Markey Had Questioned Department on Privacy Protections

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, responded today to news that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will delay the formal opening of an office to oversee expanded spy satellite operations.

In response to news over the summer that DHS intended to establish this new office, , Rep. Markey sent a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff on August 16th seeking answers about the unprecedented planned expansion in the use of advanced spy satellites for surveillance of Americans. The Department has not yet provided a response to Rep. Markey’s inquiry.

“The Bush administration shouldn’t be turning our nation’s ‘Eyes in the Sky’ on ordinary Americans. Right now, we do not even know whether the necessary civil liberties protections and congressional oversight policies and procedures are going to be put in place to ensure this program complies with all applicable privacy laws,” Rep. Markey said.”

Rep. Markey’s August 16th letter (available here) 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.

“I am pleased that DHS has delayed implementing plans to use spy satellites to conduct surveillance of Americans. I will monitor the Department’s plans as it moves forward with this sweeping new program,” concluded Rep. Markey.


October 1, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836