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Glenn Greenwald Talks about Government Surveillance in Utah

Andrea Smardon
Glenn Greenwald speaks to reporters at the University of Utah. (April 7, 2015)

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who exposed Edward Snowden’s top-secret documents on US government surveillance, made an appearance in Salt Lake City Tuesday. He was the keynote speaker for the University of Utah’s Secrecy Week.

Greenwald told reporters that his primary objective in Utah was to draw attention to the threat posed by unprecedented levels of surveillance in the US. He said the NSA data center in Bluffdale is a prime example.

“I mean, think about what the reason is for that data center,” Greenwald said. “One of the things that first struck me most about going through the Snowden archive was the sheer volume of information being collected. Literally every day, the US government collects billions of communication events, e-mail and telephone call records.”

Greenwald said Utah is providing a home for massive amounts of data, enabling the federal government to pursue more invasive surveillance.

“I think the people who live in this community and who live as close as people here do to that facility do have an extra reason to be concerned, namely that this is a menacing structure that has been built almost with no transparency or accountability and is playing a really ominous role I think in the surveillance state that is being not just maintained but expanded all the time,” he said.

Greenwald seemed to be preaching to the choir when he spoke to a packed house at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts auditorium. University of Utah Communication Professor Kevin DeLuca says he hopes Greenwald’s appearance will bring some attention to Utah’s role in government surveillance.

“Theoretically, this is a conservative state,” DeLuca says. “Conservatives are supposed to believe in personal liberty, and the government out of our lives. Why do we have the largest NSA data collection center in the whole country in our valley if that’s what we believe in?”

The National Security Agency has worked with University of Utah officials to develop a certificate program aimed at training data center technicians. DeLuca says that’s something he opposed when the idea was first floated. He believes that discussion should be revisited in light of new information about the NSA’s data practices.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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