Snooping on Americans; business as usual
The so-called “government shut down” and the furloughing of thousands of non-essential federal employees has not prevented the opening of a $2 billion dollar NSA spy center in Utah which will snoop on Americans’ private emails, Google searches and phone calls.
As we highlighted yesterday, the shut down will only affect the tiny amount of services government provides that Americans actually like.
Rest assured, TSA grope downs, VIPR checkpoints, drone attacks, SWAT team raids, tax collection, torturing terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, arming jihadists in Syria and running guns to Mexican drug dealers will all continue unimpeded – as will NSA domestic spying.
Although the NSA itself refuses to confirm it, to all intents and purposes the agency’s mammoth new spy center in Bluffdale, Utah “may be open already,” according to the Denver Post.
“The facility is expected this fall to quietly begin sucking in massive amounts of information for the intelligence community and storing it in the cavernous buildings in Bluffdale, Utah, according to NSA officials — and it could be open now even as the agency faces scrutiny over efforts to collect data on Americans domestically,” writes Thomas Burr.
An NSA spokesperson said back in July that the center would be open by the “end of the fiscal year,” i.e., the end of September. The fact that lawmakers have failed to agree on legislation that will fund the government from today onwards isn’t an issue for the agency.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines also recently acknowledged that the center, which covers 1 million square feet of space, is ready for each machine to be switched on. The center will hold 1 trillion terabytes of data. To put that in context, all of the books ever written in any language would need just 400 terabytes.
The facility is set to collect ”complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter,” according to Wired.
It will be filled with supercomputers that can run one thousand trillion calculations per second as part of a data mining process that seeks to identify suspects “before they commit a crime or associate with terror suspects,” state of the art pre-crime technology that puts the movie Minority Report to shame.
While the center itself will not analyze the data (it only has 200 employees), the information will be scrutinized “at other federal facilities by personnel who can remotely access the information stored in Bluffdale,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
The NSA “has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008,” according to a recent Washington Post report.
The most recent example of domestic snooping emerged only yesterday, when it was reported that the NSA, “is storing the online metadata of millions of internet users for up to a year, regardless of whether or not they are persons of interest to the agency.” The New York Times also reported that the NSA was exploiting such data to create, “sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.”
This year’s series of revelations about the NSA’s corrupt practices on behalf of whistleblower Edward Snowden did not prompt the federal agency to become more transparent about its activities in Bluffdale.
Forget visiting the facility, despite your tax dollars paying for it, you’re not even allowed to drive into the car park. Even local officials were barred from a ceremony earlier this year to mark the project’s completion. Reporters were also not welcome.
“A few Utah dignitaries have received tours. Most of them have been reticent to discuss what they saw there,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune.