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NSA’s top secret spy center in Utah, world’s largest and most technologically advanced, is less than one year from completion

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Utah Data Center under construction in Utah
Photo by Unknown via Wired Magazine

The heavily fortified, 925,000 square foot Utah Data Center (UDC), also known as the Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center, is being constructed on the grounds of Camp Williams in Bluffdale, Utah at a cost of $2 billion, by the National Security Agency (NSA). According to the NSA, the highly advanced data center is little more than a “facility designed to support the intelligence community in its mission to protect the nation’s cybersecurity.” But everyone else knows its highly classified purpose is to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast numbers of the international and domestic communications as they zip around through the Internet.  It is believed to be the first in a series of ultra-advanced Data Centers pursuant to the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.

In addition to being located at Camp Williams, the facility is of course, highly fortified. Surrounding the complex is a fence capable of stopping a 15,000 pound vehicle travelling 50 miles per hour. It will be protected with closed-circuit digital cameras, advance biometric identification systems, a vehicle inspection facility, and a visitor control center. The site will be self-sustaining with solar power electrical generation and fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for days. Its 65-megawatt power demand will be relayed from its own private substation and its communications network cordoned off from the rest of the world.

While the security of UDC ensures nobody from the outside can get in, UDC will specialize in eavesdropping on everything (and everyone) else on the outside. It is believed, and insiders have confirmed, that the data center servers will intercept, and decrypt, all forms of communications, including email, phone calls, and web traffic. It will tie into the Pentagon’s new Global Information Grid, a worldwide communications network capable of supporting yottabytes (i.e. 1 million exabytes or 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 pages of text) of data. It is believed that even data encrypted with 256 bit AES encryption will be deciphered using a specially designed, record-breaking Manhattan Project style supercomputer called the High Productivity Computing System. When complete, the facility will house the world’s fastest supercomputer and the world’s largest data storage and analysis facility. Using this huge data pipe and unparalleled processing power, UDC will be capable of seemingly unlimited electronic surveillance and other cybersecurity initiatives.

According to Wired Magazine, this new NSA cloud will fit within the following spy network:

Geostationary satellites
Four satellites positioned around the globe monitor frequencies carrying everything from walkie-talkies and cell phones in Libya to radar systems in North Korea. Onboard software acts as the first filter in the collection process, targeting only key regions, countries, cities, and phone numbers or email.

Aerospace Data Facility, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado
Intelligence collected from the geostationary satellites, as well as signals from other spacecraft and overseas listening posts, is relayed to this facility outside Denver.

NSA Georgia, Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia
Focuses on intercepts from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Codenamed Sweet Tea, the facility has been massively expanded and now consists of a 604,000-square-foot operations building.

NSA Texas, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio
Focuses on intercepts from Latin America and, since 9/11, the Middle East and Europe. Some 2,000 workers staff the operation. The NSA recently completed a $100 million renovation on a mega-data center here—a backup storage facility for the Utah Data Center.

NSA Hawaii, Oahu
Focuses on intercepts from Asia. Built to house an aircraft assembly plant during World War II, the 250,000-square-foot bunker is nicknamed the Hole. Like the other NSA operations centers, it has since been expanded to include a new aboveground 234,000-square-foot facility.

Domestic listening posts
The NSA has long been free to eavesdrop on international satellite communications. But after 9/11, it installed taps in US telecom “switches,” gaining access to domestic traffic. An ex-NSA official says there are 10 to 20 such installations across the country.

Overseas listening posts
According to a knowledgeable intelligence source, the NSA has installed taps on at least a dozen of the major overseas communications links, each capable of eavesdropping on information passing by at a high data rate.

Multiprogram Research Facility, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Some 300 scientists and computer engineers with top security clearance toil away here, building the world’s fastest supercomputers and working on cryptanalytic applications and other secret projects.

NSA headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland
Analysts here will access material stored at Bluffdale to prepare reports and recommendations that are sent to policymakers. To handle the increased data load, the NSA is also building an $896 million supercomputer center here.

If you think this sounds illegal, recall that the amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on American phone calls and e-mail without a probable-cause warrant. Restrictions were further eased when the act was amended in 2001 by the USA Patriot Act, again in the Protect America Act of 2007, and yet again by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. On September 12, 2012, the House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the FISA Amendments ACT (the ACLU is currently battling the act).

If you fall into the camp, and think this all sounds very cool, understand that the phenomenal processing and communications power present at UDC, can also be harnessed for other cybersecurity initiatives, including offensive cyberattacks against other countries or state-entities.

Sources: Wired Magazine, Forbes, Wikipedia, ACLU, CNN