While we're all distracted by the Clinton-McCain tag team on Obama and therefore on Democratic chances in November, the Bush Administration is quietly attempting to strangle privacy rights and move one step closer to the inescapable Big Brother society. Not content with torturing whomever they want to obtain usually inaccurate information (including by crushing the testicles of children) and listening in on any phone call or email they please without even a warrant from a rubberstamp court, they are now attempting to requisition military satellites for use on domestic targets in potential violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
From the Washington Post, in an article alarmingly titled Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.:
The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.
Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.
In other words, military satellites currently being used for productive civilian and scientific uses like climate change, hurricane tracking, and like will be repurposed under the plan for not just military applications, but for military applications related to domestic law enforcement.
This is not a new idea for the Administration, however. The Washington Post reported the plans to create a new subagency for this purpose back in August of 2007. Back then, we learned that not only would law enforcement have access to military technology, the new satellite images would be able to see through buildings and underground bunkers:
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.
A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.
And why would the government need this technology to "protect America"? Are Al Qaeda terrorists hiding out in underground bunkers somewhere in the Nevada desert, just waiting to strike?
One possible use of the technology would be to spot staging areas along smuggling routes used to transport narcotics or illegal immigrants, officials said. In a handful of cases, security officials have requested -- and obtained -- similar help, but only on a case-by-case basis.
So let me get this straight: the Bush Administration wants to take satellites away from tracking global warming, and instead focus them on the task of seeing through buildings and bunkers within the United States, in order not to prevent terrorism but to fight the failed Drug War and track undocumented immigrants--abilities that law enforcement already gets to use and request from the government on a case by case basis? That makes me feel much, much safer. I'm totally ready to give not only Dick Cheney the full legal authority to use military satellite technology on my home whenever he so chooses, but also to my local sherriff on his whim. Sounds like a great plan to me!
The innocuous-sounding moniker the Administration has given to this proposed sub-department of Homeland Security is the National Applications Office. In keeping with the Cheney theory of government, when looking to do evil, whitewash it with the most friendly, harmless-sounding names possible.
Fortunately, Congressional Democrats have seen fit to block its operations with an injunction stopping it from using the desired powers since October of 2007. But now, Chertoff is making a new push.
We must make certain that our Congressional Democrats do not waver on blocking this program until the Bush Administration is finally out of power. Once these powers are granted, they are rarely taken away. It is critical that Bush and Cheney not be allowed to implement them during their lame-duck stay in office.
Go here to find the phone numbers and email addresses of your Senators and Representatives, and tell them to stand firm against the National Applications Office.
Act now. Contact your elected officials. And then go back to your regularly scheduled primary war.