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Dowd: Mountains of data in NSA's Utah complex

  • An aerial view of the NSA's Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah, Thursday, June 6, 2013. The government is secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order, according to the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Obama administration is defending the National Security Agency's need to collect such records, but critics are calling it a huge over-reach. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

BLUFFDALE, Utah

At the Husband and Wife lingerie store here in Mormon country — where babies are welcome amid the sex toys and the motto is "Classy, tasteful and comfortable" — no one had heard of it.

At the Allami smoke shop across the street, adjacent to a hypnosis center that can help you stop smoking, they were disturbed by it. Down the road at Quiznos, the young man making subs went on a rant about his insular community's compliance with the government's intrusions into Americans' private lives.

Indeed, this valley of subdivisions, sagebrush and one of the remaining polygamous sects gets more exercised about the letter "c" — there's a Kapuccino cafe, a Maverik convenience store and a Pikasso print shop — than they do about the National Security Agency's secretive new $2 billion, 1-million-square-foot data death star.

As Mark Reid, Bluffdale's city manager, told <WC>t<WC1>he New York Times' Michael Schmidt, the community's initial excitement about new jobs faded because many of the data analysts are elsewhere. The good jobs, he says, are for security dogs who have a "plush" kennel.

"They don't interact with anybody, they don't let anybody come up there," he said. "It is like they are not there. It is not like they are IBM and they join us for town days and sponsor a booth."

At a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington on Thursday, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado tried to pin down the shadowy and largely unchecked Emperor Alexander, as the NSA head, Gen. Keith Alexander, is known, on whether his agency is indiscriminately Hoovering up Americans' phone records.

"I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it, yes," Alexander said.

When Alexander was asked a year ago if the Bluffdale center would hold the data of Americans, he replied no: "We don't hold data on U.S. citizens," adding that reports that they would "grab all the emails" were "grossly misreported."

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon told me ruefully that on Thursday, "Alexander put in a lockbox information that he's told the public he doesn't have. This is what we're dealing with.


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