The Wall Street Journal revealed on Wednesday the National Security Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation teamed with Qwest Communications and monitored the text messages and emails of Utah citizens for a six month period around the 2002 Winter Olympics hosted by Salt Lake City. The Games took place just five months following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz-R, District 3 was alarmed by the report, telling KUTV News, “When you go and start spying on innocent Americans, that is a step too far. That is just not acceptable in this country.” Chaffetz was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2008 and was not in office to vote for or against the 2001 USA Patriot Act.
The Act gave far reaching powers to the federal government following the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. The surveillance in Salt Lake City fell under President Bush’s wiretapping program that was not required to seek warrants for some types of domestic surveillance. Congress later changed the law requiring court approval.
Senator Orrin Hatch-R, Utah supported passage of the law back in 2001 and responded to the intrusion by the NSA and the FBI as necessary. In an interview with FOX13 News, Hatch said, “Remember, we were very concerned about terrorism and terrorist activities at that time. I want people to know that these people at NSA are doing absolutely critical work for our country and had they not been doing it, we might well have had some more terrorist incidents like 9/11.”
Key officials involved in the Games including former Senator Robert Bennett-R, Utah say they were unaware of specific surveillance by the government. Bennett said, “It would shock me if they were not” monitoring communications during an event the put the focus of the world on Salt Lake City. Most officials including Lane Beattie, state liaison to the Olympics and Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank did not know the government was collecting communications from private citizens. The Wall Street Journal did not reveal its source.
The Olympic Games have a history of being targeted by terrorists. The 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta were marred by a bombing that killed a spectator and injured 111 others, and the 1972 Winter Games in Munich saw eleven members of the Israeli team kidnapped and murdered.
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Source: Wall Street Journal, Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, KUTV News, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Wikipedia