New oversight committee gets ready to use American spy satellites domestically

In many ways, I'm not in the least bit surprised the U.S. government is forming a permanent task group to oversee the use of U.S. space-based resources for domestic use.  Of course, I am a little surprised that the U.S. government began the program in 2005 with almost no mention in the media outside of a few wire reports. 

The inevitable knee-jerk reaction: "No, no! The U.S. must never use its foreign intelligence powers domestically!"

Let's be a little more pragmatic here.  The United States, commander of the most powerful intelligence services in the world, will use spy satellites domestically eventually -- if it hasn't already.

For all the problems of the Department of Homeland Security, I can find little fault with the proposed National Applications Office.  The NAO, originally commissioned to start operations in October 2007 under the umbrella of the DHS, would be the oversight institution for use of foreign intelligence capabilities domestically.

The Office is currently on hiatus pending a Congressional injunction.

In 1974 Nelson Rockefeller commissioned a study that exposed several illegal programs inside the U.S. intelligence community, including the infamous CIA mind control program MK-ULTRA.  One of the lasting effects of Rockefeller’s commission included the creation of a Civil Applications Committee -- a committee designed to oversee the use of U.S. space-based resources for domestic purposes; Earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters -- that sort of thing. 

So guess what? We've already used those satellites for domestic purposes since the 1970's, though with an extremely limited scope. 

The NAO is an expansion of the little-documented, rarely-mentioned Civil Applications Committee.  It is compromised of three parts, one of which effectively replaces the CAC; the other two working groups will oversee homeland security, the other law enforcement. 

So why the Congressional injunction?  Privacy concerns, of course.  It's good to see someone didn't fall asleep at the wheel in Congress.  A report from the Associated Press claims the injunction is in the final stages of dissolve: the new Office could officially open doors as early as next month. 

After all, at least the government is playing by the book with this one.  One proclamation of retroactive immunity for illegal wiretaps is enough for 2008 already.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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