DHS reckons US cops' access to sat-surveillance is go
Chertoff feeling ready for warm standup
US Homeland Security overlord Michael Chertoff has told reporters that he believes plans for increased use of satellite surveillance by American law-enforcement agencies are ready to move forward. However, Democratic politicians remain unconvinced that adequate privacy and civil liberties safeguards are in place.
"I think the way is now clear to stand NAO up and go warm," said Chertoff, briefing journalists about the proposed National Applications Office.
NAO would allow US police, immigration, drug-enforcement and other officials to have access to data from various US satellites passing above America. It is understood that the information would be supplied mostly by spacecraft which at the moment are used for meteorological and geological surveying, or other scientific tasks. Satellites of this type can often deliver high-resolution images which would also be useful to law enforcement.
Purpose-built US surveillance satellites operated on behalf of military and intelligence agencies also pass above the US frequently. However, even the location of such spacecraft is often deemed to be a secret - for all that it may be well-known to amateur skywatchers. The capabilities of the true spybirds are even more jealously guarded, but realistically this information would soon become common knowledge if ordinary coppers were able to get such imagery.
Therefore, the new NAO probably won't offer very wide access - if any - to America's proper sky-spies. But it could provide a wealth of information all the same, and some US legislators are concerned about the implications.
Chertoff pooh-poohed such worries, saying that detailed assessments had been done and that Congresspersons had been briefed. The DHS chief believed that there's a "good process in place to make sure there aren't any... transgressions". The DHS has also pointed out that various feds including the Secret Service* and FBI have used satellite imagery of the US in various previous investigations on a case-by-case basis.
Even so, plans for warm erection of the NAO could face a bumpy ride from Democrat-dominated committees on Capitol Hill.
Coverage of the press briefing is available from CNET here. ®
*Note for non-US readers: While "Secret Service" sounds like it might be to do with spies, this is not the case in the States. The Secret Service is part of the Treasury, and does things like tracking down counterfeiters. It also provides the bodyguards for prominent US politicians, like the specialist protection branch of the Met Police in the UK. It seems that the Treasury agents were the main federal law-enforcement agency in existence when US presidents started to need close protection, and got the job by default.
@More money for the Feds
The new level of cooperation between various authorities be they police and army, government and businesses country to country is quite staggering. They are being let into each others databases, they see each others customers and citizens. If they want someone pulled it happens. The process is still a bit shakey but most of the TV and newsprint media cooperate. The ISPs are slowly falling into line. Tools such as NetNanny are already cooperating. The banks are one the lookout for business activities breaking the £10k threshold, they are not just looking at ten grand cheques but activity that might reach 10k in a year to the same person.
They are seeking the help of the ordinary nosey parkers; radio advert on XFM "How do you know if somene is just waiting around or is a terrorist? You don't have to know, just call the confidentail terrorist hotline 0800 789321". Seriously!
We now have to watch out for blond radicalized muslims, we are told that there could be 1500 ordinary brits who have joined Al Quada. Paintball is potentailly terror training, paintball clubs are being vigelant to the potential terrorists in training and will call the terror hotline if they are concerned. An ideal target for the spy sats.
I don't think anyone is making charges for these anti-terror services. People are only too pleased to chip in to help the war on terror.
More money for the Feds?
Lets see, if they use the clearance investigations the military users...
It takes about USD50,000 per investigation (going back 15 years) and taking 6 to 18 months to complete.
The access lasts 5 years and then you need another investigation.
I suppose all those police departments will be paying DHS for them.
Add in some kind of fee system to maintain the satellites and their ground stations.
That adds up to a bunch of money flowing into DHS!
So what can they learn?
We all know the resolution of Google Earth, and the good stuff is ordinary photo-recce of the sort done in WW2.
You might be able to tell is a red car was at a particular place when the satellite passed over, or recognise a patch of grass in a field of corn, but what else?
Want to bet the big reason is the tech that is reputed to be able to monitor mobile phones?