Scientists Fear Curbs on Access to Satellite Data

Science 14 September 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5844, p. 1481 DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5844.148

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U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY: Scientists Fear Curbs on Access to Satellite Data

Yudhijit BhattacharjeeFor more than 3 decades, U.S. science agencies have used images taken by the nation's spy satellites to study everything from erupting volcanoes to the migration of marine mammals. Now, a new plan to expand the use of the satellites for homeland security and law enforcement has left some officials worried that science will suffer. Last month's announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it was setting up a new National Applications Office (NAO) this fall to widen the use of spy-satellite imagery has sparked protests from civil liberties advocates. They worry that federal, state, and local authorities will seek high-resolution, real-time images to monitor activities of U.S. citizens in the same way that the satellites help track terrorist activities overseas. But officials at federal science agencies are concerned for a different reason: They suspect that the new arrangement could mean fewer chances to investigate scientific questions or cause delays that undermine the value of the information. read more...