Sunday, January 20, 2008

Spying On Us - NGA+NSA=NAO

Domestic Spying, Inc.
by Tim Shorrock
Pacific Free Press

A new intelligence institution to be inaugurated soon by the Bush administration will allow government spying agencies to conduct broad surveillance and reconnaissance inside the United States for the first time.

"Under a proposal being reviewed by Congress, a National Applications Office (NAO) will be established to coordinate how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and domestic law enforcement and rescue agencies use imagery and communications intelligence picked up by U.S. spy satellites."

The intelligence-sharing system to be managed by the NAO will rely heavily on private contractors including Boeing, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). These companies already provide technology and personnel to U.S. agencies involved in foreign intelligence, and the NAO greatly expands their markets. Indeed, at an intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the titans of the industry were actively lobbying intelligence officials to buy products specifically designed for domestic surveillance.

The NAO was created under a plan tentatively approved in May 2007 by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell. Specifically, the NAO will oversee how classified information collected by the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and other key agencies is used within the U.S. during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other events affecting national security. The most critical intelligence will be supplied by the NSA and the NGA, which are often referred to by U.S. officials as the “eyes” and “ears” of the intelligence community.

The NSA, through a global network of listening posts, surveillance planes, and satellites, captures signals from phone calls, e-mail and Internet traffic, and translates and analyzes them for U.S. military and national intelligence officials.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which was formally inaugurated in 2003, provides overhead imagery and mapping tools that allow intelligence and military analysts to monitor events from the skies and space. The NSA and the NGA have a close relationship with the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which builds and maintains the U.S. fleet of spy satellites and operates the ground stations where the NSA’s signals and the NGA’s imagery are processed and analyzed. By law, their collection efforts are supposed to be confined to foreign countries and battlefields.

What Will The NAO Do?

The plan for the NAO builds on a domestic security infrastructure that has been in place for at least seven years. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the NSA was granted new powers to monitor domestic communications without obtaining warrants from a secret foreign intelligence court established by Congress in 1978 (that warrant-less program ended in January 2007 but was allowed to continue, with some changes, under legislation passed by Congress in August 2007).

In addition to the powerful mapping and signals tools provided by the NGA and the NSA, domestic agencies will also have access to Measures And Signatures Intelligence (MASINT) managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the principal spying agency used by the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(MASINT is a highly classified form of intelligence that uses infrared sensors and other technologies to “sniff” the atmosphere for certain chemicals and electro-magnetic activity and “see” beneath bridges and forest canopies. Using its tools, analysts can detect signs that a nuclear power plant is producing plutonium, determine from truck exhaust what types of vehicles are in a convoy, and detect people and weapons hidden from the view of satellites or photoreconnaissance aircraft.)

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