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Is the NSA in Your State? And Why Should It Matter?

By: Lori Rardon

In the sense that it warrantlessly monitors you and virtually everybody else in the world, the NSA is everywhere. But where are its physical facilities? And why does it matter?

We know of nine facilities (listed below), and all of these locations have two things in common – cheap resources and willing local authorities.

More spy-facilities could be on the horizon, and this list should be considered only as a starting point. Plans and contracts to set up these facilities are generally done in secret, and we know is the NSA is actively working to expand its “mission.” So, even if there is no facility in your state, that doesn’t mean your shouldn’t be concerned.

You might be thinking, “Why does it matter? We can’t stop them.”

But you can! Or at least make it very difficult for them to continue operating.

If you believe in your right to privacy, you can push your state legislature to enact the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to effectively ban your state from taking actions which provide “material support or resources” to warrantless federal spying programs. And you support this legislation whether a facility is physically located in your state or not.

1. Ft. Meade, Maryland – NSA Headquarters

This facility employs at least 20,000 people making it one of the largest employers in Maryland.  It is believed to house one of the largest super-computers in the world which explains why, in 2006, it was reported that the NSA had maxed out capacity of the Baltimore-area power grid via Baltimore Gas and Electric.

Recently, Howard County, Md. has agreed to supply as much as 5 million gallons/day of treated wastewater to cool a computer center being built at Fort Meade. The NSA will pay the county as much as $2 million/year for the treated water when the center opens in 2016.

2. Bluffdale, Utah – NSA Datacenter

This new Data Center is designed to store massive amounts of data. According to planning documents, it would require 1.7 million gallons (6500 tons) of water/day to operate. That water is provided by a political subdivision of the state of Utah. It is said to require 65 megawatts of electricity provided by Rocky Mountain Power.

In June 2014, the Bluffdale Town Council voted to make it much more difficult to get water usage records from the data center. This was after a local Salt Lake Tribune reporter, Nate Carlisle, discovered that the center was using a lot less water than the projected 1.7 million gallons/day which led to speculation that it may not yet be fully operational possibly due to glitches. More on that HERE.

3. San Antonio, Texas – NSA Texas Cryptologic Center

The Texas Cryptologic Center houses the NSA’s TAO hacking unit (Tailored Access Operations) which targets corporate networks around the world in the name of defending the nation’s security.

A major part of the decision for the location of San Antonio was Texas’ independent power grid, confirming the NSA’s concern about access to power. The electricity is provided by CPS Energy, the United States’ largest municipally owned utility company with combined natural gas and electric service. It appears that water will be as well.

4. Augusta, Georgia

The facility employs approximately 4,000 trained in linguistics and cryptology. The Threat Operations Center has its water and sewage handled by the city of Augusta. Before a partnership in 2006 with Georgia Power, outages were a regular occurrence on post, particularly during the summer, when heavy demands were placed on the system.

5. Yakima, Washington

The “listening post” is scheduled to be closed and moved to Colorado. No date “in the future” has been confirmed.

6. Aurora, Colorado – NSA Aerospace Data Facility

Intelligence collected from the geostationary satellites, as well as signals from other spacecraft and overseas listening posts, is relayed to this facility outside Denver. About 850 NSA employees track the satellites, transmit target information, and download the intelligence haul.

7. Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The new facility on the East Campus of Oak Ridge called the “Multiprogram Computational Data Center” is a major internet surveillance laboratory which will apparently work in tandem with the data storage in Bluffdale, Utah. The goal – make machines fast enough to crack encryption. The super-fast computers in Oak Ridge could conceivably break the encryption on reams of data stored in Bluffdale, making its contents accessible to the NSA. This includes data of Americans vacuumed up by the spy agency.

According to a presentation delivered to DOE employees in 2009, it will have an extraordinary appetite for electricity, eventually using about 200 megawatts, enough to power 200,000 homes. The computer will also produce a gargantuan amount of heat, requiring 60,000 tons of cooling equipment, the same amount that was needed to serve both of the World Trade Center towers.

8. Oahu, Hawaii – NSA Hawaii Regional Operations Security Center

Focuses on intercepts from Asia and the Middle East. 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: Its 2,700 employees now do their work aboveground from a new 234,000-square-foot facility.

9. Sugar Grove, West Virginia – NSA Sugar Grove Research Center

The Sugar Grove Station’s code name is “Timberline” which functions as an electronic listening post. James Bamford, who has written four books about the NSA, has described the Navy-NSA operation at Sugar Grove as “the country’s largest eavesdropping bug”.

Sugar Grove is said to house the ECHELON communications network to process electronic telecommunications.  It intercepts all international communications entering the Eastern United States.  “Sugar Grove is part of a network of 12 other stations operated by the NSA and its British partners around the world,” said Matthew Aid, a former NSA employee.

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