Thursday, November 05, 2009

NSA coming to San Antonio

SA Current - NEWS+FEATURES: The panopticon economy:
Surrounded by barbwire fencing, the anonymous yet massive building on West Military Drive near San Antonio’s Loop 410 freeway looms mysteriously with no identifying signs of any kind. Surveillance is tight, with security cameras surrounding the under-construction building. Readers are advised not to take any photos unless you care to be detained for at least a 45-minute interrogation by the National Security Agency, as this reporter was.

There’s a strangely blurry line during such an interrogation. After viewing the five photos I’d taken of the NSA’s new Texas Cryptology Center, the NSA officer asked if I would delete them. When I asked if he was ordering me to do so, he said no; he was asking as a personal favor. I declined and was eventually released.

America’s top spy agency has taken over the former Sony microchip plant and is transforming it into a new data-mining headquarters — oddly positioned directly across the street from a 24-hour Walmart — where billions of electronic communications will be sifted in the agency’s mission to identify terrorist threats.

“No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its secret city, the agency has now built a new data warehouse in San Antonio, Texas,” writes author James Bamford in the Shadow Factory, his third book about the NSA. “Costing, with renovations, upwards of $130 million, the 470,000-square-foot facility will be almost the size of the Alamodome. Considering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world.”
I recommend reading this whole thing. Not only for information about this thing coming to S.A., but for a reminder of how our Fourth Amendment has been completely and effectively nullified in the interest of the almighty dollar. Here's another spooky little snippet:
The new NSA facility is just a few miles from Microsoft’s data center of the same size. Bamford says that under current law, NSA could gain access to Microsoft’s stored data without even a warrant, but merely a fiber-optic cable.
Further important reading is at New American.
No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its Ft. Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is engaging in its own housing boom. How much data will these giant, multibillion dollar new facilities hold? According to James Bamford of the New York Review of Books, the facility in Utah alone could hold data that will be measured in Yottabytes. Never heard of Yottabytes? You're not alone. Most computers sold at stores still measure their storage at gigabytes, or billions of bits of data. A few store a terrabyte of information, or one trillion bits of information. That's 1,000,000,000,000 pieces of information. Yottabytes is the highest number that has yet been named in computer information. The number is septillions of billions of bits of data, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bits of data.
Personal side note: I had to read the meter at the Microsoft place a couple of times. It's just outside the front gate right next to the security shack. I was having trouble finding it (because it was originally on the wrong route), and was told that the place belonged to Microsoft. That didn't help at all, because there is no identifying signage of any kind that would indicate what the place is.


  1. Though your concerns about data mining are valid, I'm afraid I cannot bring myself to read the whole article since it appeared in the Current. That rag is a revolution-for-the-sake-of-revolution, all-people-that-are-not-complete-liberals-are-evil type of publication, and I wrote it off some time ago. It used to be a good source for information on local food and music (and it might still be, for all I know), but I could no longer stomach its vitriolic pap.

    I take everything Current writers say with a grain of salt.

  2. Heh. I didn't really know anything about them. Never read it.

  3. I've been by the NSA a few times. Earlier in its construction I always wondered what it was. My brother-in-law is the one that finally found out what it was going to be. I have a few pictures of it, but I've always taken them from the street as we drove by. My sister and I did wonder about the fencing, the camera's every few feet, the barbed wire and all those signs.