The Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee are trying to force the Administration to implement procedures for protecting the privacy of Americans before it will approve funding that will fund the Administration’s domestic satellite surveillance program. In their letter to the Democrats who oversee this appropriation, they put a price tag on all the surveillance programs the Administration has had to scrap because they didn’t first implement procedures to protect Americans’ privacy. That number? $290 million dollars.

In the last three years, at least four programs — including the $140million Secure Flight Program; the $100 million Computer AssistedPassenger Prescreening System II (CAPPS II) program; the $42 millionAnalysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and SemanticEnhancement (ADVISE) program; and the $8 million MultistateAnti-Terrorism Information Exchange Pilot Project (MATRIX) — have beeneither cancelled or suspended by the Department as a result of itsfailure to adhere to applicable privacy rules and regulations. Weappreciate that Democrats on the House Homeland Security AppropriationsSubcommittee played a critical role in bringing to light thevulnerabilities of these programs. Each of these programs, ifimplemented, would have compromised the privacy rights of hundreds ofthousands, if not millions, of Americans. We do not want the Departmentto repeat the same mistakes with this program.

Given the couple of weeks we’ve been having with our elected representatives in Congress, I’m not holding my breath that they will succeed in holding up the funding of this program until adequate safeguards are in place. And in any case, Kagro X will surely point out that defunding isn’t necessarily going to prevent this Administration from doing what it wants to. It’s all about the Unitary Big Brother, you know.

But I do think it’d be effective if Democrats began to talk about all the money wasted because BushCo simply can’t implement programs with adequate oversight.



Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.