Exposed: Massive New Spy Center Built to Track Your Emails and Phone Calls
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AMY GOODMAN: And those are the opening words of Jim Bamford’s piece, "TheNSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)." So, James Bamford, it’s good to have you on, albeit from Britain right now. But talk further about what you have found and what the capacity of this data center, as they call it, seemingly so innocuous, is.
JAMES BAMFORD: Well, it’s going to be a million square feet. That’s gigantic. There’s only one data center in the country that’s larger, and it’s only slightly larger than that. And it’s going to cost $2 billion. It’s being built in this area on a military base outside of Salt Lake City in Bluffdale. As I said, they had to actually extend the boundary of the town so it would fit into it.
And the whole purpose of this is the centerpiece of this massive eavesdropping complex, this network that was created after 9/11. During the '90s, the NSA had a disastrous decade, following the Cold War. They missed the first World Trade Center bombing. They missed the attack on the USS Cole. They missed the attack on the U.S. embassies in East Africa. And finally, they missed the 9/11 attacks. So NSA wanted to pretty much recreate itself as this massive eavesdropping organization that was, during the Cold War, focused on the Soviet Union, primarily, and to some degree, the Eastern Europe and China and Cuba, communist countries, and today it's focused on anybody that could use a piece of communication, because the terrorists that they’re eventually after use the same kind of communications that everybody else does. So it has to focus on the worldwide network of communications, the same network that all of us use.
So you have this massive agency that’s collecting a tremendous amount of information every day by satellites, by tapping into undersea cables, by picking up microwave links and tapping of cell phones and data links on your computer, email links, and so forth. And then it has to store it someplace, and that’s why they built Bluffdale. And then that acts as, in essence, like a cloud, a digital cloud, so that agency employees, analysts from around the country at NSA headquarters and their listening posts in different parts of the U.S.—in Georgia, Texas, Hawaii and Colorado—can all access that information held in Bluffdale in that data center. And that’s pretty much a summary of what that data center is all about.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: James Bamford, can you explain also for—you know, I think most people are more familiar with the work of the CIA or the FBI or other intelligence agencies. The National—the NSA is the most secretive. So can you say a little about what the work they do, how that’s different from what the other agencies do?
JAMES BAMFORD: Sure. The NSA is much different from the CIA. First of all, it’s about three times the size. It costs far more. It’s tremendously more secret than the CIA. And what it does is very different. It’s focused on eavesdropping, on tapping into major communications links, on listening to what people around the world and, to some degree, in the United States say on telephones, email, communications. That’s really the high point of intelligence these days. Human intelligence is what the CIA does. It goes out and recruits spies, or it blows people up with drones. So, the actual collection—and human intelligence hasn’t really been very good historically. Most the intelligence that the U.S. gathers comes from NSA, is from tapping into communications. So that’s a very big difference between the two. And NSA is really the most powerful intelligence agency, not only in the U.S., but in the world today.