NSA to open new $60mln facility in N. Carolina university amid surveillance scrutiny
In the midst of an international debate focused on how the United States’ premier spy agency has conducted dragnet surveillance over much of the world, including at home, the NSA is expanding even further. The News & Observer reported on Thursday that North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC is receiving a $60.75 million grant from the NSA to develop a top-secret data analysis lab.
The grant, the paper reported, is three times larger than any award ever received by the university in the school’s history.
Randy Woodson, the school’s chancellor, said Thursday that the deal had been in the works for three years. He said he hoped the data center would make North Carolina a more attractive destination for technology companies. Woodson predicted that the project would create 100 jobs over five years.
“We appreciate the confidence of the National Security Agency to select NC State for this groundbreaking endeavor," Woodson said in a statement. "Not only will it enhance the academic experience for our students and faculty, it will also add to the economic prosperity of our community through new jobs, new industry and new partnerships.”
Many details on the project have been kept secret because of national security, according to officials. But North Carolina State already has contracts with the Department of Defense, helping the agency research technology which will help soldiers identify improvised explosive devices and expand their foreign language capabilities, among other functions.
The NSA has come under harsh scrutiny in recent months due to the disclosure of classified surveillance programs which the government has used to justify monitoring the communications of Americans, as well as the international community. Internal emails published by the News & Observer reveal that North Carolina State originally intended to announce their deal with the NSA just before the leaks were published but decided to delay in fear of potential blowback.
“A very important announcement about our new NSA-funded Laboratory for Analytic Sciences was suppose to be made public this morning, but with that bit out of the Guardian newspaper on NSA collecting phone records of Verizon customers – everyone thought it best to not make the announcement just yet,” Randy Avent, the associate vice chancellor for research at NCSU, wrote in a message to other administrators. “By the way – our Lab is just that – a research program studying the fundamental science behind analytics. It is not a storage facility for classified data and does not work with any data like that mentioned in the article.”
The delayed announcement comes after another disclosure which further harmed the NSA’s reputation. The Washington Post published top-secret documents Thursday night which provide a glimpse into just how often the NSA breaks the law and invades the privacy of Americans. Thousands of violations were recorded in each of the years since the NSA’s power was expanded in 2008.