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In this memo, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff informs the Director of National Intelligence that he has received the report of the Civil Applications Committee Blue Ribbon Study Group and that he agrees with its recommendation to establish a Domestic Applications Office within DHS and proposes some joint measures to begin implementation of the recommendations.

U.S. Reconnaissance Satellites: Domestic Targets

Documents Describe Use of Satellites in Support
of Civil Agencies and Longstanding Controversy

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 229
Edited by Jeffrey T. Richelson

Originally Posted - September 14, 2007
Updated - April 11, 2008

For more information contact:
Jeffrey Richelson - 202/994-7000


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U.S. Satellite Imagery, 1960-1999

 

 


Update - Washington, D.C., April 11, 2008 – The policy debate over using U.S. reconnaissance satellites to obtain imagery of targets in the United States dates back to the earliest days of spy satellites, according to an updated collection of declassified documents published today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org).

Obtained and edited by Archive senior fellow Dr. Jeffrey Richelson, the documents add significant historical context to current Congressional concerns (Document 46 and Document 50) about privacy and civil liberties guidelines for the new National Applications Office (Document 41 and Document 48).

Additional historical documents include the charter for the Civil Applications Committee, the statement of authority for National Reconnaissance Program activities over the United States, as well as documents that focus on the question of  "proper use" of the satellites and the risk to senior officials should the space assets be used inappropriately.

Documents concerning current plans to establish a National Applications Office and associated Congressional concerns include the letter from the Secretary of Homeland Security to the Director of National Intelligence (reporting his interest in establishing a domestic applications office), expressions of Congressional concern, and the proposed charter (from February 2008).

 


U.S. Reconnaissance Satellites: Domestic Targets
By Jeffrey T. Richelson

On August 15, 2007, the Wall Street Journal disclosed that the United States was planning to expand its use of reconnaissance satellites over the United States in support of civil agencies, in response to recommendations by an independent study group. (Note 1) The term "civil agencies" refers to agencies outside of the Defense Department and Intelligence Community - agencies which may have domestic or foreign missions, or both.

As a result of the desire to employ reconnaissance satellites for law enforcement and border security purposes, in addition to their traditional use for mapping and disaster relief, the Department of Homeland Security, based on recommendations of an advisory group (Document 40) formulated plans to establish a Domestic Applications Office (subsequently retitled the National Applications Office) effective October 1, 2007.  The organization and functions of the new office were detailed in a DHS fact sheet, also released on August 15, 2007. However, concerns over privacy and civil liberties issues, particularly from members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, delayed creation of an operational office. (Document 45a, Document 46).

On April 8, 2008 the Wall Street Journal reported that privacy and civil liberties concerning still constituted a roadblock. (Note 2) A charter (Document 48) submitted to Congress in February had not resolved the concerns of the chairmen and other key members of the House committee. In April a report by the DHS Inspector General’s office (Document 49) noted that while progress had made in addressing such concerns new civil liberties and privacy assessments were required before the NAO could become operational. Key members of the House committee complained in a letter (Document 50) to the Secretary of Homeland Security that his department resolving their concerns was the first priority, before taking actions (such as advertising for personnel) to turn the NAO from a concept into an active entity.

The use of classified satellite reconnaissance systems - particularly imagery systems - to image targets in the United States has a lineage almost as old as the satellite reconnaissance program itself. One purpose was to allow the operators of U.S. spy satellites to determine the satellite's actual capabilities, particularly with regard to resolution, by photographing targets of known dimensions. In addition, obtaining overhead views of particular types of facilities - both military and industrial - helped imagery interpreters to develop imagery interpretation keys. Those keys provided interpreters with an understanding of what a particular type of facility would look from directly overhead Thus, a 1967 document (Document 2) addressed to the head of the Committee on Overhead Reconnaissance contains a list of domestic targets restricted to military and industrial sites.

But some civil agencies were also early users of satellite reconnaissance imagery - particularly that from versions of the KH-4 CORONA system (which included the KH-4, KH-4A, and KH-4B) and the KH-5 ARGON mapping system. The U.S. Geological Survey even established a special facility to exploit the satellite imagery it was provided to help it perform its mapping mission. Another early recipient was the Office of Emergency Preparedness, which requested imagery of the hundred-plus relocation sites controlled by the office. (Document 6) Such imagery was collected during "engineering passes" of the satellite over the U.S. - that is, during the first days after launch when the system was being tested, before being declared operational and ready for use against foreign targets.

In an attempt to establish a forum to facilitate the use of satellite reconnaissance imagery for civil purposes, the ARGO program was established in 1968 - whose participants included, but were not limited to, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Office of Emergency Preparedness, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of Agriculture. Also participating were key Intelligence Community agencies - the National Reconnaissance Office, National Photographic Interpretation Center, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Committee on Imagery Requirements and Exploitation. (Document 5)

Despite the desire to expand the use of satellite imagery, there were still impediments to its full exploitation - including the need for highly trained interpretation skills, facilities to protect the data, inertia within potential civil users, the question as to who would pay for the cost of a civil applications program, and concerns that civil agency demands might compromise the primary foreign intelligence collection mission. (Document 10c)

In 1973, the question of whether a civil applications subcommittee of COMIREX should be established was raised in a memo (Document 14b) from national security adviser Henry Kissinger. In 1975, the commission chaired by Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller, chartered to investigate CIA activities within the United States, recommended establishing just such a civil applications committee to enhance the effort. The result was a memorandum of agreement between Kissinger (in his role as national security adviser), the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Director of Central Intelligence created a Civil Applications Committee, located within the Department of the Interior, and chaired by the director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Eleven departments and independent agencies would be represented on the committee. (Document 38) Included were the Environmental Protection Agency (Document 8) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (or its predecessors) - to detect violation of environmental regulations and in support of disaster relief operations respectively.

Before assuming the vice-presidency in 1993, Al Gore had discussed with then-Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates the possibility of establishing a program for the exploitation of data already obtained by a variety of classified sensors - from reconnaissance satellites to the Navy's Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) underwater hydrophones - to address environmental issues. In 1994 an Environmental Task Force appointed by the DCI examined whether classified data could be profitably used to address environmental questions. (Document 33) That examination produced the MEDEA program - under which specially cleared scientists, many outside of the government, were given access to classified data sets that could be used to examine issues such as deforestation. (Note 3)

In addition to the MEDEA effort there were additional efforts made to make data from missile launch detection and imagery satellites available to aid in the detection of fires and volcanic activity. (Document 35-36) Thus, the infrared sensors on Defense Support Program satellites could detect and locate the dimensions of forest fires, while imagery satellites could periodically photograph volcanoes to produce imagery that could be used to look for signs of activity.

Subsequent to 9/11, there were suggestions both by individual Congressmen such as Norman Dicks (D-WA), and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that current NRO systems could be used in support of homeland security missions. (Note 4) Those sentiments were echoed in the 2005 report, the Civil Applications Committee (CAC) Blue Ribbon Study (Document 40) , by an independent study group chaired by former NRO chief Keith Hall.

The committee recommended replacing the CAC with a Domestic Applications Office within DHS - a recommendation that was approved in a May 2007 memo from the Director of National Intelligence, with the office given a less revealing name - the National Applications Office.
The August 2007 press revelations produced concern both from civil liberties groups and members of Congress (Documents 44a-c) - who were concerned with plans to move beyond uncontroversial domestic uses for use in law-enforcement activities. Homeland security uses could include monitoring the border, studying infrastructure and mapping cities for special events to prepare security plans. Potential law-enforcement uses include monitoring a house or compound occupied by terrorists or other law enforcement targets (e.g. the Branch Davidians), searching for drug production facilities, examining crime scenes, and support to the FBI and local enforcement in their effort to provide security for national special security events (including political conventions and major sporting events). (Note 5)

The past is not devoid of examples of use of satellite imagery for homeland security and law enforcement purposes and the confrontation of some of the issues involved. In 2006, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency provided the FBI imagery of the area in Pittsburgh where the Major League All-Star game was to be held on July 11, as it had to the Olympics Intelligence Center at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. (Note 6) Reconnaissance satellites have reportedly been used to produce images of the Unabomber's cabin and the land surrounding it, to count boat traffic at three specially protected sites along the Florida Keys, to examine civil disturbances in Detroit in the 1960s (Document 12), and to develop investigative leads for the EPA. (Note 7) The latter caused some concern at the CIA about the propriety of providing imagery that would aid EPA investigations. (Document 16)

There are a number of concerns that are likely to be part of the current debate - the Posse Comitatus prohibition of using the military for law-enforcement (since the agency which operates U.S. reconnaissance satellites is part of the Defense Department), and a generalized fear of government spying exacerbated by portrayals in popular culture (Enemy of the State, 24) of satellites that can track individuals. (Document 45c and Document 45f)

Concern over legal authorities and the propriety of domestic satellite collection have been present virtually since the inception of hte program. (Document 28b) Today, there is particular concern with possible violations of Fourth Amendment limitations on searches. While surveillance employing visible-light optical systems would not seem to be an issue, the possibility of employing other sensors - including radar and infrared imagery sensors, as well as measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) sensors (including multispectral and hyperspectral sensors, and non-imaging infrared sensors) - may run afoul of the Supreme Court's Kyllo decision, which overturned a conviction that followed police employment of a thermal imaging system to detect heat sources within an individual's house that indicated ongoing production of an illicit drug.

 


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Document 1: OEG, Memorandum for: WAT, Subject: Problems Relating to the Feasibility of the Use of KH Photography by Civilian Agencies, January 11, 1967. Top Secret
Source: CIA Records Search Tool (CREST)

This memo is addressed to "WAT" - William A. Tidwell, the head of the Committee on Overhead Reconnaissance (COMOR). It discusses the potential problems in using "KH" or Keyhole imagery from the classified satellites operated by the NRO in support of civilian agency missions - which would include civilian agencies with domestic missions (including the U.S. Geological Survey) as well as those with foreign missions (including the Agency for International Development).


Document 2: [Deleted], Chairman, COMOR Photo Working Group, Memorandum for: COMOR Photo Working Group, Subject: Revised List of Domestic Targets for KH-4, April 28, 1967. Top Secret. w/attachment: Domestic Targets for KH-4. Top Secret
Source: CREST

The targets for the KH-4 listed in the attachment consist largely of government military and atomic energy installations across the country, as well as several industrial installations. The timing of the memo and the explanation in the cover memo that coverage would be obtained during "engineering" passes suggest that the targets were to be photographed during the initial orbits of the KH-4B version of the Corona reconnaissance satellite - whose first launch occurred on September 15, 1967.


Document 3: Thomas A. Parrott, AD/DCI/NIPE, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: ARGO Symposium, March 3, 1968. Secret
Source: CREST

This memo from the assistant director of the DCI's National Intelligence Program Evaluation office concerns the discussion at a symposium held at the National Photographic Interpretation Center, related to an effort designated "ARGO" - the exploration of whether existing overhead photography could be used to aid the missions of civilian agencies. Among the topics discussed were the sharing of costs associated with modification of the missions and exploitation of imagery desired by civilian agencies.


Document 4: Richards Helms, Director of Central Intelligence to Donald F. Hornig, March 20, 1968. Top Secret
Source: CREST

This letter from the Director of Central Intelligence to President Richard Nixon's science adviser, notes his two greatest concerns with the use of satellite imagery for civilian purposes - protection of the source and assuring non-interference with national security missions.


Document 5: Assistant to the Deputy Director, NPIC, Memorandum for the Record. Subject: ARGO Committee Meeting, 16 June 1968, Executive Officer Building, Room 303, 1000 Hours, n.d. Secret
Source: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request

This memo reports on the first meeting of a reconstituted ARGO committee. Among the potential uses of Keyhole imagery identified by department and agency representatives were hydrology and oceanography, mapping, emergency preparedness.


Document 6: W.C. Truppner, Director, National Resource Analysis Center to Dr. D.H. Steininger, Chairman ARGO Steering Group, circa July 1968. Top Secret
Source: CREST

In this letter the director of the National Resource Analysis Center notes the desirability of obtaining KH-4 "precontingency" imagery of 115 major metropolitan areas and that 70 had already been covered. The intent of the letter was to have the steering group request that the Committee on Imagery Requirements and Exploitation (COMIREX) - the successor to COMOR - consider allocating time on subsequent KH-4 missions to coverage of the remaining metropolitan areas.


Document 7: [Deleted], Chairman, COMIREX MC&G Working Group, Memorandum for Chairman, COMIREX, Subject: Satellite Photography of the U.S. for United States Geological Survey Mapping Activities, June 15, 1971. Classification Unknown. w/enclosure: Memorandum for USIB, Subject: Satellite Photography of the U.S. for United States Geological Survey Mapping Activities, n.d. Classification Unknown
Source: CREST

The memorandum for the COMIREX chairman, signed by the chairman of COMIREX's Mapping, Charting, and Geodesy Working Group, informs the chairman that the attached draft concerning satellite photography of the United States in support of the U.S. Geological Survey has been reviewed by the working group - which recommends approval by COMIREX and the U.S. Intelligence Board.

The attached memorandum notes past decision to approve the use of the KH-4 and KH-5 imagery to produce imagery of areas of the continental U.S. (but not Hawaii) in support of USGS mapping requirements. Redactions in the first paragraph apparently refer to approval of the release of KH-9 imagery for mapping when it became available (the first KH-9 launch took place on the day the memo was written - June 15, 1971). The purpose of the memo was to recommend that the USGS be given authority to use similar data for Hawaii, and that the NRO be tasked to produce the necessary imagery.


Document 8: Stanley M. Greenfield, Environmental Protection Agency, to [Roland Inlow] Chairman, COMIREX, January 12, 1973. Classification Not Known. w/enclosure: List of Environmental Protection Agency Personnel Requiring Clearances, n.d. Classification Unknown
Source: CREST

At the time this letter was written, Roland Inlow, was the chairman of COMIREX. It explains that the attached consists of EPA personnel requiring special clearances for access to information about "high technology reconnaissance systems" - that is, classified systems operated by the NRO. It also explains that EPA did not it feel it would be wise to develop an "environmental collection and exploitation" program without planning to use the capabilities "developed by other government agencies."


Document 9:
[Roland Inlow], Chairman, COMIREX to Dr. Stanley M. Greenfield, Environmental Protection Agency, March 2, 1973. Confidential
Source: CREST

Roland Inlow's response to EPA official Stanley Greenfield's letter informs Greenfield that the Director of Central Intelligence had approved special clearances for the individuals listed in the attachment to his letter - subject to background investigations. Inlow also noted that his security advisor would be available "to assure that your Control Officer has a full understanding of the security regulations."


Document 10a: [Deleted], Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Use of [Deleted] Photography by the Civilian Sector and non-USIB Agencies, March 9, 1973. Secret

Document 10b: Donald H. Steininger, Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Use of the Reconnaissance Satellite Photography by the Civilian Sector and non-USIB Agencies, March 9, 1973. Secret

Document 10c: Donald H. Steininger, Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Use of the Reconnaissance Satellite Photography by the Civilian Sector and non-USIB Agencies, March 9, 1973. Secret
Source: CREST

At the time this memo was written, Donald H. Steininger was the Associate Deputy Director for Science and Technology of the CIA. In his memo to the DCI, Steininger, who had been involved in the ARGO effort, observed that while it was clear from the beginning that there was a great potential for using satellite photography for a variety of civilian purposes, "the government has been spectacularly unsuccessful in promoting substantial use of this intelligence material within the civilian agencies." Steininger's purpose was "to propose a course of action" that the intelligence community could take to "turn the situation around."

Document 10c was the first declassified version released (in 2001), with specific references to satellite reconnaissance redacted. Document 10b (released in April 2004) is identical to Document 10a (released in August 2004) with the exception of the paragraph at the bottom of page 2 that was deleted from the April 2004 version (but not the 2001 version).


Document 11: [Deleted], Note for: A/DD/S&T, Subject: Examples of Present and Past Civil Applications of Reconnaissance Imagery, March 16, 1973. Confidential
Source: CREST

This memo to the Associate Deputy Director of Science & Technology, Donald Steininger, was apparently authored by COMIREX chairman Ronald Inlow. It describes the subjects covered in three attached tabs. The tabs were not released with the memo.


Document 12: NPIC, Questionable NPIC Projects, May 8, 1973

Source: FOIA

This memo was prepared by the National Photographic Interpretation Center in response to DCI James Schlesinger's directive for CIA components to provide information on any activities that they might have undertaken outside the CIA's charter. Item 4 notes a number of instances where NPIC examined "domestic coverage" - which included satellite imagery of natural and man-made disasters, one civil disturbance, and of facilities or areas related to emergency preparedness.


Document 13:
Note for: Chairman, COMIREX, Subject: Mississippi Flood Imagery, May 15, 1973. Classification Unknown
Source: CREST

This memo indicates that one or more U-2 aircraft were used to obtain imagery of areas of Mississippi inundated in a flood. The deletions in the released document may refer to actual or potential use of reconnaissance satellite systems. According to Document 12 some of imagery of the Mississippi floods was obtained by satellites.


Document 14a: Chairman, Committee on Imagery Requirements and Exploitation, Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Comments on Draft Memorandum from Henry Kissinger on Civil Use of Classified Reconnaissance Systems, Technologies and Products, July 31, 1973. Secret w/enclosure:

Document 14b: Henry A. Kissinger, Memorandum for: The Secretary of the Interior et. al., Subject: Civil Use of Classified Reconnaissance Systems, Technologies, and Products, n.d. Secret
Source: CREST

Document 14a reports that a member of the NSC staff had forwarded to COMIREX a draft of a memo, to be signed by Henry Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, intended "to update and regularize civil agency handling and uses of classified satellite photography acquired over the U.S." The draft memo, Document 14b, calls for the DCI to establish a civil applications subcommittee of COMIREX to handle civil agency requests for classified satellite imagery.


Document 15a: Paul V. Walsh, Acting Deputy Director for Intelligence, Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Federal Mapping Task Force Report, August 20, 1973. Classification Unknown

Document 15b: Letter, [Deleted], Associate Director, Office of Management and Budget, to William E. Colby, Director of Central Intelligence, September 18, 1973.

Document 15c: 1973 Federal Mapping Task Force Report, Top Secret, n.d.

Document 15d: [Deleted] Executive Secretary, United States Intelligence Board, Memorandum for the United States Intelligence Board, Subject: Federal Mapping Task Force, September 18, 1973. Top Secret w/enclosure: W.E. Colby, Director of Central Intelligence, Memorandum for: Associate Director, Office of Management and Budget, Subject: Federal Mapping Task Force Report, September 18, 1973. Top Secret
Source: CREST

These five documents revolve around the DCI reaction to the 1973 Federal Mapping Task Force- particularly with regard to the task force's recommendation for greater use of TALENT KEYHOLE imagery, which at the time included imagery from the KH-9 area surveillance satellite system, for mapping purposes. The task force recommendations included expanded utilization of such imagery for the production of unclassified maps of the U.S.


Document 16:
Note for RSI, Subject: NPIC-EPA Relati onship - Additional Information, November 7, 1973. Classification Unknown
Source: CREST

This memo was addressed to RSI - Roland S. Inlow, the chairman of the Committee on Imagery Requirements and Exploitation (COMIREX). It reports that during a meeting with EPA personnel concern was expressed over EPA's use of classified satellite imagery to develop investigative leads. The memo goes on to discuss the circumstances under which the imagery was obtained and the propriety of CIA involvement in helping EPA to develop such leads.


Document 17: Lt. Col. Harold S. Coyle Jr,, Deputy Director for Plans and Policy, National Reconnaissance Office, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Agriculture Department Study of Collection Resources, August 14, 1974, Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

This memo from an NRO official discusses the interest of representatives of the Department of Agriculture in greater employment of NRO imagery satellites to provide information to their department. While it does not specifically refer to imaging of domestic sites in support of Agriculture, which also analyzes foreign agricultural developments, it also mentions the desire of the Department of the Interior to make greater use of NRO imaging assets.


Document 18: Henry A. Kissinger, William E. Colby, and James T. Lynn, Subject: Establishment of the Committee for Civil Applications of Classified Overhead Photography of the United States, October 3, 1975. Secret
Source: CREST

This is the memo, signed by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, directed the Secretary of Interior to establish a Committee for Civil Applications of Classified Overhead Photography of the United States, specifies the committee's functions and its membership, and the role of the DCI.


Document 19: [Deleted], Memorandum for Mr. Plummer, Subject: Committee for Civil Applications, October 9, 1975. Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

This memo from a member of the NRO Staff to NRO director James Plummer, predicts that one of the consequences of the establishment of the Civil Applications Committee will be pressure for a greater use of NRO imagery satellites in support of civil agencies and suggests that it may be necessary to increase the number of satellite launches to satisfy the demand.


Document 20: J.W. Plummer, Memorandum for Dr. Hall, ASD (I), Subject: Committee for Civil Applications of Classified Photography of the United States, October 14, 1975. Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

In this memo, NRO director James Plummer provides Assistant Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) Albert Hall with requested recommendations on how to respond to the memorandum establishing the Civil Applications Committee (Document 18).  The issues Plummer suggests Hall raise include the film-limited nature of current imagery satellites, security requirements within the government, and the CAC being a possible vehicle for declassification of the "fact of" satellite photography.


Document 21: Note for: Mr. Knoche, Gen. Wilson, October 14, 1975. Unclassified
Source: CREST

This memo, to senior Intelligence Community officials E. Henry Knoche and General Samuel Wilson, notes that the originally the memo signed on October 3, 1975 establishing the CAC (Document 18) was originally unclassified and the "Secret" classification was added after it was signed by the DCI William Colby.


Document 22: [Deleted], Note for: General Wilson, Subject: DCI Response to Secretary Clements, re D/NRO as an ex officio Member of Committee for Civil Applications of Classified Overhead Photography of the US, November 26, 1975, Secret
Source: CREST

This memo to General Samuel Wilson reports that the Under Secretary of the Air Force – that is, the Director of the NRO, would sit on the CAC as an observer – a status preferred to that of full member for security considerations.


Document 23: "Authority for the National Reconnaissance Program Domestic Satellite Reconnaissance Activities," 1976. Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

This memo, although undated, was clearly prepared in 1976 (as indicated by the last two digits of the control number) covers seven topics – background of the NRO, organization of the NRO, domestic requirements, implications of Executive Order 11905, the authority for the NRO to conduct domestic photographic and electronic collection activities, and implementation.


Document 24:
Charles W. Cook, Memorandum for Director, Program A, Director, Program B, Chairman, COMIREX, Subject: Domestic Imagery, undated (but from 1976), Top Secret w/att: "NRO Policy with Respect to Domestic Imagery"
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

This memo and its attachment, undated but from 1976, was written by the NRO's deputy director and addressed to the heads of the Air Force and CIA components of the NRO as well as the chairman of COMIREX, were intended to formalize NRO policy with respect to domestic imagery – specifically the requirements for, as well as the acquisition and exploitation of domestic imagery with NRO systems.


Document 25:
J.W. Plummer, Director, NRO to Gen. Kulpa, Mr. Dirks, Capt. Darcy,
Subject: Implementation of E.O. 11905, May 1976. Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

This memo, from the NRO director to the head of the Air Force, CIA, and Navy elements of the NRO, notes that President Ford's recent executive order on foreign intelligence contains restrictions on surveillance activities – both electronic and visual within the United States or against U.S. persons overseas. It goes on to state the policies and procedures governing National Reconnaissance Program activities over the United States.


Document 26a: Report of Meeting of Civil Applications Committee (of August 30, 1976), n.d. Top Secret

Document 26b: Deputy Director of [Deleted], NRO Staff, Memorandum for: [Deleted], Subject: Civil Applications Committee Meeting, 30 August 1976. Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

The first document provides a list of those attending the August 30, 1976 CAC meeting and their institutional affiliations – indicating representatives from five civil organizations. The second document informs its recipients of a briefing scheduled for potential civil agency users of NRO systems, and that a dry run will be held at the next meeting of the CAC. It also reports a CIA official's view on the question of "proper use."


Document 27a:
Agenda, Seventh Meeting, Civil Applications Committee, 0930 Hours, October 6, 1976. Unclassified

Document 27b: Untitled minutes of meeting of Civil Applications Committee, 0930 Hours, October 6, 1976. Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

These two documents provide a summary of the agenda of the October 6, 1976 meeting of the CAC and the decisions taken at that meeting.


Document 28a: Col. Frederick Hoffman, Memorandum for General Shields Subject: Propriety of Civil Applications Committee (CAC) Activities, February 10, 1978. Top Secret

Document 28b: Brig. Gen. William L. Shields, Jr., Memorandum for Colonel Hoffman, January 26, 1978. Top Secret w/att: Brig. Gen. William L. Shields, Jr., Memorandum for the Record, January 26, 1978.  Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

The first memo indicates that Brig. Gen. Shields, the director of the NRO Staff had requested the staff to review the issue of the propriety of the CAC. The second memo is Shields' request for the study, while the attachment to that memo spells out the specific areas of the general's concerns – including that several senior intelligence officials would be "in a vulnerable position" if the satellites were to be used inappropriately based on the tasking of civil agencies.


Document 29:
Brig. Gen. William L. Shields, Memorandum for Chairman, COMIREX, Subject: Civil Applications of NRO Imaging Satellites, February 15, 1978. Top Secret
Source: Declassified NRO Staff Records

This is the memorandum referred to in Col. Hoffman's memo of February 10, 1978 (Document 27b), which is signed by Shields and addressed to COMIREX chairman Roland Inlow. It raises the issue of obtaining further legal approval of the use of NRO systems for domestic purposes.


Document 30:
Chief, Requirements and Evaluation Staff, Memorandum for: See Distribution, Subject: NRP - - Civilian Applications, May 11, 1978. Secret. w/att: Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence, Memorandum for: Deputy Director for Resource Management, Deputy Director for National Foreign Assessment, Subject: Possible Areas to Expand Collection, May 8, 1978. Secret
Source: CREST

The cover memo requests comments from several CIA offices on a memo from DCI Stansfield Turner on possible areas to expand imagery and signals intelligence satellite collection. While it is clear that the collection would be undertaken in support of agencies outside of the national security community, It is not clear whether any of the uses envisioned in the printed memo would involve domestic coverage.


Document 31: Providing KH-4 Material to EPA, NPIC Daily Diary, June 20, 1978. Classification Unknown

Source: FOIA

This item in the NPIC Daily Diary indicates that the Federal Preparedness Agency had been had been receiving KH-4 images during 1968-1971, and the Environmental Protection Agency would find the same imagery useful for some of their studies.


Document 32a:
Environmental Protection Agency Request for Support, NPIC Daily Diary, October 23, 1978. Classification Not Available.

Document 32b: Support to EPA, NPIC Daily Diary, October 25, 1978. Classification Unknown

Document 32c: Support to EPA, NPIC Daily Diary, November 1, 1978. Classification Unknown
Source: FOIA

The first item from the NPIC Daily Diary seems to indicate that the EPA requested coverage of satellite photography from either the KH-8 or KH-9 systems (both of which were operating in 1978, and neither of which had been declassified at the time that Document 19 was released in redacted form). Item 4 in the NPIC Daily Diary for October 25 indicates that NPIC followed up EPA's request for satellite imagery by requesting approval from the Deputy Director of Science & Technology to provide the requested material. Document 19c indicates that the request was approved.


Document 33:
DCI Environmental Task Force, A Description of Procedures and Findings Related to the Report of the U.S. Environmental Task Force, January 21, 1994. Unclassified
Source: Central Intelligence Agency

Prior to his becoming Vice-President, Senator Al Gore raised the idea of making data already obtained by U.S. reconnaissance satellites and other intelligence sensors available to environmental scientists, both within and outside the government, to address environmental issues. This report summarizes the findings of the Environmental Task Force as to what classified data might be used to address a such issues.


Document 34: Director of Central Intelligence, Government Applications Task Force (GATF), Pilot Project Study, October 1996

Source: FOIA

These briefing slides describe an effort that was complementary to MEDEA - the examination of the potential for increased use of classified imagery systems for civil agencies. It describes a number of pilot projects that were part of the study - projects relating to information requirements of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy departments, as well as the Coast Guard, EPA, and FEMA.


Document 35: Gil I. Klinger, Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense (Space) and James F. Devine, Senior Adviser for Science Applications, U.S. Geological Survey, Memorandum of Agreement between the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Space and the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior for Cooperation in Wildland Fire Detection, Volcanic Activity Monitoring, and Volcanic Ash Cloud Tracking, April 30, 1997. Unclassified
Source: FOIA

This memorandum of agreement concerns use of Department of Defense space systems (including reconnaissance and surveillance satellites) to wildland fire detection, volcanic activity monitoring and volcanic ash cloud tracking. Defense Support Program (DSP) infrared launch detection satellites have been used to monitor fires while imagery satellites can be used to monitor volcanic activity.


Document 36:
Department of Defense, [Deleted] Satellite Support to National Fire Detection, Global Volcano Monitoring, n.d. Classification Unknown
Source: FOIA

The deleted word in the title is apparently "Reconnaissance." The document provides specifics on how the DoD would provide support to fire detection and volcano monitoring, as it agreed to do in the April 30, 1997 memorandum of agreement with the Interior Department (Document 19).


Document 37: NRO, NRO Key to Acquisition Hazard Support System, June 29, 1998. Unclassified

Source: www.nro.gov

This NRO press release describes NRO involvement in the system used to warn of wildfire outbreaks and volcanic eruptions - also the subject of Document 19 and Document 20. It notes that the system will rely on ballistic missile warning satellites (DSP), civil satellites, and "other sensors" - presumably those operated by the NRO.


Document 38: U.S. Geological Survey, Civil Applications Committee, July 2001. Unclassified
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

The suggestion of Henry Kissinger (Document 14a, Document 14b) in 1973 that a civil applications subcommittee of COMIREX should be established as a clearing house for civil agency requests for satellite imagery produced by classified systems resulted in the establishment, in 1975, of the Civil Applications Committee. This brochure describes the history of the committee, oversight, management of the sources of requested classified imagery, and membership.


Document 39:
U.S. Geological Survey, National Civil Applications Program, November 2002. Unclassified
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

This brochure concerns the use of classified imagery by one particular agency - the U.S. Geological Survey. It addresses the background of the NCAP, customers, key components of the NCAP (such the Global Fiducials Library, an archive of classified remote sensing data for more than 500 'environmental sensitive' sites), as well as services and support.


Document 40: Independent Study Group, Civil Applications Committee (CAC) Blue Ribbon Study, September 2005, Unclassified
Source: www.fas.org

The Independent Study Group, chaired by former NRO director Keith Hall, was established jointly by the Deputy Director of National Intelligence/Collection and the Director, U.S. Geological Survey to review the operation and future role of the Civil Applications Committee.

The body of the report consists of eleven findings - concerning the role of the CAC process as a model for the future, the impediments to more extensive use of reconnaissance satellite data, and the need for a "balanced discussion of domestic use of [Intelligence Community] capabilities." Its recommendations included the creation of a Domestic Applications Office within the Department of Homeland Security to manage a Domestic Applications of National Capabilities Program.


Document 41: Michael Chertoff, Memorandum for: Ambassador John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, Subject: CAC Blue Ribbon Study Group Recommendations – DHS Executive Agency of the Domestic Applications Group, March 14, 2006. Unclassified.
Source: FOIA

In this memo, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff informs the Director of National Intelligence that he has received the report of the Civil Applications Committee Blue Ribbon Study Group (Document 39) and that he agrees with its recommendation to establish a Domestic Applications Office within DHS and proposes some joint measures to begin implementation of the recommendations.


Document 42: Dr. Maureen McCarthy, Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security MASINT: A Rich Stew of Signatures and Challenges, Facing the WMD Challenge, December 13, 2006. Classification Unknown
Source: FOIA

This presentation does not explicitly refer to the use of satellites to provide homeland security data. However, its relevance lies in its discussion of the use of measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) related to homeland security - since some reconnaissance satellite systems produce MASINT and there may be legal issues - as indicated by the Kyllo case - as to which MASINT sensors can be employed for law enforcement purposes without a warrant.


Document 43: Department of Homeland Security, Fact Sheet: National Applications Office, August 15, 2007. Unclassified
Source: www.dhs.gov

The recommendation of the Independent Study Group (Document 24) to establish a Domestic Applications Office within the Department of Homeland Security ultimately resulted in a decision to establish a National Applications Office within the DHS, with initial operations to begin the fall of 2007. This fact sheet released by DHS provides an account of expectations for the office, background, organization, and the protection of civil liberties and privacy.


Document 44a:
Letter, Edward J. Markey, Chairman, House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, to Michael Chertoff, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, August 16, 2007. Unclassified

Document 44b: Letter, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman, House Committee on Homeland Security, to Michael Chertoff, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, August 16, 2007. Unclassified

Document 44c: Letter, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman, House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Jane Harman, and Rep. Christopher P. Carney, to Michael Cherthoff, Department of Homeland Security and Charles Allen, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Department of Homeland Security, September 6, 2007. Unclassified
Sources: www.fas.org; http://hsc.house.gov

Press disclosure of plans to establish the National Applications Office produced a flurry of Congressional inquiries, and eventually hearings, concerning the activities of the CAC, expectations for the National Applications Office, and how civil liberties would be protected. These letters ask for a variety of information with respect to those issues. The final letter requests a moratorium on the program "until the many Constitutional, legal, and organization questions it raises are answered."


Document 45a: Statement of Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, "Turning Spy Satellites on the Homeland: the Privacy and Civil Liberties Implications of the National Applications Office," September 6, 2007. Unclassified

Document 45b: Written Testimony of Daniel W. Sutherland, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, September 6, 2007. Unclassified

Document 45c: Charles E. Allen, Department of Homeland Security, Statement for the Record before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, September 6, 2007. Unclassified

Document 45d: Written Statement of Hugo Tuefel, Department of Homeland Security,
before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, September 6, 2007. Unclassified

Document 45e: Lisa Graves, Center for National Security Studies, "Big Brother in the Sky," September 1, 2007. Unclassified

Document 45f: Barry Steinhardt, American Civil Liberties Union, "The Privacy and Civil Liberties Implications of Domestic Spy Satellites," September 6, 2007. Unclassified
Source: House Committee on Homeland Security

These statements were presented at the September 6, 2007 hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security on "Turning Spy Satellites on the Homeland: the Privacy and Civil Liberties Implications of the National Applications Office." They present the views of the committee chairman, three representatives of the Department of the Homeland Security and two representatives of civil liberties group.


Document 46:
Letter from Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (and others) to Rep. David E. Price and Rep. Harold Rogers, September 26, 2007. Unclassified
Source: House Committee on Homeland Security

This letter, from seventeen members of Congress, including the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and the chairman of a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence subcommittee, expresses their concern at the Department of Homeland Security's "lack of progress in creating the appropriate legal and operational safeguards necessary for ensuring that military spy satellites do not become the "Big Brother in the Sky." It also specifies the information that Homeland Security has been asked to provide for reassurance.


Document 47: Richard A. Best Jr. and Jennifer K. Elsea, Congressional Research Service, Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues, March 21, 2008
Source: Federation of American Scientists

This study by two Congressional Research Service specialists examines the background, current policies, and a variety of legal considerations (constitutional rights, statutory authorities and restrictions, and executive branch authorities) associated with the use of reconnaissance satellites to collect data about targets within the United States.


Document 48:
Department of Homeland Security, CHARTER: National Applications Office, February 2008. Classification Not Known
Source: Federation of American Scientists

This version of the charter for the NAO, completed in February 2008 discusses the history of the domestic uses of national technical means and the Civil Applications Committee; the CAC Blue Ribbon Study; the structure, responsibilities, and oversight of the NAO; Intelligence Community capabilities; how the NAO will function; the responsibilities of the parties to the charter (which include the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence), and implementation. The charter specifies that "The NAO will have no authority to accept requests to use IC capabilities to intercept or acquire communications."


Document 49: Department of Homeland Security, Letter Report, National Applications Office Privacy Stewardship, April 2008. Unclassified
Source: Department of Homeland Security


Document 50:
Letter, Rep. Bennie G. Thomson, Rep. Jane Harman, and Christopher P. Carney to Honorable Michael Chertoff, April 7, 2008. Unclassified
Source: Federation of American Scientists

This letter from the chairman of the House Committee Homeland Security and the chair and chairman of two of its subcommittees to the Secretary of Homeland Security complains that the Department of Homeland Security had failed to craft privacy or civil liberties guidelines for the National Applications Office's law enforcement customers. In addition, according to the letter "this critical undertaking will be postponed until a unspecified time in the future" which "is unacceptable." The letter goes on to discuss some of the issues involved in the use of reconnaissance satellites for domestic law enforcement purposes and stresses the need to establish sufficient privacy and civil liberties protections before commencing NAO operations.



Notes

1. Robert Block, "U.S. to Expand Domestic Use of Spy Satellites," Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2007, pp. A1, A9.

2. Siobhan Gorman, “Privacy Fears Threaten Satellite Program,” Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2008, p. A3. 

3. Jeffrey T. Richelson, "Scientists in Black," Scientific American, February 1998.

4. U.S. Congress, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Report 107-149, To Authorize Appropriations for Intelligence and Intelligence-Related Activities of the United States Government, The Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for Other Purposes, May 13, 2002, p. 21.

5 . Block, "U.S. to Expand Domestic Use of Spy Satellites."

6. William Mullen, "NGA Expands Customer Base for Special-Security Events," Pathfinder, July/August 2006, pp. 18-19.

7. Nancy Gibbs, "Tracking Down the Unabomber," Time, April 15, 1996, pp. 38-41; Allan Sloan, "Big Brother Strikes Again," Forbes, May 12, 1980, pp. 50-51.

 

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