Utah’s reaction to NSA data center mirrors wider ambivalence over surveillance programs

The Wall Street Journal reports: As a defiant statement against what it sees as government overreach, a group of Utahans “adopted” the desert highway that leads to the National Security Agency’s secretive and sprawling new facility in Bluffdale.

Their novel plan: While collecting trash along their stretch of road, they would simultaneously protest outside the NSA building, spreading the “Restore the Fourth” message in favor of Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure.

But their plan soon wilted thanks to a lack of organization and a lack of enthusiasm for more protests.

“What we’re working on now is consolidating and coordinating our actions with other organizations,” said Dan Garfield, who leads Restore the Fourth’s Utah chapter. He said there is no timeline for the next protest.

The stalled effort highlights the ambivalence in Utah and in Washington, D.C., over secret government surveillance programs. Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which the government has used to justify its bulk telephone-record collection program, expires at the end of this month, giving hope to the agency’s critics that they can make major changes. But the rise of the Islamic State extremist group has encouraged more outspoken support for the NSA, including by several potential presidential candidates, complicating negotiations about what to do with the expiring powers.

In Utah, plenty of people don’t seem bothered by the NSA presence. [Continue reading…]

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