[ISN] Surprise Visitors Are Unwelcome At The NSA's Unfinished Utah Spy Center (Especially When They Take Photos)

From: InfoSec News <alerts_at_private>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2013 01:44:21 -0600 (CST)

By Kashmir Hill
Forbes Staff

Most people who visit Salt Lake City in the winter months are excited about 
taking advantage of the area’s storied slopes. While skiing was on my itinerary 
last week, I was more excited about an offbeat tourism opportunity in the area: 
I wanted to check out the construction site for “the country’s biggest spy 

An electrifying piece about domestic surveillance by national security writer 
James Bamford that appeared in Wired last year read like a travel brochure to 

  In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become
  uneasy neighbors. Under construction by contractors with top-secret
  clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the
  National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the
  final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its
  purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of
  the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip
  through the underground and undersea cables of international,
  foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion
  center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through
  its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will
  be all forms of communication, including the 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.”

My outing to the facility last Thursday was an eventful one. I can confirm that 
the National Security Agency’s site is still under construction. It was 
surprisingly easy to drive up and circle its parking lot. But if you take 
photos while there, it is — much like Hotel California – very hard to leave.

When the University of Utah professor who invited me to Salt Lake City to talk 
to his students asked how I wanted to spend three hours of downtime Thursday 
afternoon, the super-secret spy center was at the top of my list. The 
professor, Randy Dryer, was dubious about the value of visiting the 
construction site, assuming there would be a huge fence that would prohibit us 
from getting close or seeing anything significant. That turned out not to be 
the case.


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Received on Tue Mar 05 2013 - 23:44:21 PST

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