Law Enforcement Moves Closer to Espionage

Lindsay Beyerstein in In These Times:


On August 15, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that America’s senior intelligence authorities were preparing to vastly expand access to classified satellite reconnaissance and other remote sensing data.

Initially, the National Applications Office (NAO), a newly created office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will confine itself to homeland security and traditional civil applications. Officials will be able to request satellite data to enhance border security, defend critical infrastructure and coordinate disaster response. Next year, the department plans to give satellite data to state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is a major force behind the creation of the NAO. According to the Journal, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell officially authorized the project in a May 25 memo to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

When DHS first announced the creation of the NAO for disseminating classified information from America’s spy satellites on August 15, it hadn’t bothered to notify the House Committee on Homeland Security beforehand.