One of the less known problems with the Obama White House has to do with satellite spying against Americans. You would think that here, in the United States of America, a person could reasonable expect to step outside of his or her home without being watched by the police. In fact, we have a little thing called the Bill of Rights, which guarantees protection from that sort of thing – it’s called the Fourth Amendment, and it reads:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. “
I would hope that everyone could agree that people cannot be reasonably regarded as secure from unreasonable search when there are machines flying overhead, beyond the range of sight, snapping photographs of the people and things below, without any search warrant. Yet, that’s just what’s happening now, and Congress, Democrat and Republican alike, is failing to stop this abuse of our constitutional rights. Military spy satellites that were designed to snoop on the activities of foreign armies are now watching over the private activities of American citizens within the borders of the USA.
The problem was started under George W. Bush, but with the cooperation of Democrats in Congress, who helped pass the Protect America Act and the FISA Amendments Act, the laws that enable the satellite spying program to operate. However, Barack Obama cannot be said to be merely continuing this spy program that targets Americans. President Obama is seeking to expand its funding and operations.
At the hub of this satellite spy program is a Homeland Security organization called the National Applications Office. The NAO takes the information gathered through satellites, and coordinates the sharing of that information with local, state and federal law enforcement officials. So, the military conducts spying against Americans, without a search warrant, which is then made available even to local sheriffs to use as they will.
At the beginning of this year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano promised to conduct a review of the threats to American civil liberties created by the spying program, and to present the review to members of Congress. Yet, according to members of Congress on relevant committees, no such review has taken place.
Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security requested additional funding for the National Applications Office this year – but without even consulting congressional committees that are supposed to be conducting oversight of the NAO. How much funding did they ask for? That’s classified.
Yes, the Obama White House is seeking to expand unconstitutional, warrantless spying against Americans using military satellites, and they’re asking you to help pay the bill. But, Barack Obama and his aides won’t even let you know how much you’re being charged for the satellites that are spying on you.
These operations are so far into the territory of “unreasonable searches” that I would have expected a firestorm of outrage. However, corporate journalists aren’t reporting on the story. There are only handful of journalistic articles mentioning the National Applications Office, and none of them dig very far into the story. No professional journalists are connecting the dots. It’s up to little folks like us, here at Irregular Times, to look at the public record and try to put the pieces together.
(Pieces like the offhand comment by the New York Times back in April that spy satellites are being used to gather information about Americans’ telephone calls and emails – a reminder that spy satellites these days do a heck of a lot more than just take photographs)
I appreciate the opportunity to do some original investigation into an important issue, but it really shouldn’t be this way. The Associated Press ought to be all over this. The Washington Post ought to devote a team to the story. Sadly, such is the state of American journalism that we get more articles about President Obama’s love of cheeseburgers than about the Obama Administration’s continuation of George W. Bush’s electronic spying programs.
Among the tidbits that almost no one has taken note of is that on Friday, the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a markup hearing on the 2010 fiscal year appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Norman Dicks, a member of that subcommittee, has co-authored H.R. 2703, a bill to completely defund the National Applications Office. It was hoped that Representative Dicks would use the occasion of the markup hearing to remove funding from the National Applications Office. However, Dicks chose not to do so.
The subcommittee suggests that it might be reducing the amount of funding for the National Applications Office to an amount that is somewhat less than what President Obama requested. However, as of this morning, the markup listings (here and here) of the Homeland Security programs with reduced or eliminated funding do not include the National Applications Office.
The trick is that the budget for the National Applications Office might have been reduced in the Homeland Security 2010 appropriations bill, but without any public sign that such a reduction has taken place. The funding for the National Applications Office is classified, after all. We the people of the United States of America are not allowed to know how much money is being spent to spy on us.
We’re supposed to simply trust that the House Appropriations Committee has made the reductions, and trust that the Obama Administration will get the message, and trust that the National Applications Office is only being used to spy against bad people. That trust has not been earned.
When our own government has established a program capable of using military agencies to spy against us with satellites flying in orbit over our neighborhoods, in violation of the Constitution and posse comitatus law, there is no reason for Americans to trust that everything is as it should be.
The only way that we can know that National Applications Office satellite spy operations targeting American citizens are not taking place is to pass the legislation introduced by Representative Dicks and Representative Jane Harman, H.R. 2703 and H.R. 2704, to completely eliminate the NAO’s funding and shut the office down for good.
So far, it seems that support for these bills among congressional Democrats is next to nonexistent.