WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee and a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, today wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff seeking answers in response to reports that the Bush Administration will undertake an unprecedented expansion in the use of advanced spy satellites for surveillance of Americans.

Rep. Markey said, “I am concerned by reports that the Bush Administration plans to turn our country’s ‘Eyes in the Sky’ on everyday Americans not suspected of terrorism. Clearly, detection of terrorist strikes before they occur is a vital capability for our country. As we work to thwart attacks, we must not destroy our civil liberties, which form the cornerstone of our democracy. The unprecedented expansion of our spy satellite program raises serious legal and privacy concerns that require careful consideration, and I look forward to Secretary Chertoff’s responses to my questions.”

Rep. Markey’s letter to Sec. Chertoff requested answers to several questions about the new program, including:

• What legal assessments of this new surveillance program have been performed?
• What policies and procedures will the Department implement to ensure that Americans’ privacy and civil rights are protected once this new surveillance program begins operation?
• How will new guidelines be developed to govern this program and will the public have the opportunity to comment on and review the guidelines?
• Will the Department of Homeland Security or any of the civilian agencies that utilize the imagery and/or other output from the spy satellites retain any of this information after it has been evaluated? What privacy and security safeguards will be used for the storage of the information?
• How will the Department handle complaints from individuals subject to surveillance under this program?
• Has the Department consulted with the Federal Communications Commission or the Department of Commerce about the commercial and competitive implications of utilizing government-owned and operated military assets for domestic uses? If so, please provide the nature of the consultation and the dates upon which it occurred.

“Strong, effective homeland security efforts are essential, but we must always be vigilant so that our security initiatives do not cross the line. I will monitor the Department’s plans as it moves forward with this sweeping new program,” concluded Rep. Markey.

A copy of Rep. Markey’s letter to Sec. Chertoff is available here.


August 16, 2007

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