The National Security Agency confirmed to TheBlaze it held a small ribbon cutting ceremony for its Utah Data Center — also dubbed a “spy center” by the likes of Wired magazine — Thursday.
On May 18, the Salt Lake Tribune previewed the event briefly, writing:
Invitations have been sent to a select group of Utah politicians and dignitaries inviting them to the Utah Data Center ribbon cutting on May 30. The invitation says the event is unclassified and reporters will be there, but an NSA spokeswoman this week declined to discuss the festivities or say whether the event means the facility will be starting operations. The NSA has previously said the Utah Data Center would be online this fall.
But with no media coverage really emerging from it, TheBlaze contacted the NSA.
“A ribbon was cut — largely to symbolize to the authorities the completion of one part of the project,” NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said in an email. “It was not a debut or public event in the traditional sense.”
Thursday’s event was a briefing — not open to the public or media — for state and federal authorities, Vines added. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Gov. Gary Herbert, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others in the state’s legislature were present for the project status update.
Herbert’s schedule stated he would be at a “NASA Data Center Ribbon Cutting and Tour” at 9:30 a.m. at Camp Williams in Bluffdale on Thursday.
NSA’s spokesperson told us that the invitation to this event for state and federal authorities did say “media,” but it was referencing NSA’s own public and media affairs office.
Vines said that while the exterior of the $1.2 billion data center is complete, its interior is still under construction and is not expected to be fully operational until the end of this fiscal year, putting it online by this fall.
Last year, James Bamford wrote in Wired that the data center is expected to house four 25,000 square foot halls of servers. Here’s a little taste what they could be used for:
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.”
In other NSA news, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Friday that the agency is readying a special program to staff the facility. The agency is looking to its own back yard — the University of Utah.
Starting this fall, the university will begin teaching students about data center management, which SLTrib.com reported could be NSA’s Bluffdale center or even eBay and Twitter, which also operate in the state. The new data center management program comes as a request from the NSA itself, which expressed a need for more graduates with this knowledge.