The Bush administration will give law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers, reports the Washington Post. The Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall; the expectation is that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.
Officials say the program will give domestic security and emergency preparedness agencies new capabilities in dealing with threats ranging from illegal immigration and terrorism to hurricanes and forest fires. The program, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, provoked opposition from civil liberties advocates, who said the government is crossing an established line against the use of military assets in domestic law enforcement. Domestic security officials already have access to commercial satellite imagery, but spy satellites offer much greater resolution and images in real time.