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Bluffdale, Utah

Strange how things have an odd habit of coming together on the Internet.  Take this week for instance, where in three different parts of the Liberal Democratic West there have been concerns raised by what, when one takes the larger view, seem to be coordinated and concerted attempts by the governments to restrict one’s liberties and snoop into people private lives.

In Canada there has been an issue with Bill C-30 which mandates internet providers to place black boxes on their businesses to record all transmissions of emails etc so that their government agencies may have access to these to monitor your discussions.

And back in poor old battered benighted Britain the issues have been that of fully sanctioned governmental snooping into ones dealings with the web.  Here we are in danger of seeing our own version of the Patriot Act being forced through Parliament in the next session.  Proposals to track every email, phone call and text message are needed, it seems because our government hasn’t the abilities just now to raid our VoIP telephone messages (that’s Skype and its friends to you!). The plans are to make internet and phone companies keep a record of every call, Facebook status etc.  They would need to have hardware installed to allow GCHQ Britain’s governmental listening station track all calls in real time.  Deep packet Inspection Equipment as they call it.  Spookily these are strickingly similar indeed  almost exactly the same problem as people in Canada are complaining about.  Weird eh?  Almost as if something is being coordinated?

The Sunday Telegraph today was all hot under the collar about this, with Christopher Booker’s piece placing the blame as with most things the Telegraph doesn’t like squarely on the European Union.  Booker sees GCHQ being used as Europe’s snoop centre.  They also quoted Gus Hosein of Privacy International as saying it probably wouldn’t work “The Government are kidding themselves if they think that as soon as they have the black boxes they will be able to check everyone’s VoIP calls because everything is encrypted”.  “It won’t work” he said crushingly “unless GCHQ has a bit of magic we don’t know about, it would take an impossible amount of computational power to break all that encryption”.  You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Telegraph readers across the country. Doubtless they had said the same in the Enigma factory.

Allow me to introduce you to the place the map above is about, and the third part of the story this week.

NSA Utah

The satellite map is of Bluffdale Utah.  There is a long item in Wired here.  The site I want to draw your attention to is on the western (left) side of the highway on the site of the old airfield.  This is where the United States Government are building “Stellar Wind” a $2 billion dollar site to place 100,000 square feet of servers into four gigantic halls each 25,000 square feet in size.  They say the site will be completed in 2013 but actually it should be operative by September 13th this year.  And its job?  Oh yes it will be there to hold cryptography storage and intercepts.  That means in common parlance, your emails, your phone calls, online shopping lists, Facebook contacts, your entire virtual life at their fingertips.

The power bill alone for this enormous code breaking facility is reckoned to be in the region of $40,000,000 dollars a year.  This is going to be huge.

So Mr Hosein, if you wondered where these intercepts were going for that little splash of magic my bet is they go straight from GCHQ to Bluffdale.  This of course, allows another little political game to be played.  Canada will not crack the codes of its own citizens, oh no heaven forfend, but they will send the stuff to Bluffdale for breaking, as will the British and who all else we can but imagine

It used to be terrorists we tracked but with this stuff everyone is the target now.

But why the interest from a blog on oligarchical politics?  Well, even here the oligarchs have their happy little snouts in the trough.  If you go back to the image the area to the east (the right), of the map what you see is Camp Williams, an old National Guard training camp which Senator Robert Bennett of the Udall family managed to persuade the government to remake into a Communication Hub of some 1.2million square feet sprawling over 120 to 200 acres of land all within about 26 miles of Salt Lake City with cheap power (and with bills that size it needs to be) as well as good infrastructure.

Our country” he intones piously “must continue to advance its national security efforts and that includes improvements in cybersecurity”.

Taken together this facility is formidable.

Doesn’t hurt the oligarchs either I suspect.

Copyright David Macadam 2012