Home » News

Edward Snowden talks about NSA’s Utah Data Center and more in Park City digital address

First Published      Last Updated Dec 16 2016 04:10 pm

Speech » Scope of government surveillance — including Bluffdale facility ­— prompted him to act.

Park City • Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked classified documents, told an audience here Saturday that a massive government data center in Bluffdale had earlier names and implied he has documents about surveillance at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

"It's good to be back in the United States," Snowden said, after a remote controlled, motorized monitor showing his face rolled onto the Eccles Center stage. "And I didn't even get a pardon."

The National Security Agency's Utah Data Center and the 2002 Olympics came up about 45 minutes into Snowden's digital appearance. KUER's Doug Fabrizio asked Snowden if it was correct the Utah Data Center was "the last straw" spurring Snowden to leak the documents.

No, Snowden said. He was worried about the scope of NSA surveillance, though the data center was a component of that surveillance.

"It did concern me what was happening in Utah," Snowden said, "particularly because of the name of the facility."

Snowden said the NSA and its contractors were referring to the facility as the "MDR," which stood for "Massive Data Repository."

The data center was later referred to internally as the "Mission Data Repository," he said.

The NSA has never referred to the Utah Data Center by those other names in public.

Fabrizio asked about a 2013 Wall Street Journal report that the government used Qwest Communications to monitor text messages and phone calls in Salt Lake City leading up to and during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Snowden started his answer by saying he doesn't like to read and discuss documents that haven't already been made public.

"Everywhere the Olympics goes, the largest and most intrusive surveillance capabilities go," Snowden then said.

The Olympics have long been a big target for terrorists, he said.

"At the same time, does this mean we should have a constitution-free zone in a city in the United States for as long as the Olympics are there?" Snowden said. "I don't think that's so."

Snowden disclosed perhaps hundreds of thousands of documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald as well as journalists for The Washington Post and New York Times. Snowden left it to the journalists to decide what should be published based on the public interest and required them, he said, to give the government a chance to argue for secrecy.

So how did Snowden go from growing up in what he called a "federal family" — both his parents worked for the government — to being a whistleblower, Fabrizio asked?

Snowden described wanting to serve his country. He enlisted in the Army in 2004 but was discharged after breaking both legs in a training accident. Next, he joined the CIA.

Snowden later went to work for contractor Booz Allen. He gained access to documents discussing the NSA mass surveillance program "Stellar Wind." It had a classification "above top secret," Snowden said. The documents described warrantless wiretaps and other constitutional violations that had never been disclosed.

Critics have claimed Snowden damaged national security by disclosing U.S. spying secrets, though no one in federal government has offered a specific example of a counter-terrorism operation or defense program that has been jeopardized. In October, Utah Congressman Chris Stewart told a University of Utah audience Snowden is "one of the most destructive traitors" in American history.

» Next page... Single page


Reporter Nate Carlisle is covering the Snowden talk