NAO - Another US Spy
The NAO is "an idea whose time has arrived,"
a top U.S. intelligence official said. The National Applications Office, sounds
like a light administrative organization, but the name is not to fool. This
agency has extensive spying capabilities. http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1187188414685.shtm
What Will The NAO Do?
The plan for the NAO builds on a domestic security infrastructure that has been
in place for at least seven years. After the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001, the NSA was granted new powers to monitor domestic communications without
obtaining warrants from a secret foreign intelligence court established by
Congress in 1978 (that warrant-less program ended in January 2007 but was
allowed to continue, with some changes, under legislation passed by Congress in
Moreover, intelligence and reconnaissance agencies that were historically
confined to spying on foreign countries have been used extensively on the home
front since 2001. In the hours after the September 11th, 2001 attacks in New
York, for example, the Bush administration called on the NGA to capture imagery
from lower Manhattan and the Pentagon to help in the rescue and recovery
efforts. In 2002, when two deranged snipers terrified the citizens of Washington
and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs with a string of fatal shootings, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked the NGA to provide detailed images
of freeway interchanges and other locations to help spot the pair.
The NGA was also used extensively during Hurricane Katrina , when the agency
provided overhead imagery -- some of it supplied by U-2 photoreconnaissance
aircraft -- to federal and state rescue operations. The data, which included
mapping of flooded areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, allowed residents of the
stricken areas to see the extent of damage to their homes and helped
first-responders locate contaminated areas as well as schools, churches and
hospitals that might be used in the rescue. More recently, during the October
2007 California wildfires, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked
the NGA to analyze overhead imagery of the fire zones and determine the areas of
maximum intensity and damage. In every situation that the NGA is used
domestically, it must receive a formal request from a lead domestic agency,
according to agency spokesperson David Burpee. That agency is usually FEMA,
which is a unit of DHS.
At first blush, the idea of a U.S. intelligence agency serving the public by
providing imagery to aid in disaster recovery sounds like a positive
development, especially when compared to the Bush administration’s misuse of
the NSA and the Pentagon’s Counter-Intelligence Field Activity (CIFA) to spy
on American citizens. But the notion of using spy satellites and aircraft for
domestic purposes becomes problematic from a civil liberties standpoint when the
full capabilities of agencies like the NGA and the NSA are considered.
Imagine, for example, that U.S. intelligence officials have determined, through
NSA telephone intercepts, that a group of worshippers at a mosque in Oakland,
California, has communicated with an Islamic charity in Saudi Arabia. This is
the same group that the FBI and the U.S. Department of the Treasury believe is
linked to an organization unfriendly to the United States.
Imagine further that the FBI, as a lead agency, asks and receives permission to
monitor that mosque and the people inside using high-resolution imagery obtained
from the NGA. Using other technologies, such as overhead traffic cameras in
place in many cities, that mosque could be placed under surveillance for months,
and -- through cell phone intercepts and overhead imagery -- its suspected
worshipers carefully tracked in real-time as they moved almost anywhere in the
The NAO, under the plan approved by ODNI’s McConnell, would determine the
rules that will guide the DHS and other lead federal agencies when they want to
use imagery and signals intelligence in situations like this, as well as during
natural disasters. If the organization is established as planned, U.S. domestic
agencies will have a vast array of technology at their disposal. In addition to
the powerful mapping and signals tools provided by the NGA and the NSA, domestic
agencies will also have access to measures and signatures intelligence (MASINT)
managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the principal spying agency
used by the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(MASINT is a highly classified form of intelligence that uses infrared sensors
and other technologies to “sniff” the atmosphere for certain chemicals and
electro-magnetic activity and “see” beneath bridges and forest canopies.
Using its tools, analysts can detect signs that a nuclear power plant is
producing plutonium, determine from truck exhaust what types of vehicles are in
a convoy, and detect people and weapons hidden from the view of satellites or
Created By Contractors
The study group that established policies for the NAO was jointly funded by the
ODNI and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), one of only two domestic U.S.
agencies that is currently allowed, under rules set in the 1970s, to use
classified intelligence from spy satellites. (The other is NASA, the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration.) The group was chaired by Keith Hall, a
Booz Allen vice president who manages his firm’s extensive contracts with the
NGA and previously served as the director of the NRO.
Domestic Spying, Inc.
November 27th, 2007 http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=14821,
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