April 17, 2009

The Importance of Costly Celestial Spying

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As most of us are aware, much of US security and intelligence data comes from satellites orbiting the earth. With growing suspicion of countries possessing nuclear weaponry, celestial technology has seen major innovation in recent years. On Tuesday, President Obama approved a bill calling for the purchase of multimillion-dollar commercial imagery technology, including several satellites with unprecedented abilities. Most of the advancements in satellite spying have been delayed since 2005 and the Obama administration is now working to reinvigorate the program and bring intelligence to a new level.

While reports estimate the cost to exceed $10 billion, this figure has not been confirmed. A top Republican senator of the Intelligence Committee would not reveal any specifics of the project. “However, military, intelligence and industry officials familiar with the program told The Associated Press last week that the program is called “2-plus-2” and calls for building two sophisticated satellites equal to or better than the huge, high-resolution secret satellites now in orbit. The officials all spoke anonymously because the details of the program are classified. On average, the White House spends $25 million on commercial imagery per month, which could be significantly increased in the coming months.

Currently, the bulk of money spent on defense space technology is used to purchase satellites that allow intelligence officials to view outlines of objects as small as 16 inches. It is estimated that the contract will allow for the construction and launch of two satellites. Furthermore, the contract provides for “guaranteed access” to allow the satellites to record data on areas of concern such as during a war or emergency. Lockheed Martin will likely take control of this project, replacing Boeing Co.

“Imagery is a core component of our national security that supports our troops, foreign policy, homeland security and the needs of our intelligence community,” Dennis Blair said in a statement. Blair is currently Director of National Intelligence for the Obama administration and has finalized a plan to upgrade the fleet of US observation satellites. As stated by Blair, “when it comes to supporting our military forces and the safety of Americans, we cannot afford any gaps in collection”.

With increasing threats of terrorism and an ever-growing need to protect American citizens, some believe that we should take whatever measures are necessary for ensuring protection. However, with innovative technology, the collection of intelligence has entered new territory. Does the proposed celestial technology violate privacy rights or is this a necessary program?