February 2, 2014
Feel like Big Brother is watching you these days? You’re not alone.
“This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario,” wrote the late William Safire of The New York Times in 2002, in the panicky aftermath of 9/11. “Here is what will happen to you: Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive . . . will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’ ”
Twelve years on, this is the world we live in, but worse. Through a combination of fear, cowardice, political opportunism and bureaucratic metastasis, the erstwhile land of the free has been transformed into a nation of closely watched subjects — a country of 300 million potential criminals, whose daily activities need constant monitoring.
Once the most secret of organizations, the NSA has become even more famous than the CIA, the public face of Big Brother himself. At its headquarters on Savage Road in Fort Meade, Md., its omnivorous Black Widow supercomputer hoovers up data both foreign and domestic, while its new $2 billion data center near Bluffdale, Utah — the highly classified Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center — houses, well, just about everything. As James Bamford wrote in Wired magazine two years ago, as the center was being completed: