeadLast says:

    Finally, someone in the Obama Administration refusing to continue the Bush/Cheney Clusterf**k. I hope Obama himself follows suit. I like the guy, but jeez, I really hope he starts leading soon.

  8. Jkat says:

    second para of quote .. after [snip] the target date for NOA operation…

    should read NAO .. no ??

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