5 Government Intelligence Facilities You've Never Heard Of4:00 PM EST Tue. Jun. 11, 2013
It should come as no surprise the government has been collecting data from a wide array of sources. But this week, a report in The Guardian revealed a court order obtained by the National Security Agency in April that forced Verizon to turn over call metadata to the intelligence community. Then a domestic surveillance operation called NSA PRISM was revealed, which reportedly involves collecting data from Apple, Facebook, Google and other Internet giants. The massive amounts of data being collected needs support facilities and processing centers. Here are a few of those government and quasi-government facilities that perform the collection and analysis.
Lab41 is a testing facility for big data analytics that is operated by the non-profit funding arm of the CIA called In-Q-Tel. The operation located in the heart of Silicon Valley is unclassified. It was designed to enable private sector software developers and engineers to collaborate on developing techniques to apply analytics to massive amounts of data for the intelligence community. According to Lab41, projects address data visualization, social network analysis and statistical modeling of structured and unstructured information. "Challenge teams" operate out of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based facility, working on selected projects within a three to 12 month time frame.
Located in McLean, Va., Liberty Crossing houses the National Counterterrorism Center where the intelligence community from the FBI, CIA and the Department of Defense come together to analyze foreign and domestic terrorism-related issues. The facility houses experts on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear counterterrorism issues as well as an Extremist Messaging Group that addresses radicalization issues.
Located in Chantilly, Va., the National Reconnaissance Office was secretly created on September 6, 1961, following the Soviet launch of Sputnik. Today, the agency oversees satellite surveillance activities. It also oversees the launching and maintenance of reconnaissance satellites. In addition to tracking terrorists, drug traffickers and assisting with military operations, the agency has a peacetime mission of assisting scientists with environmental research and helping coordinate disaster relief efforts.
Located in the SBC Communications (formerly AT&T) building in San Francisco, Room 641A, has been referred to in recent reports about surveillance activities within the U.S. The Room, which can only be accessed by National Security Agency personnel, is said to collect Internet communications. The data is said to be fed to a massive centralized data center processing facility for analysis. The privacy watchdog group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believes it may have been in operation since at least 2001. Up to 20 secret rooms are reportedly believed to be housed at telecommunications facilities in the U.S.
Highlighted in a 2012 article in Wired, a massive NSA Data Center in Utah is believed to serve as the main collection and data crunching facility. The 1-million-square-foot building includes a 100,000-square-foot data center. Estimated at $1.2 billion, the facility has its own water treatment facilities, electrical substations, fuel and water storage, chiller plant and fire suppression systems. The facility is expected to open in the fall. A second facility, called the NSA High Performance Computing Center, is expected to open in 2016 in Fort Meade, Md. The 600,000-square-foot building is expected to focus on early warning threat intelligence for cyberattacks.