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27 Sep 07. House Dems balk at funding domestic satellite spying program. With the Homeland Security Department appropriations bill for fiscal 2008 coming up for consideration in conference committee, Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee called for a moratorium on funding the DHS office that will oversee the use of spy satellites for domestic law enforcement. Democrats yesterday sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, urging them not to support funding for the National Applications Office until appropriate safeguards for privacy and civil liberties have been reviewed and approved by congress. “The NAO marks a dramatic expansion of prior domestic use of satellite imagery that raises very significant constitutional, legal and organizational issues,” the representatives wrote. Plans for the program to share imagery from U.S. spy satellites for the first time with state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in the United States were revealed in August, raising immediate concerns about possible abuses of privacy and civil liberties. The Homeland Security committee held a hearing on the issue earlier this month in which Chairman Bennie Thompson criticized an “unacceptable” lack of civil rights protections. “Rigorous privacy and civil liberties protections must be ‘baked in’ from the beginning, and your department’s experts on these topics were shut out,” Thompson told Assistant Secretary Charles Allen, chief intelligence officer at the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, where NAO will be housed. (Source: GCN)

01 Oct 07. On 26 September, the Austrian interior ministry signed a purchase agreement for eight Eurocopter EC135 P2i light twin-engine helicopters for police operations. Four of the machines are scheduled to be delivered in March 2008, followed by two each in March and May 2009 respectively.

01 Oct 07. U.K. researchers unsmudge fingerprints. U.K. researchers have developed a technique for identifying fingerprints that have been smudged, clipped, distorted or otherwise badly recorded. The researchers, from the University of Warwick, also claim the identification only takes seconds to execute, no matter the size of the database the prints are being compared against. “Our technology … provides high speed and more importantly, our system’s accuracy and speed doesn’t degrade when the size of database increases,” said Li Wang, one of the researchers on the project, in a statement. The technique involves building a master coordinate map for all the fingerprints on record, called an image space. When a smudged, uneven or distorted copy of a fingerprint needs to be identified, it then can be overlaid onto this topological map, allowing the system to make a match with the copy on record. (Source: GCN)

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