Richard “Dickie” George, who retired from the NSA in 2011 after 40 years, said the facility isn’t nearly as interesting or mysterious as some think. He calls it little more than a giant storeroom. Inundated with increasing volumes of secretly taped phone calls, intercepted emails and poached records of online purchases, the NSA needed a mega-warehouse to put it all, he said.
“It’s just a big file cabinet out in the Western area,” said George, once a senior technical leader at the agency.
“There is no spying going on there.”
NSA agents elsewhere will comb through the data stored in Utah as the agency attempts to understand how terrorist groups operate and who plays what roles, George said. Emails, articles, websites and videos on the Internet may hold clues about such activities, he said.
James Bamford, the author of several books on the NSA who last year wrote about the Utah center in Wired magazine, asserts that the facility will serve as the central depository for everything the NSA intercepts, functioning as the agency’s “cloud.” Analysts at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., and other agency sites will be able to access the information by way of secure, fiber-optic cables, he said.
The mammoth center, which cost some $1.7 billion, will allow the agency to store more and, perhaps more importantly, keep information for much longer. Bamford theorizes the facility will be able to hold a so-called yottabyte of information, the largest measurement computer scientists have. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text, said Bamford, who believes the Utah center will store those phone records NSA gathered from Verizon Communications.
“Every day you pick up a telephone and call your grandmother or call your sons and daughters and mothers and fathers and whoever, records of those calls will be all kept in there – and may be kept in there forever. Who knows?” Bamford said.
In response, NSA spokeswoman Vines stressed that the agency is not “unlawfully listening in on, or reading emails of, U.S. citizens.”<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 next >>