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Military Satellite Spying on the American People Judged OK by… Defense Contractors

If you want to understand how military spy satellites could possibly be deployed to conduct surveillance on the American people, in violation of Posse Comitatus prohibitions of military deployment in the United States, without the judicial warrants guaranteed by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, ask yourself: who made it possible?

The path to military satellite reconnaissance of the American people was laid down by a “Blue Ribbon Study” commissioned by the Bush administration, whose inter-agency Civil Applications Committee (CAC) created an “Independent Study Group” to write its report. This report, issued in September 2005, made the following conclusions:

Intelligence Capabilities (as used in this report) includes: national satellite sensors; technical collection capabilities (archival, current & future) of the DoD; airborne sensors; NSA worldwide assets; military and other MASINT sensors; and sophisticated exploitation/analytic capabilities….

During the course of the study, no one said that they were failing at their mission due to the lack of access to IC capabilities. There was no “Burning Bridge” identified by the participating agencies and stakeholders. However, there were many areas where the process was shown to be broken and where efficiencies in the process can be realized to greatly increase the timeliness and relevance of the information provided. The current system operates in a risk-averse vice risk-management environment where protection of sources and methods and individual civil liberties, while important concerns to be carefully considered and taken into account, are the predominant concerns unreasonably operating to limit appropriate support to the defense of the homeland.

What was the makeup of this “Independent Study Group” concluding that civil liberties are unreasonably predominant in limiting the use of satellites to spy on the American people? Consult the report, page 2, to find the following names and affiliations:

Mr. Keith Hall: Chairman and Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton

Edward G. Anderson: Principal, Booz Allen Hamilton

Jeff Baxter: Independent Consultant

Thomas W. Conroy: Vice President, National Security Programs, Northrop Grumman/TASC

Dr. Paul Gilman: Director, Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies

Patrick M. Hughes: L-3 Communications

Kemp Lear: Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton

Kevin O’Connell: Director, Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis

Joseph D. Whitley: Alston & Bird, LLP

Greg Jay: Booz Allen Hamilton

Keith Elliot: USGS

Bob Evans: Booz Allen Hamilton

Marty Eckes: USGS

Chuck Symes: Booz Allen Hamilton

Randy Soderholm: ODNI

Ed Obloy: Booz Allen Hamilton

Robin Saenz: Booz Allen Hamilton

While Jeff Baxter is listed as an “independent consultant,” at the time of the report’s publication he was under the employ of military contractor Northrop Grumman when not participating in his other career as (I am not kidding) a guitarist for the likes of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.

National Applications Office Spy Satellites in the Air Spying on AmericansThat makes two “Independent Study Group” participants out of 17 affiliated with Northrop Grumman, a contractor that builds military surveillance satellites on the federal government’s dime.

Another participant in the “Independent Study Group” worked for L-3 Communications, which has more federal contracts for military satellite systems.

An additional 8 out of the 17 “Independent Study Group” participants were in the employ of Booz Allen Hamilton, another contractor for the Total Information Awareness data-mining effort of the Bush years, along with NSA warrantless wiretapping programs.

When 11 out of 17 members of an “Independent Study Group” are military contractors getting money from federal government coffers to develop surveillance systems — heck, when nearly half of the members come from just one corporation — should we wonder that the “Independent Study Group” concludes that the Constitution is an unreasonably predominant concern blocking the domestic deployment of military surveillance?

The Congressional Research Service has issued a follow-up report that documents the historical link between the findings of this “Independent Study Group” and the creation of the domestic-spying National Applications Office. The planning for the NAO occurred during the Bush administration, with implementation being carried out thanks to the efforts of the Obama administration. The NAO has been set up to take this military satellite imagery and farm it out to law enforcement officials at the federal, state and local level. As House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson notes, in this process there was:

no briefing, no hearing, no phone calls from anyone on [the DHS] staff to inform any member of this committee of why, how or when satellite imagery would be shared with police and sheriff’s offices nationwide.

I am looking forward to the next speech by Dick Cheney or Barack Obama, explaining again why citizens must cultivate a greater trust in their government.

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