Journalist taking Photos of NSA's Utah Data Center gets a good scare

Forbes has a post by Kashmir Hill on what happened when she took some pictures at the NSA's Utah Data Center.

Surprise Visitors Are Unwelcome At The NSA's Unfinished Utah Spy Center (Especially When They Take Photos)


Officers said the sign was jokingly programmed this way by a construction worker

Most people who visit Salt Lake City in the winter months are excited about taking advantage of the area’s storied slopes. While skiing was on my itinerary last week, I was more excited about an offbeat tourism opportunity in the area: I wanted to check out the construction site for “the country’s biggest spy center.”


















Many of you have had the hassle of dealing with prying eyes from journalists, and this journalist had a bit of a scare.

My outing to the facility last Thursday was an eventful one. I can confirm that the National Security Agency’s site is still under construction. It was surprisingly easy to drive up and circle its parking lot. But if you take photos while there, it is — much like Hotel California – very hard to leave.


“Were you taking photos?” he asked. I said that I was. He responded, “You’re going to need to delete those.”

Can imagine sitting in your car with the following thoughts?

We sat in the car some more, while they — I assume — ran background checks on us, Googled us, checked my Forbes credentials, poked around my Facebook page and called other supervisors, and perhaps a Public Information Officer to decide what to do about us. After maybe another 15 minutes, an aggressively chummy man with piercing blue eyes, wearing a sweater and slacks, came out to the car. He introduced himself as a special agent and asked us to explain why we were there, with an aside to Officer #1 that he wanted him to record everything. Dryer offered a lengthy explanation, including all of the classes I’d spoken to. Agent Federman responded with a direct question: “Did anyone send you to take those photos and do you plan to distribute them to enemies of the United States?”

The journalist had an hour that I am sure you all would say "duh" what did you think was going to happen when you got close to the facility.

It was an intimidating hour. While I’ve interviewed federal agents for stories, I’ve never been interrogated by them before. We may have been treated as gently as we were because I’m a mainstream journalist with a prominent platform and because I was accompanied by a lawyer. I was grateful that I could hold up “professional journalist” as my own badge; it felt protective.

Can you imagine if the journalist was by herself with a telephone lens on the facility without her lawyer friend?  Big SUVs driving over to her at high speed from multiple directions.