Sunday, 18 March 2012 15:00
In the little town of Bluffdale, Utah, between the Wasatch Range and the Oquirrh Mountains, the National Security Agency (NSA) is building what will be the nation's largest spy center, reports Wired, a print magazine and online publication reporting on technological developments and their effects, including electronic privacy. Dubbed the Utah Data Center, the project is already employing thousands of hardhat workers in its construction and will son have some 10,000 construction workers building a data center that will be more than five times the size of the nation's capitol, Wired reports.
"We've been asked not to talk about the project," Rob Moore, president of Big-D Construction, one of the three major contractors working on the project, told a local reporter. Plans for the center include a $10 million antiterrorism protection program, a fence designed to stop a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 50 miles per hour, closed-circuit cameras, a biometric identification system, a vehicle inspection facility, and a visitor-control center, the magazine said.
The $2 billion center is scheduled to be in operation by September 2013. Its purpose will be to intercept and analyze electronic communications both foreign and domestic. The information will be stored in vast data bases that will include the complete contents of private emails, cellphone calls, and Google searches, as well as "all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital 'pocket litter,' " Wired reports, noting that the center will be in many respects the realization of the Total Information Awareness program created during the first term of the Bush administration. Congress killed the program after it produced a public and media outcry over invasion of privacy.
Financial information, business deals, legal documents, and personal communications will be monitored at the center, along with foreign military and diplomatic secrets. According to an anonymous "top official" quoted in the story, the NSA's code-breaking ability enables the agency to break through encryption systems employed not only by governments around the world, but also by average computer users in the United States. According to the official, "Everybody's a target; everybody with communication is a target."
NSA, the "largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created," has been overflowing with tens of billions of government dollars annually since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the magazine says. While its primary role is to discover and monitor threats to U.S. security from overseas sources, it is has turned its surveillance operations on citizens here in the U.S. as well, as officials sift through billions of email messages and phone calls from both overseas and here in "the homeland."
"Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net," Wired warns. "To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever."