While the breadth of NSA’s communications-intercept program only recently came to light, a review of federal records and news reports shows that mainstream media largely ignored or overlooked a massive surveillance-system buildup that started to accelerate in 2006.
Indeed, hundreds of millions of dollars since have been poured into the very facility in Hawaii from which Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who exposed the PRISM spying program, had removed classified documents while working as a government contractor.
Publicly available federal-contracting documents clearly spelled out the then-planned construction of a new “state of the art operations and data center facility (OPS) at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station (NCTAMS), Wahiawa, Hawaii.”
Similarly, Department of Defense budget documents—which were equally accessible via the Internet—included NSA-specific plans for the Wahiawa Regional Security Ops Center as well as for other surveillance sites such as the Georgia Regional Security Ops Center at Ft. Gordon and Menwith Hill Station in England.
“National security and the predictive worldwide intelligence to defend our homeland are two of the nation’s highest priorities,” the budget description says.
“In addition to being a key element of our national security and intelligence apparatus, NSA/CSS [Central Security Service] HAWAII focuses on priority intelligence requirements of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), Central Command (CENTCOM), Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC), and others in support of U.S. interests.”
Despite the availability of these documents in 2006, few news organizations—and almost no major media—covered the matter until a year later, sparse coverage that took place solely in the context of a moderately large contract-award or, particularly in the case of Hawaiian media, as a potential boon to the local economy.
In all instances, the articles or news briefs almost exclusively relied on a press release that contract-award winner Shaw-Dick Pacific, LLC, released on its website and via Business Wire.
USA Today, for instance, buried a jobs-centric news brief about the construction contract on page 8A in the midst of other state-by-state briefs.
The paper mentioned, however, that the facility was an “intelligence-gathering operations center.”
The Honolulu Advertiser acknowledged that the construction contract was slated for an NSA facility, but focused mostly on its job-creation potential.
It emphasized the view of Jack Kampfer, past-president of the Wahiawa Community and Business Association, who said “If they create jobs and bring income into the area, I’m in favor of it.”
Buried in the third to last paragraph of the piece was the line “The center performs intelligence gathering and analysis missions in support of U.S. interests in the Pacific, Far East, South and Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean.”
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported on the Shaw-Dick Pacific contract, but failed to identify the project as NSA related. “Dick Pacific wins $176M contract,” the headline read, followed by the subheading, “The construction firm will build a U.S. Navy facility in Wahiawa, starting this summer.”
The paper similarly indicated that it derived its information from a corporate press release, paraphrasing, as the Honolulu Advertiser did, that “The company will need more than 500 workers for the project, it said in a statement, but did not indicate how many of those would be new hires. It also said it expected to employ about 40 local contractors to support the work.”
Cryptome.org, a private repository of links and documents specific to national security issues, had republished the NSA’s press release about the contract, replete with presumably unauthorized photos of the facility.
Significant, additional reporting on the NSA technological facility build-up did not occur until James Bamford, author of The Puzzle Palace and The Shadow Factory: the Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, reported on the NSA’s capabilities over a year ago for Wired.com.
Related documents and reports
National Security Agency Military Construction, Defense-Wide FY 2007 Budget Estimates (Feb. 2006) http://comptroller.defense.gov/defbudget/fy2007/budget_justification/pdfs/milcon/11_NSA.pdf
Solicitation #N62742-06-R-1317: FY03 MCON P-010 HAWAII REGIONAL SECURITY OPERATIONS CENTER (HRSOC) AT NAVAL COMPUTER AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS AREA MASTER STATION PACIFIC, WAHIAWA, HAWAII (April 13, 2006) https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=c41a38fcf021877f619d90c5897aad37&_cview=0
The Peacock Report (April 20, 2006, archived via TradeAidMonitor.com): “NSA Seeks to Pour Hundreds of Millions Into Surveillance Infrastructure” http://www.tradeaidmonitor.com/2006/04/nsa-seeks-to-pour-hundreds-of-millions-into-surveillance-infrastructure.html
Contract award #N62742-07-C-1329 https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=ae392c557070cf56e1a375ed8d5c034f&_cview=0
Dick Pacific corporate press release via Business Wire (April 13, 2007): “Dick Pacific Awarded $318 Million Contract by Navy” http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20070413005285/en/Dick-Pacific-Awarded-318-Million-Contract-Navy
The Honolulu Advertiser (April 13, 2007): “Security center will add 700 jobs” http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2007/Apr/13/ln/FP704130375.html
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (April 13, 2007): “Dick Pacific wins $176M contract.” http://archives.starbulletin.com/2007/04/13/news/story03.html
USA Today (April 16, 2007) Untitled news brief. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20070416/a_states16.art.htm
The Peacock Report (July 10, 2007, archived via TradeAidMonitor.com): “Media Miss NSA Angle on Navy ‘Telecom’ Project in Hawaii” http://www.tradeaidmonitor.com/2007/07/media-miss-nsa-angle-on-navy-telecom-project-in-hawaii.html
National Security Agency press release (Aug. 30, 2007): NSA/CSS Hawaii Groundbreaking Advances National Security http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/press_room/2007/hi_groundbreaker.shtml
Cryptome.org (Sept. 15, 2007): “SA Kunia Regional Security Operations Center.” http://cryptome.org/eyeball/kunia/kunia-rsoc.htm
Wired.com (March 15, 2012): “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)” http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/
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