Barack Obama - NSA Spy Center

Last Updated : Sep 04, 2012


In March of 2012, Wired Magazine released an article describing a facility being built in Utah by the National Security Agency (NSA) for the purposes of spying on the internet and telephone operations. The $2 billion facility is being built in Bluffdale, Utah for the purposes of  intercepting, deciphering, analyzing, and storing vast swaths of the world’s communications and is expected to be operational in September of 2013. Once completed, the facility will cost $40 million a year to run. 

Size of the Facility

To house the servers needed to hold the data at the facility four 25,000-square-foot halls are being built, in addition to more than 900,000 square feet for technical support and administration. The base will be self-sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system and massive air-conditioning system to keep all those servers cool. Electricity will come from the center’s own substation built by Rocky Mountain Power to satisfy the 65-megawatt power demand. 


Included in the information that the center will process are complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”

According to the article, the facility is being prepared to house a yottabytes (10^24 bytes) of data. A great deal of this data will come from what the NSA refers to a the "deep web" which includes information protected by passwords or encrypted. The NSA believes that it will be able to decipher many encryptions in the next few years, so encrypted data will be gathered with the intent of reading it when the algorithms finished.

To gather this data, the NSA has installed secret electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities that tap directly into communications lines. This is a scenario similar to warrentless wiretapping problems encountered by the Bush administration. In those cases, communications companies were given immunity after cooperating in illegal activity. In this case, as before, the listening stations are not being placed where lines are entering the country but rather within the structure that controls the flow of information within the US. Whereas the former would have limited the NSA to listening in on communications outside the US, the later allows for the monitoring of all communications.

Critics of the center compared it to the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

Facility Layout

The center itself is shown in the image below. This image was provided to Wired Magazine by the Corps of Engineers. Wired Magazine added the text and numbers explaining the function of each building.


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