Back in 2012, James Bamford wrote an article for Wired magazine on the construction of the biggest spy center in the U.S. by the National Security Agency (NSA) near Salt Lake City, Utah. The $2 billion project was described by Bamford as the "final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade [designed] to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world's communications." Following the recent confirmation of the existence of the massive NSA surveillance program, involving collection of data relating to the phone and internet communications of millions of people, the data center being built in Utah has come under increased scrutiny.
Although the center is not expected to open until September this year, there was reportedly a secret ribbon cutting ceremony last week and Bamford said last year that it will store "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" ... which certainly covers the information being collected under the PRISM program and the monitoring of Verizon customers.
Image credits: Wired
As I searched for images of the data center, I was at one point directed to an NSA parody website, designed to "raise awareness of important privacy issues," purporting to be the site of the Domestic Surveillance Directorate (which does not actually exist). Before entering the website, the following warning popped up on my screen:
The heavily-fortified and secretive center will reportedly be able to handle yottabytes of data, with one yottabyte being equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000 gigabytes. Which is truly a staggering number, but as we now know, the NSA is also collecting a truly staggering amount of data on both American citizens and foreign nationals. Featuring four 25,000-square-foot halls filled with servers, and over 900,000 square feet of space for technical support and administration, the "entire site will be self sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system ... massive airconditioning system [and its] own substation."
Image credit: Wired
According to Bamford, the center will act as the "cloud," the central storage system for all of NSA's worldwide surveillance programs. Data from all the various "eavesdropping satellites, overseas listening posts, and secret monitoring rooms in telecom facilities throughout the U.S." will be fed into the center. And most likely all the information collected by the PRISM program, and from Verizon, too.
Speaking about the revelations that the NSA is collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers and monitoring the internet communications of million of people through the servers of major tech companies, Bamford called it "an expansion of power that’s never happened before — the use of NSA for domestic surveillance on virtually all of the Americans in the U.S. [in which] everybody's a suspect until you prove you're not a suspect." Which is exactly the problem that lies at the heart of the issue.