Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:56 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of government surveillance have figured out how to get close to a heavily guarded National Security Agency data storage center set to open in Bluffdale.
They have adopted a highway that cuts through a National Guard base where the $1.7 billion facility filled with super computers designed to store intercepted telecommunications is set to open.
The Utah Department of Transportation awarded a section of Route 68 to the group “Restore the Fourth” — a reference to the 4th Amendment right prohibiting unlawful search and seizure. The Highway keepers will carry picket signs while picking up litter, said Lorina Potter, an organizer for the Utah chapter of the group.
Potter said Wednesday the move is a way to counter NSA efforts to keep protesters away from the facility, where access is limited to the highway.
Potter was among dozens of protesters who were forced from a vacant lot next to the data center on July 4. They moved to the nearby Utah Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park in Bluffdale.
“They have been very unkind to anyone who tries to come close or bring cameras,” Potter said. “One of the major reasons we decided to do this was to bring visibility to the fact this data center has eroded and invaded every part of our 4th Amendment rights.”
Federal officials had little to say about the protesters. NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines issued a statement saying, “Highway adoptions are not a part of NSA’s federal mission.”
The NSA previously said the center was supposed to open Oct. 1. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that date has been delayed by electrical troubles.
Utah officials have approved — but not yet formally issued — Adopt-A-Highway rights to Restore the Fourth. Potter plans to get started with the cleanup as soon as she has the contract in hand. That could happen within days, officials said.
“We welcome efforts of the public to keep our roads clean” — even if a group has a political agenda, said Muriel Xochimitl, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Transportation. “We review applications on the merits.”
The contract requires Restore the Fourth to remove litter at least three times a year. Potter said outings will occur more frequently.
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