Intelligence Gathering

Is the NSA building a $1.2billion data center to spy on Americans? Utah desert facility code-named Bumblehive ‘will monitor emails of U.S. citizens’

  • National  Security Agency insists the site will operate according to laws that limit  spying on U.S. citizens
  • But civil  liberties campaigners warn that the government is seeking to expand these  powers
  • The U.S.  government operated a secret warrantless wiretapping programme between 2001 and  2005

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 08:51 EST, 16  April 2013 |  UPDATED: 10:24 EST, 16 April 2013

 

The U.S. National Security Agency has been  accused of building a $1.2billion data centre in the Utah desert to illegally  monitor the emails of American citizens.

The secretive agency, which serves the U.S.  military and intelligence communities, insisted the state-of-the-art facility,  code-named Bumblehive, would be used to support U.S. cybersecurity in  accordance with U.S. laws that limit spying on Americans.

But campaigners have warned that a new law  currently going through Congress will greatly expand these powers, and the  Bumblehive site could be used for unprecedented mass  surveillance.

NSA site plan 

Surveillance: The site plan for the NSA’s Utah data  center, code-named Bumblehive, which has been accused of being built to spy on  American citizens

Fox News aired a television report  about the  1million-sq/ft facility on Friday in which former NSA  employees raised concerns  that the facility would be used to monitor the emails of U.S.  citizens.

‘Many unfounded allegations have been  made  about the planned activities of the Utah Data Center,’ the NSA said in a  statement.

It added that ‘one of the biggest  misconceptions about  NSA is that we are unlawfully listening in on, or reading  emails of,  U.S. citizens. This is simply not the case.’

The NSA said it remained ‘unwavering’ in its  respect for U.S. laws and American citizens’ civil liberties, and noted that it  was subject to broad oversight by all three branches of government.

All wiretapping of U.S. citizens by the NSA  requires a warrant from a three-judge court set up under the Foreign  Intelligence Surveillance Act passed in 1978.

Former President George W. Bush issued an  executive order shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York that  authorised the NSA to monitor certain phone calls without obtaining a warrant.

The warrantless wiretapping programme  remained a secret until 2005, when a whistleblower went to the press to reveal  the extent of the surveillance.

Under construction: An aerial view shows the extent of construction at the Bumblehive site, which the NSA insists will not be used for the unlawful survellance of American citizens 

Under construction: An aerial view shows the extent of  construction at the Bumblehive site, which the NSA insists will not be used for  the unlawful survellance of American citizens

Although the NSA has strenuously denied  acting beyond its surveillance powers groups such as the American Civil  Liberties Union (ACLU) have warned that a bill currently passing through  Congress could dramatically increase the amount of personal data that government  agencies have legal access to.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection  Act (CISPA) has just been inspected by the House Permanent Select Committee on  Intelligence.

In a written statement addressed to  congressmen, the ACLU said: ‘CISPA creates an exception to all privacy laws to  permit companies to share our information with each other and with the  government in the name of cybersecurity.

‘Although a carefully-crafted information  sharing program that strictly limits the information to be shared and includes  robust privacy safeguards could be an effective approach to cybersecurity, CISPA  lacks such protections for individual rights.

‘CISPA’s information sharing regime allows  the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like  internet records or the content of emails, to any agency in the government  including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency  or the Department of Defense Cyber Command.’

Preparing for the future? Campaigners in the U.S. have warned over a new law, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which if passed could give the government more legal rights to access citizens' data 

Preparing for the future? Campaigners in the U.S. have  warned over a new law, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which  if passed could give the government more legal rights to access citizens’  data

The NSA issued a news release about  construction of the massive, Utah data centre in January 2011, identifying it as  the largest Pentagon facility construction project in the country.

It said the project would result in 5,000 to  10,000 new jobs during the construction phase, with 100 to 200 permanent  employees to work there once it was completed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is handling  the construction of the facility.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the centre  was due to be completed in September.

The NSA is the executive agent for the Office  of the Director of National Intelligence, and will be the lead agency at the  facility, but the centre will also help other agencies, including the Department  of Homeland Security, in protecting national security networks, according to a  NSA news release.

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