Closure Of DHS Domestic Spy Satellite Program A Positive Step, Says ACLU

June 24, 2009
Aerial Surveillance Still Threatens Americans’ Privacy
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org  
 
WASHINGTON – In the wake of strong criticism by the American Civil Liberties Union and members of Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Tuesday the end of the National Applications Office (NAO), which maintained a troubled program created to share domestic satellite imagery for homeland security and law enforcement purposes. DHS had put the program under review at the request of House Intelligence Committee members Jane Harman (D-CA) and Norman Dicks (D-WA).
 
“We welcome Secretary Napolitano’s decision to shut down DHS’s spy satellite program,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. “From the very beginning, the National Application Office’s program was ill-conceived and invasive and it has threatened Americans’ privacy rights.”
 
The ACLU testified before Congress in opposition to the NAO program in 2007, telling Congress that reasonable interpretations of Fourth Amendment privacy protections have failed to keep pace with new technologies and that lawmakers need to impose limits on aerial surveillance in order to preserve the privacy that Americans have always expected and enjoyed. 
 
“Despite this welcome announcement, Americans should be aware that aerial surveillance still poses a threat to privacy,” said Jay Stanley, Public Education Director for the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. “Technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles mean that the authorities can increasingly peer down on civilians without the expense and intrusion of a police helicopter, and robotic flying surveillance cameras may become cheap enough to be deployed routinely over American skies.” 
 
Because the Supreme Court has ruled that Americans do not have a right to privacy from the air even on their own property, Americans’ privacy will continue to be at risk until U.S. jurisprudence catches up to available technology.. 
 
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