Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Group flies blimp over NSA building in protest

By Pat Reavy, Deseret News

Published: Fri, June 27 8:55 a.m. MDT

 A coalition of grassroots groups from across the political spectrum joined forces to fly an airship over the NSA's data center in Bluffdale, Utah on Friday, June 27, 2014, to protest the government's illegal mass surveillance program. The environmental group Greenpeace flew its 135' long thermal airship over the data center carrying the message \

A coalition of grassroots groups from across the political spectrum joined forces to fly an airship over the NSA's data center in Bluffdale, Utah on Friday, June 27, 2014, to protest the government's illegal mass surveillance program. The environmental group Greenpeace flew its 135' long thermal airship over the data center carrying the message "NSA Illegal Spying Below".

(Greenpeace)

BLUFFDALE — A California-based group that has been battling the National Security Agency for years in lawsuits flew a giant blimp over Utah's NSA Data Center Friday.

Parker Higgen, of the San Francisco-based group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., he — along with a pilot from Greenpeace — flew a 135-foot blimp over the data center with a banner that stated: "NSA. Illegally spying below."

The group, he said, was trying to raise awareness for its new website, standagainstspying.org/.

The foundation tweeted Friday: "We're in an airship over the NSA's data center in Utah with our friends @GreenpeaceUSA & @TenthAmendment, demanding an end to mass spying."

The NSA's Data Center is located in Bluffdale and has been the focus of national scrutiny and criticism. It is believed to be a destination for huge amounts of data from around the world collected by the tight-lipped agency.

Higgen told KSL's Doug Wright Friday after the flight that he had the blimp loaded in a trailer and drove it to Utah from California, and then launched it in the dark from a field. The blimp is owned by Greenpeace.

Even though Greenpeace typically protests environmental issues, Higgen said they, along with all activists, have become increasing targets of government surveillance.

Higgen said despite the apparent rogue nature of the protest, his group actually checked ahead of time to make sure it wouldn't be violating air space violations, particularly over Camp Williams.

"We checked in advance that everything was legal," he said. "At least for now, thumbing your nose at the government is not illegal. ... We did not break the law."

He said the air space restrictions didn't begin until 7 a.m., when people from the data center arrived for work. Neither the Utah National Guard nor Utah Department of Public Safety was called to respond to the aircraft.

Despite the early hour of the protest, Higgen believes that based on the number of cars he saw pulled over to watch, "It ended up making the splash we wanted to."

The group also hired a helicopter to follow them and take pictures.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

Recommended
1. AT
Elk River, MN,
June 27, 2014

What was the other message? You don't know or don't want to share?

2. southmtnman
Provo, UT,
June 27, 2014

We in Utah must all be so proud.

3. rvalens2
Burley, ID,
June 27, 2014

Headline, on the main page, says the Blimp was forced to land. So who forced the Blimp to land? The reason is not mentioned in the news story. Basic Journalism 101: Who, What, Where, When and Why.

4. abbadabba
Tucson, AZ,
June 27, 2014

Why say this isn't an environmental disaster? Can you fathom the wasted energy they demand daily for this fools' errand? That means wasted water, too.

I laughed reading about how many times the Germans had to endure power outages (over 100!) caused by our expanding spy center installed under their noses until we finally had enough back up power installed there. Would we tolerate such imposition to spy on us on our own soil, too? Seems to me folks don't see the problem.

"We gotta tell the world about Utah, because nobody seems to know..."

Randy Newman

5. 2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
June 27, 2014

@rvalens2,
I didn't see anything that said they were forced to land. The article clearly states that no agencies confronted them. Are you talking about the same article we're commenting on?

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flew a blimp over the data center with a banner that stated: "NSA. Illegally spying below."... Then they tweet, "Best place on earth to watch a sunrise: from an airship over the Utah NSA data center, with a big banner demanding an end to mass spying"...

How is that, "Demanding" an end to mass spying.

IF that's their idea of a "Demand"... they need to read "rules for radicals" or go back to radical-school. That's a pretty weak-sauce "demand" if you ask me.

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Re: "based on the number of cars he saw pulled over to watch, It ended up making the splash we wanted to"...

What... 10 people pulled over, and that's the "splash" they were looking for?

If the DesNews hadn't reported this... almost 100% of the worlds population wouldn't even know it happened.

Without this article... almost nobody (even in Utah) would know it happened!