Spy satellites and other classified intelligence technologies are poised to play a greater role in domestic homeland security and law enforcement missions, challenging long-standing legal and policy barriers against their domestic use.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that the Director of National Intelligence recently authorized access to intelligence satellite products by officials of the Department of Homeland Security to help support border security.
See "U.S. to Expand Domestic Use of Spy Satellites" by Robert Block, Wall Street Journal, August 15, p.1:
A comprehensive 2005 government study of the use of intelligence capabilities for domestic applications concluded that "significant change is needed in policy regimes regulating domestic use of IC [intelligence community] capabilities" in order to permit their full exploitation.
"The use of IC capabilities for domestic purposes should be… based on the premise that most uses of IC capabilities are lawful rather than treating any use as an exception to the rule requiring a case-by-case adjudication," the study said.
"There is an urgent need for a top-down, Executive Branch review of all laws and policies affecting use of intelligence capabilities for domestic purposes," the report said.
In particular, the 1981 Executive Order 12333 which governs intelligence activities "should be amended to permit as unfettered an operational environment for the collection, exploitation and dissemination [of domestic intelligence data] as is reasonably possible," the report recommended.
The authors acknowledged that such "unfettered" operation would require increased oversight, but they suggested that it could be satisfactorily accomplished by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The Board has been a minor, not notably influential player in recent intelligence policy disputes.Congress, caving in to the Bush Administration's scare tactics on eavesdropping, already found a way to provide oversightless oversight: give Alberto Gonzales extraordinary powers to invade people's privacy, then turn oversight of those extraordinary powers and Alberto Gonzales to ... Alberto Gonzales.