Report: spy satellites used in domestic surveillance

A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report reveals that reconnaissance or spy satellites may be being used to perform domestic surveillance without the appropriate Congressional oversight:

Reconnaissance satellites, first deployed in the early 1960s to peer into denied regions of theSoviet Union and other secretive enemy states, have from time to time been used by civilian agencies of the federal government to assist with mapping, disaster relief, and environmental concerns. These uses have been coordinated by the Civil Applications Office at the U.S.Geological Survey, a component of the Interior Department. Post 9/11, the Bush Administration sought to encourage use of satellite-derived data for homeland security and law enforcement purposes, in addition to the civil applications that have been supported for years. In 2007, it moved to transfer responsibility for coordinating civilian use of satellites to the Department of Homeland Security. The initiative was launched, however, apparently without notification of key congressional oversight committees. Members of Congress and outside groups raised concerns that using satellites for lawenforcement purposes may infringe on the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. persons.Other commentators questioned whether the proposed surveillance will violate the Posse Comitatus Act or other restrictions on military involvement in civilian law enforcement, or would otherwise exceed the statutory mandates of the agencies involved.

In June 2009 the Obama administration ceased funding for the National Applications Office (NAO), but notes that there is little public information available on current policy. It continues by discussing whether using spy satellites to perform domestic surveillance constitutes a “search” under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

Via Got GEOINT (pdf)


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