July 4th NSA protests popped up around the United States, while security guards in Salt Lake City forced some demonstrators away from an agency data center.
BLUFFDALE, Utah — Security guards forced about 150 people away from a National Security Agency data center in a Salt Lake City suburb, part of a nationwide Fourth of July protest over NSA surveillance.
The Utah demonstrators said they were drawing attention to the scheduled fall opening of the NSAdata center in Bluffdale for intercepted telecommunications.
“The science of quantum computing, virtually unknown to the public but likely to figure heavily in the technology of the Bluffdale center, will have the capacity to compromise any data repository presently shielded by encryption,” the group said in a statement.
The Utah National Guard forced the protesters off a base where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors are building the billion-dollar data center, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Demonstrators had to retreat to a public cemetery for a “Restore the Fourth” rally — a reference to the 4th Amendment against unlawful search and seizure, not the Fourth of July.
Similar holiday protests took place around the country, according to the website restorethefourth.net. In Philadelphia, a 79-year-old rabbi was among 100 people who marched and chanted, “NSA — go away.”
U.S. cyber-surveillance programs have come into view in recent weeks after fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed documents showing the agency had obtained secret warrants to monitor telephone logs of major U.S. carriers, along with Internet traffic. The U.S. government has defended the surveillance as vital to national security.
NSA officials say the Utah center will monitor cyberthreats on U.S. computer networks. In a recent email to The Associated Press, agency spokeswoman Vanee Vines said that “many unfounded allegations have been made about the planned activities” of the Utah center.
On Thursday, self-described patriots waved American flags and placards. One read, “Since When is My Blog a Matter of National Security?” Another read, “The Answer to 1984 is 1776.”
Five Utah Highway Patrol troopers watched as protesters tied red, white and blue ribbons to a fence that surrounds the NSA complex while chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NSA has got to go!”
Rhetoric from some speakers exposed a rift in the crowd. About half the group headed for their cars as organizer and Las Vegas contractor Dane Phillips called on God to bring down wrath on the Bluffdale data center — “that facility is Jericho,” he shouted, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. It quoted one stunned participant saying, “Right cause, wrong people.”
Participants said they were out to defend the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”