NSA data center front and center in debate over liberty, security and privacy

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Published April 12, 2013  FoxNews.com

Twenty-five miles due south of Salt Lake City, a massive construction project  is nearing completion.  The heavily secured site belongs to the National  Security Agency.”The spy center” — that’s what some of the locals like Jasmine Widmer, who  works at Bluffdale’s sandwich shop, told our Fox News team as part of an eight  month investigation into data collection and privacy rights that will be  broadcast Sunday at 9 p.m. ET called “Fox News Reporting: Your Secrets Out.”

The NSA says the Utah Data Center is a facility for the intelligence  community that will have a major focus on cyber security. The agency will  neither confirm nor deny specifics. Some published reports suggest it could hold  5 zettabytes of data. (Just one zettabyte is the equivalent of about 62 billion  stacked iPhones 5’s– that stretches past the moon.

One man we hoped would answer our questions, the current director of the NSA  General Keith Alexander, declined Fox News’s requests to sit down for an  interview, so we stopped by the offices of a Washington think tank, where  Alexander was speaking at a cyber security event last year.

Asked if the Utah Data Center would hold the data of American citizens,   Alexander said, “No…we don’t hold data on U.S. citizens,” adding that  the NSA staff “take protecting your civil liberties and privacy as the most  important thing that they do, and securing this nation.”

But critics, including former NSA employees, say the data center is front and  center in the debate over liberty, security and privacy.

“[It] raises the most serious questions about the vast amount of data that  could be kept in one place for many, many different sources,”  Thomas Drake  told Fox News.

Drake — who worked at the NSA from Aug. 2001 to Aug. 2008 and was  unsuccessfully prosecuted on espionage charges — says Americans should be  concerned about letting the government go too far in the name of security.

“It’s in secret so you don’t really know,” Drake explained. “It’s benign,  right. If I haven’t — and if I haven’t done anything wrong it doesn’t matter.  The only way you can have perfect security is have a perfect surveillance state.  That’s George Orwell. That’s 1984. That’s what that would look like.”

Fellow NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, who worked at the NSA for nearly four  decades, says it’s about the possibility that the government’s stunning new  capacity to collect, store and analyze data could be abused.

“It’s really a– turnkey situation, where it could be turned quickly and  become a totalitarian state pretty quickly,” he said. “The capacities to do that  is being set up. Now it’s a question of if we get the wrong person in office, or  if certain people set up their network internally in government, they could make  that happen quickly.”

According to NSA’s chief compliance officer John Delong, whose job is to make  sure the laws and policies designed to protect the privacy of U.S. persons is  being enforced, part of the frustration is that the rules are specific and  secret.

“I think that’s sort of the collision, is you have classified rules,” DeLong  explained during an hour long meeting with Fox News at the NSA. “You now have a  somewhat more public data center,”

“These aren’t just, like, general policy pronouncements of ‘You shall protect  privacy.'” he said.

DeLong added that another misconception is that there is only internal  oversight, when he says there is “a tremendous amount of external oversight”  from the Justice Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence  and others.

In an email, Vanee’ Vines, a public information officer for the NSA, said  that the Utah Data Center will be “a state-of-the-art facility designed to  support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect  the nation. NSA is the executive agent for the Office of the Director of  National Intelligence, and will be the lead agency at the center.”

Because the Utah Data Center is a “secure facility” and you cannot go inside  without the needed security clearances, Fox News rented a helicopter and took to  the skies, where the depth and breadth of the Utah Center were stunning.

The aerial video footage is exclusive to the Fox News investigation and  posted here.  Two weeks after our filming, the helicopter pilot reported to  our Fox News team that he had been visited by the FBI on a “national security  matter.”

The pilot said, according to the FBI agents, that the NSA had taken photos of  the helicopter once it made several flyovers.  These photos allowed the NSA  to identify the make and manufacturer of the helicopter in California who, in  turn, told the NSA who operates it in the Salt Lake City area.

The FBI wanted to know if we had the proper air space clearances to flyover  the site, which the Fox News team did.   Satisfied that the pilot was  not flying “terrorists” over the site, the questioning concluded.  While  the pilot passed along the Fox News contact information, there was no further  inquiries.

Binney said the helicopter incident “showed the capability of the U.S.  government to use information to trace people, their relationship to others and  to raise suspicions about their activities and  intentions.”

Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/04/12/nsa-data-center-front-and-center-in-debate-over-liberty-security-and-privacy/#ixzz2QczhlYo5

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