Ex-spy says NSA did mass surveillance during Utah Olympics

A lawsuit filed in August alleges the NSA collected the contents of text messages and emails and metadata about every phone call in in the Salt Lake City area before and during the 2002 Olympic Games, Salt Lake City, Utah | Composite image, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former top spy agency official who was the target of a government leak investigation says the National Security Agency conducted blanket surveillance in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, according to court documents.

Ex-NSA official Thomas Drake wrote in a declaration released Friday that the NSA collected and stored virtually all electronic communications going into or out of the Salt Lake City area, including the contents of emails and text messages.

“Officials in the NSA and FBI viewed the Salt Lake Olympics Field Op as a golden opportunity to bring together resources from both agencies to experiment with and fine tune a new scale of mass surveillance,” Drake wrote.

It comes as part of a lawsuit filed by attorney Rocky Anderson, who was the mayor of Salt Lake City during the games held a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Anderson said the document was disclosed to the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday.

Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden has denied in court documents that such a program existed. Hayden was NSA director from 1999 to 2005.

Current NSA operations director Wayne Murphy said in court documents that NSA surveillance in Salt Lake City was limited to international communications in which at least one participant was reasonably believed to be associated with foreign terrorist groups.

Drake disputed that statement, writing that he spoke with colleagues who worked on the operation and were concerned about its legality. He said he also saw documents showing surveillance equipment being directed to the Utah program.

His declaration was written in support of the former mayor’s lawsuit. Anderson said the lawsuit is designed to get more information about what he calls covert, illegal operations.

The NSA has argued the lawsuit’s claims are far-fetched speculation about a program that may never have existed. A judge, though, refused a Justice Department push to dismiss the lawsuit in January.

Drake started working for the NSA in 2001 and blew the whistle on what he saw as a wasteful and invasive program. He was later prosecuted for keeping classified information. Most of the charges were dropped before trial in 2011, and he was sentenced to one year of probation.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • DRT June 3, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I hope there will be a thorough investigation of this. On the face of it, it sounds like sour grapes from a disgruntled ex-employee, coupled with the self-serving lawsuit of a nut case wacko.
    However, if I’m wrong, and it actually happened, it would be good to expose it.

  • Henry June 3, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Former CIA and NSA Director Hayden denying the existence of such a program in court documents, doesn’t guarantee that it didn’t actually exist.

    Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper later admitted lying to Congress under oath in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans.

  • ladybugavenger June 3, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Of course they did and programs like this still happen to this day. You’re foolish to think they don’t.

  • Caveat_Emptor June 4, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Rocky continues to exhibit the insatiable desire to remain relevant, when a vast majority of us have moved on…..
    It is highly likely that this issue will die out, because most of us do not believe what the Intelligence leadership would say, even under oath.
    Things have evolved since 2001, and technology has improved. Metadata collection by your phone carrier, and your ISP, will continue to be useful. We are still looking a this data in a retrospective manner to trace contacts among terror network members. At some point, we may be able to anticipate a pending event as a result of a ramp up in communications between nodes. A vast majority of us would be willing to make this trade-off between “privacy” and thwarting a terror attack.

  • comments June 4, 2017 at 11:12 am

    NSA’s intentions are likely totally self-serving with “protecting us from terrorism” be secondary or less to whatever primary agenda they have cooked up. And the tech from 15 yrs ago is nothing compared to what they’ve come up with today, count on that. Just assume you have no privacy and watch what you say.

    • comments June 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

      *being secondary or less

      Oh yea, it’s pretty ‘Orwellian’. Not a full-on surveillance state yet, but it’s getting there.

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