As our laughable Czarina – Napolitano continues to castrate security within the United States, her reach now extends to disable our space spy program.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to kill a controversial Bush administration spy satellite program at the Department of Homeland Security, according to officials familiar with the decision.
The program came under fire from its inception two years ago. Democratic lawmakers said it would lead to domestic spying.
The program would have provided federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery — but no eavesdropping capabilities— to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism.
It would have expanded an Interior Department satellite program, which will continue to be used to assist in natural disasters and for other limited security purposes such as photographing sporting events. The Wall Street Journal first revealed the plans to establish the program, known as the National Applications Office, in 2007.
“It’s being shut down,” said a homeland security official.
The Bush administration had taken preliminary steps to launch the office, such as acquiring office space and beginning to hire staff.
The plans to shutter the office signal Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s decision to refocus the department’s intelligence on ensuring that state and local officials get the threat information they need, the official said. She also wants to make the department the central point in the government for receiving and analyzing terrorism tips from around the country, the official added.
Lawmakers alerted Ms. Napolitano of their concerns about the program-that the program would violate the Fourth amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches-before her confirmation hearing.
Once she assumed her post, Ms. Napolitano ordered a review of the program and concluded the program wasn’t worth pursuing, the homeland official said. Department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa declined to speak about the results of the review but said they would be announced shortly.
The lawmakers were most concerned about plans to provide satellite imagery to state and local law enforcement, so department officials asked state and local officials how useful that information would be to them. The answer: not very useful.
“In our view, the NAO is not an issue of urgency,” Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, wrote to Ms. Napolitano on June 21.
Writing on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Chief Bratton said that were the program to go forward, the police chiefs would be concerned about privacy protections and whether using military satellites for domestic purposes would violate the Posse Comitatus law, which bars the use of the military for law enforcement in the U.S.
Rep. Jane Harman (D., Calif.), who oversees the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence, said she was alarmed when she recently saw that the Obama administration requested money for the program in a classified 2010 budget proposal. She introduced two bills that would terminate the program.
“It’s a good decision,” Ms. Harman said in an interview. “This will remove a distraction and let the intelligence function at [the department] truly serve the community that needs it, which is local law enforcement.”
Supporters of the program lamented what they said was the loss of an important new terrorism-fighting tool for natural disasters and terrorist attacks, as well as border security.
“After numerous congressional briefings on the importance of the NAO and its solid legal footing, politics beat out good government,” said Andrew Levy, who was deputy general counsel at the department in the Bush administration.