August 16, 2007

A Step In The Wrong Direction (Update: Kyllo)

The Bush administration wants to allow law-enforcement agencies to use military and intelligence satellites as a resource for investigations. Real-time imagery and technology than can look inside buildings and even bunkers could be used to pursue criminal investigations, a boon for law enforcement officials -- but a nightmare for civil libertarians:

The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.

Administration officials say the program will give domestic security and emergency preparedness agencies new capabilities in dealing with a range of threats, from illegal immigration and terrorism to hurricanes and forest fires. But the program, described yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, quickly provoked opposition from civil liberties advocates, who said the government is crossing a well-established line against the use of military assets in domestic law enforcement.

Although the federal government has long permitted the use of spy-satellite imagery for certain scientific functions -- such as creating topographic maps or monitoring volcanic activity -- the administration's decision would provide domestic authorities with unprecedented access to high-resolution, real-time satellite photos.

Using these satellite resources for scientific research seems unobjectionable, and some might even prefer that to their military and national security applications. It violates no one's privacy and helps advance our ability to use and conserve our natural resources, as well as prepare for potential natural disasters. That's significantly different than using satellites to peer past closed doors.

While some conservatives undoubtedly would argue that they see nothing wrong with giving law-enforcement agencies access to existing technology, others will rightly object on two grounds. First, the obvious application for the sneak-peek technology would be to avoid search warrants. If probable cause existed for a warrant, law enforcement wouldn't need the satellite technology; they'd simply enter. That's the way it's supposed to work, and has worked well for over 200 years. Civil liberty is based in part on judicial oversight of law enforcement encroachment on private property, which the sneak-peek technology would obliterate.

Second and perhaps more importantly, American legal tradition has separated military and foreign-intel collection from domestic law enforcement, and for good reasons. The Posse Comitatus Act forbids the military (except the Coast Guard, for certain purposes) from acting in a law-enforcement role, except under emergencies specifically requiring martial law. This law keeps the federal government from usurping power from local and state authorities. Since these satellites were launched with strictly military and foreign-intel missions in mind, using them as tools for law enforcement may not entirely cross the PCA, but it gets too close for comfort.

Unless the use of the satellites is strictly limited to national-security applications, such as a counterterrorist operation or immigration enforcement (both of which are legitimate national-security concerns under federal jurisdiction), satellites should not be used as law-enforcement tools. We did not put those military assets in orbit to be deployed against the people of the United States.

UPDATE AND BUMP: The decision in Kyllo appears very relevant here. Law enforcement used a thermal imaging device to determine that a defendant had a significant marijuana operation in his home. The government argued that heat escaping someone's house did not require a warrant to capture in an image. The Supreme Court differed:

While it may be difficult to refine the Katz test in some instances, in the case of the search of a home’s interior–the prototypical and hence most commonly litigated area of protected privacy–there is a ready criterion, with roots deep in the common law, of the minimal expectation of privacy that exists, and that is acknowledged to be reasonable. To withdraw protection of this minimum expectation would be to permit police technology to erode the privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Thus, obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the home’s interior that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical “intrusion into a constitutionally protected area,” Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 512, constitutes a search–at least where (as here) the technology in question is not in general public use. This assures preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted. Pp. 6—7.

By a 5-4 decision, which Antonin Scalia wrote and which was joined by Clarence Thomas, the Court ruled the search illegal. Given that precedent, the language in Kyllo anticipates the use of satellite technology as well, in its specific reference to "sense-enhancing technology ... not in general public use." It would require a search warrant to use -- and if law enforcement can get a search warrant, they can just search the area in the normal fashion. (h/t CQ reader Shivan M)


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Step In The Wrong Direction (Update: Kyllo):

» you can be outraged . . . from Haft of the Spear
… only if you think Enemy of the State is anywhere close to real life: The U.S.’s top intelligence official has greatly expanded the range of federal and local authorities who can get access to information from the nation’s vast... [Read More]

» Spy Satellites Should Not be Used Domestically from Swanky Conservative
Man, this one is going to rile up the Black Helicopter crowd. It might actually make Alex Jones’ head explode. The Washington Post reports that the administration wants to give law enforcement agencies access to spy satellites and surveillance ai... [Read More]

» Domestic Spying: Stretching Inches into Miles from Buck Naked Politics
Not content with the ability to secretly tap into Americans' emails and phone calls, the Bush Administration seeks to expand its domestic-spying powers:A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Home... [Read More]

Comments (40)

Posted by Ron C | August 16, 2007 3:39 PM

You got that right, Ed.

In no way whatsoever should any US military assets be turned toward US citizens. That is the stuff of pure dictatorships.

Posted by mdmhvonpa | August 16, 2007 3:47 PM

Just think of what a boon this would have been for the Clinton Administration (The first one, hopefully). Ruby Ridge, Waco, Gonzoles (The boy, not the mouse) ... they all could have been assaulted so much more efficiently. You know, it's curious that we have not seen any of this 'Big Fascist Brother' kind of stuff in the last 6 years.

Posted by Wyre | August 16, 2007 3:51 PM

Cap't -

I believe that your concern over the avoidance of search warrants is misplaced.

In Kyllo v. US, Justice Scalia, writing for the Court held that "Where, as here, the Government uses a device [Thermal Imaging Device] that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment "search," and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant."

If a local police force is required to first have a warrant before being given access to satellite imagery, as I believe would be required under Kyllo, I see little reason for concern over this new policy.

Posted by Michael | August 16, 2007 3:58 PM

Regular and rigorous oversight of such activity is both essential and desired, but let’s not get carried away with the possible when reality tells us what is most probable.

Tasking satellites (moving them around, aiming them in a given direction) is expensive, time-consuming, and not done against foreign targets without extensive vetting and review. Domestic tasking is almost assuredly going to be subjected to the same if not more scrutiny as domestic targets are going to have to compete with foreign ones for priority. In a bureaucratic battle between the CIA and DHS, guess who wins?

Real life is not like _Enemy of the State_.

Posted by Okonkolo | August 16, 2007 4:08 PM

Hear, hear, Captain;

we don't need to go back very far in our own history to find examples of intel gathering etc. used purely for political purposes.

Posted by Count to 10 | August 16, 2007 4:46 PM

I have never seen any problem with these kind of surveillance technologies. So what if it can look inside of houses? Why does anyone expect a right to be able to hide things?
As I understand it, the issue of warrants began as a reaction to searches that harassed residents and took their property without justification. Technology that allows one to "look" into houses does neither of these.

Posted by ajacksonian | August 16, 2007 5:31 PM

As with the NSA data, the Executive is not allowed to store data on US Citizens in the US or its territories via such means. That is existing law, and all Agencies, including DoD, have it enforced. That is why the NSA/FISA work needed to be updated.

Note that the limits of the Nation State end at the atmospheric edge, defined by treaty. Nation States are containers having sides (agreed-upon borders) that extend to the center of the planet, thusly a bottom, and a top, defined by the edge of the atmosphere. Outside of that is *not* National jurisdiction, but international as defined by law and the sole purview, outside of commerce regularization of signed Treaties authorized by the Senate and President, of the President. All data gathered of a personal nature from imagery or other similar (Multispectral/Hyperspectral, MASINT) sources are similarly bound by the data laws for storage by the Federal government in territories controlled by the US.

Even those Agencies outside of the INTEL Community have to go through scrubs to ensure that all citizen data is either lawfully held (as with the IRS, for example) or enumerated and destroyed. There are very few National Security cases for temporary keeping of such data, but those, also, fall under lawful review. After initial determination period has passed such data is either applied for via law to criminal cases or ongoing investigations that are also sanctioned, extnsions sought via FISA for INTEL analysis, or expunged.

Collection of other data from non-territorial means falls to the President. That is what the Constitution gives that office to defend the United States. Note that private satellites fall under treaty provisions and seeking data via those also falls under Federal Law for the Government. Having been a member of one of the IMINT Agencies, I have been through this drill a few times, which was (for us) mostly to make sure that the small amount of data we had that fell on US territory was geophysical/geographical in nature.

Yes the data can be gathered and yes it can be used for National Security, and no it can't be kept indefinitely without a court ok on it. Just like the NSA and DIA and CIA and all the other members of the INTEL Community.

Of course given the wrist-slapping that Sandy Berger got, your guess is as good as mine on if such things would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But then he was only destroying historical records of the United States that were under Security controls.... just the actual, historical records from a President held in trust for the People of the United States...

Posted by GarandFan | August 16, 2007 5:36 PM

I think the annoucement is rather overblown. Others have already pointed out the legal hurdles. Personally, I can't see any real use other than to gain overhead views of outdoor crime scenes.....flying a helicopter or plane just for the photos is an expensive item for most smaller departments.

Another use would be, dare I say it, mapping marijuana fields. In this case, I doubt you have a privacy issue, since it's mostly done on federal land to begin with.

The Border Patrol would have more uses for real time intelligence than local PD's.

Posted by SoldiersMom | August 16, 2007 5:42 PM

I've often wondered what law enforcement would be like if we had this kind of technology. We might have actual footage of OJ killing Nicole and Ron. Maybe we could have seen who broke into the Ramsey's house.

I don't fear this type of thing, but then, I don't have anything to hide and I'm not paranoid (maybe I should be). This technology might free someone who's been convicted, but was innocent (like DNA).

Posted by Ray | August 16, 2007 5:48 PM

The police have been using "military" equipment for years. Think about all the FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) equipment the police use. That was military equipment that was adapted for civilian use, and it has become a very valuable asset.

The same can be said of the satellites. It's just a piece of equipment. There is no violation of the Posse Comitatus Act if a satellite is used as long as no member of the military actually is involved in the control of that satellite. The military itself doesn't control the satellites, the National Reconnaissance Office has control of those satellites. If the President wants to allow the Justice department to have access to the satellites, that shouldn't be a problem.

As far as warrants are concerned, public activities are not protected and the police do not require a warrant to observe and record someone's public activities. Anyone, including police, can photograph you in public areas, like walking in a or on a public sidewalk, without the need for a search warrant. As long as the satellites are not used to invade a private area (like looking through your bedroom window) without a warrant, no civil rights have been violated. Also, some activities, like driving a car, can be observed without a warrant as this is considered a public activity. The police can follow you without a warrant, but they can not stop you and search the car without probable cause and/or a warrant.

To insure that the satellite surveillance is not abused, the president and the NRO needs to allow for some type of oversight. I'm sure several member of congress would like the job of policing the government. Senator Waxman, among others, seems to enjoy doing this already so there's plenty of prospective applicants for the job. If congress doesn't want the job, I'm sure the MSM would gladly jump at the chance.

Posted by Eric | August 16, 2007 6:21 PM

Seems to me that the "not in general public use" element of Kyllo is in danger of being eroded by the easy public access to at least some overhead imagery through Google and other private sources. Thus, there may indeed be a concern that 4th Amendment protections are inadequate to secure us against satellite surveillance.

Posted by filistro | August 16, 2007 6:42 PM

I don't understand this at all.

Here we have this group of people who are so fiercely protective of the right to bear arms, and who state that one of their motivations is the possible need for a citizenry to protect itself at some future time from the threat of a rogue government.

Yet that very same group is, by and large, quite sanguine about putting the sort of power the Captain refers to.... into the hands of government!

What am I missing here?

Posted by Bennett | August 16, 2007 6:43 PM

I don't think the desire for privacy has anything to do with whether or not one is engaged in illicit activity. I simply don't want the government spying on me and I have no reason to hide anything, other than the normal personal activities that anyone would do in his or her home.

It amazes me that we sometimes have a tendency to view our government as essentially benign, interested only in rooting out the truly bad guys and protecting all of us good people. And it doesn't seem to matter how often we are proven wrong in this benevolent view. Government can always find a rationale to justify its intrusion into our lives. The more willing we are to accept this without complaint, the more it will happen.

While there may be some justification for use of this technology provided there are adequate safeguards, I would point out that getting a PC warrant isn't all that hard to do especially when the police are willing to lie to do it. Case in point: the incident in Atlanta where a 94 woman was fatally shot in her own home by police on an ill-fated narco raid, a raid fully supported by a warrant, a warrant that was based upon knowingly false information. If the resident hadn't been killed, I'm not sure any of this would have ever come to light.

Posted by E9 RET | August 16, 2007 6:47 PM

Actually Cap'n the "Posse Comitatus Act" only applies to the U.S. Army and because the USAF came out of the Army most legal scholars believes it pertains to the Air Force as well. The Navy and USMC are both excluded .

Indeed, in Jan 1973 Mark Essex, who held hundreds of cops at bay for 10 hours, paralyzing the Central Business District in Nawleans, was killed during a rooftop gun battle supposedly with "police sharpshooters who fired from a marine assault helicopter."

The sharpshooters might have included police but there's not a G.I. alive who could mistake that "sharpshooter" weapon's "chug, chug, chug" as anything other than what it was; an M-60.

I don't know about the shooters but the chopper pilot got a medal as I recall.

Posted by Dave Thul | August 16, 2007 7:41 PM

Good analogy, but FLIR (forward looking infrared radar) isn't used to look into buildings, it is used mostly to find bodies or criminals in hiding in wooded terrain.
I am as strong a proponent of a good offense on the War on Terror as there is, but there comes a point in which the freedoms we would be giving up are not worth the added security. This technology, in my mind, should be used just like executing a search warrant-show a judge probable cause and you can look at the sattelite info, if available. See something of interest, then execute the warrant to physically search the property. If not, you saved the police department and the subject time and money.

Posted by gaffo | August 16, 2007 7:43 PM

Right on filistro!

"Conservatives" really do not value the 4th -only the 2nd, which will do little good when the 4, 5, 6 etc... are all gone.

I commend the Captain on this one! He holds the "Old School" conservative and classical Liberal position here. - that of defending liberty.

Posted by gaffo | August 16, 2007 7:47 PM


I would like to thank the Captain for his generosity, a true Gentleman.


Posted by gaffo | August 16, 2007 8:09 PM


I would like to thank the Captain for his generosity, a true Gentleman.


Posted by Brendan | August 16, 2007 8:39 PM

I must disagree with the learned judges of the court. IR imaging systems aren't things that are out of the general public use. Thermal imagers are cheap, plentiful, and used as toys, for hobbiests, and for hunters all the time - just like a pair of binoculars. I found this in no time. Additionally, a good infrared thermometer or could be used to look at building temperatures that are "out of the ordinary". With the proliferation of home meth labs and homegrown marijuana, the supreme court removed a tool that just extends our visual range. I'm all for civil liberties, but if someone is breaking the law and its visible to a cop passing by on the street (ie, through a window) should he be forced to ignore it? I'm not a lawyer, so maybe I'm being naive.... Using an infrared thermometer should be allowed in order to get a search warrant to look at, say, electrical bills, in order to determine if (way) above average power usage called for a further warrant... And what about chemical sniffers? When that technology comes further of age, should a sniffer that can detect the fumes put of by a meth lab not be in an officer's tool kit? It seems to me that people already freely give information away all the time (EZPass, cell phone locations - each of which can be called up by a court order, say in a divorce trial), yet police still have to work with stone age tools....

Posted by Kyle | August 16, 2007 8:48 PM

Even though "i have nothing to hide," i'm not going to invite the police into my house for tea and crumpets. Anyway, who other than a pervert would want to peak through my blinds (or roof)? Then again, i thoroughly enjoyed "Knocked Up," so my moral compass is obviously miscalibrated. And i hate bunnies.

War on drugs aside, i'm more worried about telemarketers getting into those satellite images, calling me up telling me just how much money i could save with triple pane windows and an extra 8 inches of insulation in the attic. The fewer BTUs i buy, the less money going into chavez's and saudi arabian pockets, right? Upgrade your siding, for the future of the children.

I remember catching a show on the history channel, about JFK handing out SR71 spy camera photos to all the players in the six day war. The blackbird (and dragon lady) had a signifigant cost per mission, and up until that point few knew the actual capabilities of our cameras. Did isreal, egypt, syria, jordan, saudia arabia et al shake hands in peace that lasts to this day? Or did they just get better at hiding their assets underground? Not sure how many private US citizens have tanks and warplanes and nuclear reactors in their backyards, but i'd be pretty upset if i knew my tax dollars were going towards the government spying on me with U2 flights. But since its a sateliite just sitting in orbit with nothing else to do but collect space dust, why not?

Not sure what they are looking for, but maybe they could target my neighbors that don't pick up their doggie doo. You might call it trivial (compared to drugs and large scale armed conflict), but failure to clean up after your pets is a major issue in my neighborhood that has caused a divide even between non-owners and the owners that actually do pick up. Kids play in the grass, and "land mines" can carry disease. But i have the rabies tags, village tags, name tags, and garbage bags all in order so i have nothing to hide.

Posted by Jaded | August 16, 2007 8:55 PM

Well you will not have any civil liberties if your dead. I am one of those who believes that if you are living right and doing nothing wrong then my government can do what they need to do to ensure the safety of my family. It was pc crap and "civil" liberties that allowed 9-11 and I am of the NEVER AGAIN school of thought.

Posted by mrlynn | August 16, 2007 9:12 PM

Yes, use all available technology to spy on criminals (and terrorists).

Yes, require a warrant before you can use it where there is a reasonable and traditional expectation of privacy, and before it can be used in court.

End of problem.

/Mr Lynn

Posted by Mike | August 16, 2007 9:17 PM

Knee jerk reactions to large and complex issues are almost always wrong. Captain, when you get this many attaboys from your liberal readers, you have got to be wondering about your position on this one.

Filistro, what you and others are missing is that making new and better technology available to law enforcement is not only an ongoing and constant necessity, but it is also the right thing to do. You, and unfortunately the Captain here, seem to think that the local two cop police department in podunkville will be able just take over a satellite anytime they wish to see if you are hiding your blunts in your underwear drawer. That is a foolish and completely kneejerk reaction to this idea. This fear is one that logistics would prevent. In reality the level of hoops and hurtles and red tape that retasking a satellite requires, would take a great deal of effort and expense; resulting in more paperwork and oversight than any other form of investigation. This would necessitate only using these tools in major investigations, and in those cases the prosecutors would be risking their careers and reputations if they did not make certain they cross all the legal T’s and dotted all their legal I’s.

Kyllo does not prohibit the use of new technology for law enforcement. It does make a case that using some tools may require a search warrant. But the comment that if you had to get the warrant anyway police could just do the old fashioned search is silly. They could do that but there are all kinds of reasons it might not be a good idea. If information is faulty and a target is just not present at a given time, serving a typical warrant could ruin months of investigation by tipping off the suspect that he or she is even being investigated. But taking a look inside with a satellite, even if that look had to be authorized by a judge in a warrant similar to a wire tap, could be effective without the risk of blowing a case. If the case was significant enough to justify the logistics cost, it would be just one more reason the bad guys would have to worry; and the good guys could sleep easier at night.

And besides, if you would deny cops any tools that were originally developed for the military, that would include a whole lot of stuff, like GPS, most radios, rotary wing aircraft, body armor, and most firearms. Besides, if you think the government is so wretchedly crooked, what makes you think they don’t use that stuff to watch you anyway and just don’t tell you about it?

Posted by Woody | August 16, 2007 9:33 PM


Remember this outrage; for soon, time will quell it. When all is relatively calm, the next outrageous usurpation of power, or infringement upon a right will be launched.

Jaded, I'd like to point out that unconstitutional law infringing upon the right to keep and bear arms disarmed each and every law abiding passenger on those four planes-turned-into-guided-missles on 09/11/2001. I wonder how many of those victims of the terrorists were "living right and doing nothing wrong", yet are now dead. One armed law abiding citizen on each of those planes could have made a big difference on that day. Look what courage alone accomplished on Flight 93.


Look at your rights and freedoms as what would be required to survive and be free as if there were no government. Governments come and go, but your rights live on. If you wish to survive government, you must protect with jealous resolve all the powers that come with your rights - especially with the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Without the power of those arms, you will perish with that government - or at its hand. B.E. Wood

Posted by Bennett | August 16, 2007 9:35 PM

I'm probably treading into deep waters here without a life preserver but I don't think a concern about the government's use of its power is just a liberal issue, I think it's typically considered a conservative or at least a libertarian issue as well. There are some things that liberals and conservatives do agree on (amazing I know) and one of those things is that government can use its power for good or ill and it's unwise to assume that it will always be the former and not the latter.

I don't know enough about this technology to say how it should best be used but I have lived long enough to know that any tool given to law enforcement or to the government generally can be abused unless there are proper safeguards and oversight in place. As Thomas Jefferson said, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance" and when he said that he was talking about being vigilant in watching what those in charge do. I think he had that right (and with this I will climb down off my soapbox).

Posted by kindlingman | August 16, 2007 10:09 PM

I have an inalienable right to be left alone by any surveillance devices, police powers, military might, or political tom foolery that can be dreamed up unless I am suspected of, and there is probable cause that I have committed, a crime.
Phishing for criminals is not permitted by the inalienable rights I possess that are not enumerated in the Constitution of the United States.
I have an inalienable right to be anonymous in public, to keep my identity hidden, to keep my residence secret, and to keep privately to myself all those things I do not wish to disclose to others. The government does not have the right to know who I am or where I go or what I do.
In 1776, we called this Freedom. What do we call it today?

Posted by Tom Frank | August 16, 2007 10:27 PM

Allow me to point out another issue that seems to have been lost in the story.

This technology/capability is amongst our most closely guarded secrets. So now we're going to make it available to legions of Barney Fife's? Does that make any sense from the National Security perspective?

Heck, once they give away the store, why not just post all the imagery on the Internet in real time, and let people enjoy the view. Have a call in number at the bottom of the screen if they see anything particularly interesting (virtual border fence, anyone?).

Posted by Carol Herman | August 16, 2007 10:43 PM

I give the Supreme-O's a big shrug here; since the "thermal imaging" gave the Fed's an advantage.

HERE IT IS: Marijuana, growing in your home, is useless to you. UNLESS you've got a way to "sell it."

In other words? It's NOT the plants! It's the CASH BUSINESS.

So here you have a tool. That alerts the DOUGHNUT EATERS, that a crime COULD TAKE PLACE, where they COULD CATCH the thieves GETTING MONEY for the plants. But that's not what they do.

They raid the house, instead.

Why make it easy for the idiots with badges to "bag one?" We're talking about "shooting fish in a barrel," here.

Not that I care what you grow. I, for one, would rip into the whole drug industry by letting people grow whatever they want. BUT IF THE BUSINESS IS OF A SIZE THAT YOUR PRODUCTS END UP IN GROCERY STORES? Then, I'd make sure this stuff measured up to FOOD STANDARDS. And/or DRUG STANDARDS!

Today, up at Instapundit there's a link to an operation that came out of China. Importing FAKE and ILLEGAL test strips for One Touch. Probably the most popular drug testing equipment diabetics use at home. Johnson & Johnson PAID FOR the legal foot work. Because China was cutting into their legitimate markets.

The other thing? Who sez our Feds got the best equipment? They didn't, when it came to buying computers. And, I'd bet they still don't. Not yet, at least.

And, the worst part of giving tools to idiots? They'll find ways to sell this stuff to the bad guys.

On the other hand? New York City is head and shoulders above Homeland Security. Small agencies, instead of monolithic DC.

By the way, to grow "grass" in your basement, takes lights and water. And, you'd be surprised; but your local "meter man" ... probably sees the "upticks" in usage, first. Just like the postman knows what's going on, by walking up to properties every day.

The best "privacy" you can arrange for yourselves is to stay out of illegal businesses.

Posted by 74 | August 17, 2007 12:28 AM

I figure these arguments are going to pretty moot in 20 years. At the rate that technology is improving, by then, the local criminal will be able to log onto a Chinese or Russian mob run spy sat system and know which houses to break into. Of course, by then the owners will probably have an armed stealth robot patrolling the home while they are gone. Once a technology becomes available, you can't stop it from being used; you can only stop it from being used by honest people, or the people who are supposed to protect you. This is why gun control laws don't work and police are frequently outgunned by the bad guys. The only way to avoid abuse of a certain technology is to use it yourself, employ a counter technology, or make the consequences of using it undesirable.

Posted by DJ Elliott | August 17, 2007 12:40 AM

MilSat imagery has been used for decades for making your maps, etc.
If they see something illegal in the process of doing that, they are obligated by law to report the crime or become an accessory after the fact.
The same type of imagery is available to the general public these days...

Posted by Ripper | August 17, 2007 1:29 AM

So, the military can use high tech to get our secrets?

We can do the same...

Posted by Dale Michaud aka TexasDude | August 17, 2007 1:52 AM

Here's the deal ...

Local law enforcement has been handicapped since the Bonny and Clyde days (think BAR and the National Firearms Acts, which was a bad attempt at rectifying the situation),

Today, local law enforcement may have the ability to trump the bad guys .... and that is a bad thing?

Please, give me a break.

When civil libertarians get worked up about situations like this, all the do is demonstrate that that they have no clue about what the founders of the nations were about or were fighting and dying for.

Posted by Niccolo | August 17, 2007 4:16 AM

Can I please redirect everyone's attention to to the fact that WE'RE IN A WAR HERE?

We're in a war that will determine whether
Western Civilization (such as it is) continues to exist and develop, or it drifts into the Dustbin of History and a new Dark Age begins.

This is the Ghost Generation talking. I was born in October 1940. There aren't many of us. It was tough getting through, diptheria at 13 months, pernicious anemia at two. I wasn't three when my dad took me by the paw out to the southernmost point of Chesapeake Bay. We watched a convoy being torpedoed by a National Socialist wolfpack of submarines. I understood from then on why my mom and dad were so involved in their work in countersabotage at a major East Coast airplane factory. I understood why I was parked so much of the time at the daycare center with the nice old ladies in the homespun sweaters and the shoulder holsters.

So please people, you too Captain: understand: This is a war. This is the Third Great Jihad.

We could lose this.

And we -- and the rest of humanity -- would lose everything.

Posted by triticale | August 17, 2007 6:13 AM

Carol Herman says that marijuana growing in my house is useless unless I have a way to sell it. Not really; I consume an ounce or so a year. I would in fact grow my own were I not paranoid about the consequences, but the legal situation in this country makes it more attractive to me to deal with people more criminal than myself.

BTW, there is plenty of information available on line on how to minimize the heat signature of a grow op.

Posted by docjim505 | August 17, 2007 6:24 AM


1. Military recon satellites and the data they generate are among our most highly-classified secrets (almost as highly classified as The Hilldabeast's White House records). They should be used for national security purposes and nothing else.

2. I didn't like red light cameras and I don't like the idea that the local cops might be peering through my roof. I have nothing to hide, but that's not the point: I have the right to be secure in my person, home, car, etc. from search and seizure unless there is probable cause that I've committed a crime.

3. Talk about a program ripe for abuse!

Here comes a candle to light you to bed / Here comes a chopper to chop off your head

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some firearms to clean and then I'm gonna surf the NRA website for a little light reading.

Posted by Subsunk | August 17, 2007 9:00 AM

Hate to burst everyone's bubble here, but these satellites have been used or at least the authority has existed since at least 1991 to use these assets for law enforcement purposes. They may be DoDs satellites, but they belong to agencies which FOLLOW THE RULES regarding doemstic spying without a warrant. They have always been used with a warrant, and there is nothing untoward ever happened from their use for law enforcement purposes. The largest marijuana fields in the US national forests have been found using our satellites. It is legal and has been used for many years.

And none of you have ever been the worse for wear for that authority, given under the War on Drugs authority. Your government has too few people to give a tinkers damn about your trivial and petty illegal pursuits over what you are watching on TV or whether you are yourself spying on your neighbors wife sunbathing nude next door or talking dirty to the girl down the street over the phone. welcome to the club. Everyone is doing it and nobody cares. The data is out there and your privacy is under much greater threat from telemarketers and Google Earth than from the US government. For crying out loud there are only 11,000 FBI agents in the entire bureau. How many are needed to prosecute the hundreds of thousands of violent and serious crimes which are already perpetrated daily? There are probably only a couple hundred available to actually do any seeking of information on supposed crimes that they haven't been tipped off to by other methods.

When the federal government employs every other citizen in the US to spy on their neighbors, then I'll worry about Big Brother. Until then, you guys need to get a grip.


Posted by Ray | August 17, 2007 10:43 AM

People seem confused about Infrared imaging and it's capabilities and limitations, especially the courts.

Infrared cameras do not look into a building, it senses the exterior of a building using a part of the light spectrum that is not visible to the human eye. Since the camera is only sensing the light that is naturally being emitted from the exterior of a building, and since no search warrant is needed to photograph or observe an exterior of a building, you're civil rights are not violated when the police (or anyone else) looks at your house through devices that can sense infrared wavelengths.

Remember your science lessons, Infrared light does not travel through a solid object, the object absorbs that light and generates heat in the process. That heat is conducted through the object and the object emits it's own infrared light as it dissipates that heat. The infrared cameras and sensors are looking at the heat that is present on the exterior of a building. Since the camera is only capable of detecting the exterior of a building, no invasion of privacy is involved as anyone can look at the exterior of a building without a need for a warrant.

It is comparable to seeing a very bright light shining out for someone's window and onto the street below. Suppose you had a very bright light shining shining on your window shade. If you walk past your house and look at that window, you would see a very bright glow coming from that window. You don't see the interior of your house, you see the light that is emitted outside the physical boundaries of your house. Do the police need a warrant to photograph a bright glow from your windows? No, as that is an exterior feature and not an interior one.

Posted by abw | August 17, 2007 11:20 AM

"if law enforcement can get a search warrant, they can just search the area in the normal fashion."

I imagine there will be times that the technology will provide an edge, for example the botched Waco raid from the 90s. Perhaps something that could provide exact locations of the people inside could have saved lives.

Posted by ChuckC | August 17, 2007 12:27 PM

You wrote: "Just think of what a boon this would have been for the Clinton Administration (The first one, hopefully). Ruby Ridge, Waco, ..."

The clinton administraton was bad enough on its own. Ruby Ridge took place on Aug 21, 1992. Clinton was inaugurated on Jan 20, 1993.

Posted by filistro | August 17, 2007 2:06 PM

Thanks, doc. You've restored my faith in my fellow man.... at least a little bit.

I don't mind passionate political views. I'm interested in the opinions of the extreme right AND the extreme left, if they're sincere. I don't care if they disagree with me, and I don't even mind if some of these folks are a bit crazy, as long as they're consistent.

But the spectacle of folks so dim that they'd arm themselves to the teeth to protect themselves against potential government abuse.. and then placidly cede to that same government the right to spy on them with satellites, tap into their phones without warrants and suspend habeus corpus.... well, what can I say.

Thanks for being a true blue conservative. There aren't many left nowadays. The modern conservative seems more like a giraffe than an elephant... i.e... an odd and puzzling animal assembled by a committee.

Sorry, you were busy cleaning your firearms. Didn't mean to interrupt.

Carry on....

Post a comment