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Monday, August 27, 2007

Domestic Use of Spy Satellites Questioned


The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee scolded Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week for failing to notify him
of plans to expand the use of intelligence satellites for homeland
security applications.

"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," wrote Rep. Bennie Thompson in an August 22 letter to
Secretary Chertoff (who has been mentioned as a possible nominee to
replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General).

"I need you to provide me with an immediate assurance that upon its
October 1st roll out, this program will be operating within the
confines of the Constitution and all applicable laws and regulations,"
Chairman Thompson wrote.

"Additionally, because I have not been informed of the existence of
this program for over a two year period, I am requesting that for the
next six weeks, you provide me with bi-weekly briefings on the progress
of the [National Applications Office] working groups."

The Thompson letter as well as the new homeland security initiative
were first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

A Washington Post editorial said that any use of spy satellites for
domestic monitoring "must be accompanied... by robust protections for
privacy and civil liberties." The failure to properly advise Congress
was "not a comforting start for a landmark change."

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