Napolitano to review satellite imagery program

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will review her department’s controversial National Applications Office (NAO), which is designed to use imagery from the country's spy satellites for domestic security and law enforcement purposes.

The office has raised concerns among members of Congress, civil liberties advocates and the Government Accountability Office.

Napolitano has asked her staff for a briefing on the benefits and risks of establishing NAO, she wrote March 25 to Reps. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Homeland Security Committee's Intelligence Subcommittee, and Norman Dicks (D-Wash.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Interior Subcommittee.

“We will take a fresh and objective look at the National Applications Office program and assess the capacity to strengthen information sharing with our federal, state, local, tribal and private-sector partners,” Napolitano wrote.

Dicks and Harman had written to Napolitano in February saying they opposed the transfer of Interior's Civil Applications Committee to the Homeland Security Department's NAO. Dicks and Harman also said they favored closing NAO.

“Secretary Napolitano has done the right thing by agreeing to a thorough review of the program," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office. "It now appears that it could be shut down, with reasonable use of satellite imagery continuing to take place — as it long has — through the Department of the Interior."


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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