Friday, August 17, 2007

Use Of Military Spy Satellites To Be Expanded

The old saying goes: For every action, there's a reaction. For every cause, there's an effect.

First, the article from the WaPo, detailing the action.

The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

Then comes this reaction from the NYT.

For years, a handful of civilian agencies have used limited images from the nation’s constellation of spy satellites to track hurricane damage, monitor climate change and create topographical maps.

But a new plan to allow emergency response, border control and, eventually, law enforcement agencies greater access to sophisticated satellites and other sensors that monitor American territory has drawn sharp criticism from civil liberties advocates who say the government is overstepping the use of military technology for domestic surveillance.

For all of the complaints about listening in on suspected terrorist conversations, profiling of those most likely to commit terrorist acts, and perceived hate speech when someone dares to criticize someone of the Islamic faith; I think it certainly pales in comparison to the potential abuses that something like this can generate, on all Americans.

In no way, would I be willing to support this at any level.

Once in a blue moon, there is a case that I will come down on the side of the ACLU. For all of it's frivolous complaints and actions, this particular case is what the ACLU needs to focus itself on and forget about the petty stuff for a moment. For all of their obstructions and all of the mindless criticisms for Executive proposals and policies, this is where Congress needs to focus their energies, when they return.

I am no lawyer and do not play one on TV, but I certainly can read. And here is what I read from the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution (with added emphasis from me):

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Captain Ed points out some things, on this issue.

As does Dale, from Q and O. (He gets the Hat tip on this one.)

Bottom line is, this is not good.

I expect a massive outcry on this, from all people that believe in the vision set forth by the founding fathers of this great nation. I fully expect that Democrats and Republicans can set aside their petty feuds for a moment, to mobilize against this. I won't be placing on any bets on it, but if they want to do what's right for the country, they will.


Always On Watch said...

Off-topic here....Thank you so much for calling into the radio show which I cohost. I wish that we could have talked longer about your concerns regarding spy satellites. The time goes by so quickly when we're on the air!

If you're interested in being the interviewee, email me:

You'd be an excellent guest!

LASunsett said...


No problem at all, as I said in my e-mail, it was my pleasure.

As to the subject, if I may go further, I think that validating this kind of thing sets the stage for potential abuse down the road. If there ever does come a time, when terrorism is on the ropes (sufficiently enough to downscale our strategies and tactics), I really have a hard time believing that the government (at that time) would be willing to give it back. Not only do terrorists and like-minded sympathizers push the boundaries, but so does the government.

Always On Watch said...

I agree that once the government gains a power, it is reluctant to relinquish it. But aren't there examples of special wartime measures later being rescinded? I'm sure that examples of the opposite abound and outnumber the restrictions of power after wartime.

I'll work on the schedule for the show.

A.C. McCloud said...

LA, while I agree this seems rather intrusive, here's what a commenter at CQ had to say:

The police have been using "military" equipment for years. Think about all the FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) equipment the police use. That was military equipment that was adapted for civilian use, and it has become a very valuable asset.

The same can be said of the satellites. It's just a piece of equipment. There is no violation of the Posse Comitatus Act if a satellite is used as long as no member of the military actually is involved in the control of that satellite. The military itself doesn't control the satellites, the National Reconnaissance Office has control of those satellites. If the President wants to allow the Justice department to have access to the satellites, that shouldn't be a problem.

Not sure I completely trust everyone involved to do the right thing, including the overseers. That's if we can reasonably expect to control the coming technological juggernaut.

LASunsett said...


//But aren't there examples of special wartime measures later being rescinded?//

The last time they were invoked were WWII. That was the era we now call "the greatest generation". They had more honor and integrity than this bunch does today, and probably will in the future. I can't say I trust this bunch.

//I'll work on the schedule for the show.//

No hurry, whenever.

LASunsett said...


From the comment you cited:

//The police have been using "military" equipment for years.//

Yes, but they have had certain restrictions.

Note the case, Kyllo v. United States. SCOTUS ruled that using this equipment constituted an unreasonable search, because they didn't have a warrant. And if you have a warrant, you can just enter and search, so why use it, if that's the case?

Basically, you cannot use it to obtain probable cause.