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NSA growth fueled by need to target terrorists

"By September 2004, a new NSA technique enabled the agency 
to find cellphones even when they were turned off."


NSA growth fueled by need to target terrorists

View Photo Gallery â?? The NSAâ??s growing footprint:â??The spy agency is in the
midst of a hiring, construction and contracting boom. Here is a look at some
of its sites.

By Dana Priest, Published: July 22 E-mail the writer Twelve years later, the
cranes and earthmovers around the National Security Agency are still at work,
tearing up pavement and uprooting trees to make room for a larger workforce
and more powerful computers. Already bigger than the Pentagon in square
footage, the NSAâ??s footprint will grow by an additional 50 percent when
construction is complete in a decade.

And thatâ??s just at its headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.
In post-9/11 world, dramatic â?? but largely hidden â?? growth at NSA

Dana Priest JUL 22

The hiring, building and contracting boom at the agency has been fed by a
rising need for the data it provides.

The nationâ??s technical spying agency has enlarged all its major domestic
sites â?? in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Texas and Utah â?? as well as those in
Australia and Britain.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, its civilian and military workforce has
grown by one-third, to about 33,000, according to the NSA. Its budget has
roughly doubled, and the number of private companies it depends on has more
than tripled, from 150 to close to 500, according to a 2010 Washington Post

The hiring, construction and contracting boom is symbolic of the hidden fact
that in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the NSA became the single most
important intelligence agency in finding al-Qaeda and other enemies overseas,
according to current and former counterterrorism officials and experts. â??We
Track â??Em, You Whack â??Emâ?? became a motto for one NSA unit, a former senior
agency official said.

The story of the NSAâ??s growth, obscured by the agencyâ??s extreme secrecy, is
directly tied to the insatiable demand for its work product by the rest of
the U.S. intelligence community, military units and the FBI.

The NSAâ??s broad reach in servicing that demand is at the heart of the
controversy swirling around the agency these days. Both Congress and the
public have been roiled by the disclosure of top-secret documents detailing
the collection of U.S. phone records and the monitoring of e-mails,
­social-media posts and other Web traffic of foreign terrorism suspects and
their enablers.

Lacking a strong informant network to provide details about al-Qaeda, U.S.
intelligence and the military turned to the NSAâ??s technology to fill the
void. The demand for information also favored the agencyâ??s many surveillance
techniques, which try to divine the intent of people by vacuuming up and
analyzing their communications.

â??There was nothing that gave you more insight into the inner workings of
these organizations as the NSA,â?? said Michael Leiter, former director of the
National Counter­terrorism Center. â??I canâ??t think of any terrorist
investigation where the NSA was not a pre­eminent or central player.â??

One top-secret document recently disclosed by former intelligence contractor
Edward Snow­den, who is on the run from U.S. authorities, revealed that 60
percent of the presidentâ??s daily intelligence briefing came from the NSA in
2000, even before the surge in the agencyâ??s capabilities began.

â??The foreign signals that NSA collects are invaluable to national security,â??
the agency said in a statement released Friday to The Post. â??This information
helps the agency determine where adversaries are located, what theyâ??re
planning, when theyâ??re planning to carry it out, with whom theyâ??re working,
and the kinds of weapons theyâ??re using.â??

A motto quickly caught on at Geo Cell: â??We Track â??Em, You Whack â??Em.â??

With the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the surprisingly quick disintegration of
postwar conditions there, the NSA began sending collectors with surveillance
equipment to embed with Army brigades and Marine regimental combat teams to
target insurgents and terrorists. The units were called tactical cryptologic
support teams. The military commanders often had no prior understanding of
what the NSA did. But they quickly demanded more of the agency once they
learned what it could do.
At the same time, the NSA supported a parallel effort by CIA paramilitary
units and clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) teams tasked
with capturing or killing al-Qaeda leaders, deemed â??high-value targets.â?? NSA
analysts and collectors moved into the JSOC commanderâ??s new and growing
operational headquarters in Balad, Iraq, which also serviced Afghanistan.

By September 2004, a new NSA technique enabled the agency to find cellphones
even when they were turned off. JSOC troops called this â??The Find,â?? and it
gave them thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning
al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq, according to members of the unit.

At the same time, the NSA developed a new computer linkup called the Real
Time Regional Gateway into which the military and intelligence officers could
feed every bit of data or seized documents and get back a phone number or
list of potential targets. It also allowed commanders to see, on a screen,
every type of surveillance available in a given territory.

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former director of the NSA, said in an
interview last week that he would tell people, â??If we could do this half
well, this will be the golden age of sigint,â?? or signals intelligence.

A growing reach

The battlefield technology overseas was matched by a demand back in the
United States for larger amounts of data to mine using the NSAâ??s increasingly
sophisticated computers. Financial and biometric data, the movement of money
overseas, and pattern and link analysis became standard NSA tools. Another
example, recently revealed by Snowden, is the bulk collection of telephone
metadata â?? information about numbers dialed and the duration of the calls.

The NSAâ??s burgeoning secret activities splashed into public view in 2005 when
the New York Times reported on the warrantless surveillance of U.S.
communications, and subsequent statements by former NSA employees contended
that the agency was collecting Americansâ?? e-mails and phone calls. Some
suspected that NSA capabilities were limitless when it came to
counterterrorism investigations.

Although the NSA tries hard to maintain a low profile, the physical
manifestation of its growing importance has been quietly evident to the
communities that surround its major foreign and domestic bases.

Within the past couple of years, bulldozers have plowed through the earth
near Bluffdale, Utah, to ready a million-square-foot facility housing a
center that will store oceans of bulk data.

In 2007, ground was broken for a $1 billion facility on 120 acres at Fort
Gordon, where an NSA workforce of 4,000 collects and processes signals
intelligence from the Middle East, according to the agency.

In Hawaii, the NSA outgrew its Schofield Barracks Army site years ago and
opened a 250,000-square-foot, $358 million work space adjacent to it last
year. The Wahiawa Annex is the last place that Snowden, then a contractor for
Booz Allen Hamilton, worked before leaving with thousands of top-secret
documents. The main job of the NSAâ??s Hawaii facility is to process signals
intelligence from around the Pacific Rim.

In Texas, the agency has added facilities to its San Antonio-based
operations. Its main site, at Lackland Air Force Base, processes signals
intelligence from Central and South America. In Colorado, the NSAâ??s expanding
facilities on Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora collect and process
information about weapons systems around the globe.

Overseas, the NSAâ??s station at RAF Menwith Hill on the moors of Yorkshire is
planned to grow by one-third, to an estimated 2,500 employees, according to
studies undertaken by local activists. Although hidden from the main road, up
close it is hard to miss the 33 bright-white radar domes that sprout on the
deep green landscape. They are thought to collect signals intelligence from
parts of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The NSAâ??s Pine Gap site in Australia has added hundreds of new employees and
several new facilities in recent years. Over the years, Pine Gap has played a
role in many U.S. and NATO military operations, including intercepting
communications about possible nuclear testing by the Soviet Union during the
Cold War and an analysis of the technical characteristics of Iraqâ??s GPS
jamming systems during the 2003 invasion, according to a book by David
Rosenberg, a former NSA analyst at Pine Gap. It also processes signals
intelligence from parts of Asia.

The upgrades to the cryptologic centers were done â??to make the agencyâ??s
global enterprise even more seamless as we confronted increasingly networked
adversaries,â?? according to the NSA statement to The Post. â??However, we always
adjust our efforts to exploit the foreign communications of adversaries and
defend vital U.S. networks in accordance with national priorities and in full
accordance with U.S. law.â??

It added: â??The notion of constant, unchecked, or senseless growth is a myth.â??

Julie Tate contributed to this report.