Renewed Vigilance

The Office of Homeland Security was hoping the title of this post would refer to the new level of surveillance they would be making available to state and local law enforcement agencies. Intelligence satellites, which had previously been available domestically only for meteorological purposes, were slated to become accessible through a new program to be launched October 1. Though Congress has already approved funding for this program, which would create a National Applications Office to review requests for the information, it’s currently on hold thanks to concerns from Congress about privacy infringement.

For some in Congress, this brought to mind the domestic wiretapping scandal that arose shortly after September 11. On that topic, Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) said, “Since we’ve been rolled, I intend not to get rolled again.” A comment that amusingly brings to mind a rationale used by President Bush about being fooled once.

It is noteworthy that this is merely a delay and not a cancellation of the program. The Office of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke remains confident that it will ultimately go through once Congress has been satisfied there are sufficient safeguards.

“They say ‘trust us,’ ” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Technology and Liberty Project. Before such technology is directed at Americans, he said, “You need to verify that this technology will not be misused.”

Given that, in their current formulation, the approvals for the requests will be purely internal to the executive branch, it’s difficult to see how reasonable standards of privacy could be met. Only time will tell.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr user Rob Godspeed 

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Published in: on October 3, 2007 at 7:45 pm Comments Off on Renewed Vigilance
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