SALT LAKE CITY — Current and former National Security Agency officials have denied there was "blanket" spying in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Games, according to recent federal court filings.
Wayne Murphy, NSA operations director, and Michael Hayden, who headed the federal intelligence organization in 2002, both submitted declarations in a lawsuit claiming there was a mass, warrantless surveillance program at the Olympics.
In January, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby decided to allow the case filed by former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson on behalf of several plaintiffs to proceed. Federal officials are still trying to get the case dismissed.
In a March 3 declaration, Murphy said the decision to deny the claims in the lawsuit was "not taken lightly," because the NSA ordinarily can neither confirm nor deny allegations regarding the existence or operational details of its activities.
Details of the intelligence-gathering program created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States are classified, Murphy said, warning that revealing further information "would risk exceptionally grave damage to national security."
However, not addressing the allegation that the President's Security Program "in early 2002 'evolved' into blanket, indiscriminate surveillance" at the Olympics could erode public trust in the intelligence community's respect for Americans' civil liberties, he said.
So both Murphy and Hayden said in their filings that didn't happen.
"Neither the (President's Security Program) nor any other NSA intelligence-gathering activity at any time has involved indiscriminate 'blanket' surveillance in Salt Lake City or the vicinity of the 2002 Winter Olympic venues, whether during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games or otherwise," Murphy said.
Hayden, in a briefer declaration made March 8, said the allegations made by the plaintiffs are false.
"At no point during my tenure as the NSA director did I ever request or receive authorization to have the NSA engage in the 'indiscriminate' or 'blanket' surveillance 'of the contents of every email and text message and the metadata of every telephone call to and from every person engaging in those types of communications in Salt Lake City and in the areas in the vicinity of every other Olympic venue'" during the Games, Hayden said.
Murphy said content collected under the program "was targeted at one-end foreign communications where a communicant was reasonably believed to be a member or agent of Al Qaeda or another international terrorist organization."
He said "while bulk metadata collection was conducted on a large scale, the NSA never collected telephone or internet metadata on all, or nearly all, Americans' telecommunications," as the lawsuit claims.
Reports of spying in Salt Lake during the Olympics surfaced in 2013 when the Wall Street Journal reported the FBI and NSA worked with Qwest Communications International Inc. to collect data in the area during a six-month period surrounding the Olympics.
Shortly after, the NSA opened a massive top-secret facility in Bluffdale.7 comments on this story
Anderson, the mayor of Salt Lake during the Olympics, said Saturday there is still a question of "whether the NSA and FBI engaged in illegal surveillance throughout the areas of Olympic venues," as reported by the Wall Street Journal and a former NSA official.
"For the type of transparency we all deserve from our government when there are clear indications of executive branch criminality, the NSA director should answer, without parsing words, whether the NSA engaged in warrantless surveillance of communications in which U.S. citizens were involved during the 2002 Winter Olympics," Anderson said.