We Don’t Know It, But It Knows Us- And We Paid It To

March 19, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

After stumbling upon the Twitter account, YourAnonNews- associated with the recently acclaimed activist group Anonymous according to the bio-I had found an intriguing tweet on the account regarding a reporter who endured an intimidating confrontation with National Security Agency security after attempting to photograph a new NSA structure cleverly named Utah Data Center.

Wired released an article about the center unveiling the need-to-know information that seems to be more than less withheld from the American public. The article illustrates:

Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of 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.


        Forbes (adorable, if I may say so) privacy beat reporter, Kashmir Hill, had a few hours to spare whilst on a trip in Utah and took a spontaneous visit to the NSA’s immense data center that is still under construction. She decided to travel to the site with professor Randy Dryer who happens to be a practicing and experienced media lawyer as well. Hill and Dryer’s time of leisure was met with unexpected trouble- they pissed off security. NSA security was unsettled with Hill’s presence because they were aware she was taking photographs of the scene. In a column she recently wrote for her Forbes “Not-So-Private Parts” regarding the incident, she illustrated an hour long interrogation and encounter with stern, mysterious officers . Hill noted in her editorial that one of the officers recorded their conversation in a notebook. She depicted a surreal environment entirely: a bizarre blinking sign, very small warning signs with trespassing rules, curious statements made by the officers regarding the building and NSA policy and a questionable structure resembling a gas station but with no pumps- all next a highway with a breath-taking mountain view.

The NSA officers commanded Hill to delete a few of her photographs and advised that doing so would ease the process in avoiding a trespassing charge. Hill was bullied in defense of privacy for the agency that is exactly why anyone should raise concern about this whole event. We, as citizens, do not hold the same opportunity and authority as the NSA officers to defend our own privacy that is being trespassed within the Utah NSA establishment. Although Hill was stripped of her photographic evidence, her journalism skills were not robbed as she used her voice to exercise the right to search for the truth in reflection upon a frightening thought in her column. Her words are wise, certainly surpassing the impact of what her photography would have served.

Honestly I was starting to feel pretty nervous at this point but also painfully aware of the irony of the situation. They didn’t want me to capture information about a facility that will soon be harvesting and storing massive amounts of information about American citizens, potentially including many photos that have been privately sent.

Kashmir Hill should be commended for serving her duty to journalism in such a profound way. She is a real dudette with whistle-blowing qualities. Even though it may not seem that she has accomplished much success on the matter, she verbally exposed an unusual occurrence that is important for everyone to be aware of. At what extent do we, as citizens, allow our privacy to be invaded? Why has this story and the facility itself received such minimum attention in comparison to our collective, personal data becoming the center of attention for the building’s existence? The Anonymous Twitter account, YourAnonNews, noted this paradoxical nature how we, as a whole, are not encouraged to learn about it, simultaneously illuminating their groups mission, “We like doing things we’re not encouraged to do.” Then, the account reminded followers of one important thing: this NSA creation was brought to life by American tax dollars.

If there is one thing I can urge you to do- it’s read both of these articles in the links below and open your eyes.




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Stephanie is a senior Advertising and Public Relations & Multiplatform Journalism double major at Duquesne University expected to graduate in May 2014.

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