The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

decided to delay the Oct. 1

opening of a new office to handle civilian requests for classified satellite imagery, citing the need to address privacy and civil liberties questions from Congress, DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis spokesman Andrew Lluberes said Oct. 3.

The new National Applications Office (NAO) was scheduled to take over the processing of initial imagery requests from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Civil Applications Committee. The NAO

eventually will expand its operation to handle requests for classified satellite imagery from other government agencies, including

law enforcement agencies.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and other members of the

Homeland Security Committee

expressed their concerns at a Sept. 6 hearing that DHS had not disclosed to them its plans to open the office until August. They also complained that DHS

had not provided them with the office’s legal framework or documentation outlining their standard operating procedures.

Sixteen of the committee’s 17 Democrats signed a letter Sept. 26 requesting House appropriators to demand that legal framework and documents before working out in committee a final 2008 Homeland Security spending bill that would fund the office.

said DHS will deliver the documentation that members of Congress asked for as soon as possible.

“The program will go forward, but we need to answer these questions first,” Lluberes said.