|12 August 2014
NSA Medina Regional Security Operations Center SIGINT Conversion
This shows the conversion of MRSOC from antenna-served to other unknown SIGINT
technology serving the nearby
Center (TCC). Long-lived external antenna have been removed by January
2010. Alternate SIGINT technology may be cable-internet as revealed by Edward
and expanded a data center not far from the TCC. Rationale for both
facilities was claimed to be low-cost electricity.
San Antonio got another leg up with the end of the Cold War in 1991 when
then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney directed the NSA to close more than 30
listening posts overseas and move the missions to the Medina Annex in San
Antonio, Fort Gordon in Savannah, Ga., and Kunia, in Hawaii.
The Medina Regional SIGINT Operations Center (MRSOC) took responsibility
for processing incoming communications from Latin America, countries in Eastern
Europe, Western Europe and North Africa that were covered by the U.S. European
The shift boosted the local workforce from barely 500 to more than 2,000,
Surveillance techniques shifted again with the advent of fiber-optic signal
transmission, and with the growth of the Internet.
As incoming communications volumes continued to grow, the secretive agency
leased Sony Corp.'s abandoned San Antonio computer microchip plant to build
a data storage and processing complex.
The breadth of U.S. communications surveillance processed there continues
to stir concern across Latin America, where countries remain alert to any
slight to sovereignty.
There's tension with the United States because these countries want
the information that the Americans may have obtained from electronic
surveillance, but they fear how that information could be used, said
Andrew Selee, founding director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson
Center in Washington, D.C. They think if NSA can intercept phone calls
and emails on organized crime, the agency can also intercept the communications
of Mexican politicians and business leaders.
The United States, for example, privately relayed warnings to newly elected
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that Mexican Gen. Moises Garcia
Ochoa had suspected links to drug traffickers and had skimmed from
multimillion-dollar defense contracts.
The information scuttled Ochoa's chances of becoming Mexico's new defense
minister, the New York Times reported in February.
Similarly, Bolivian President Evo Morales alluded to suspected U.S. interference
in May when he abruptly expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development
after five decades.
The agency had conspired against our people and especially the national
government, Morales claimed. He kicked out the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration in 2008, claiming agents had worked to conduct political
Several Latin American countries already carry out surreptitious surveillance
of their own citizens, which sometimes also is made available to the United
In 2006, for example, President George W. Bush's administration struck a
little-noticed deal with the administration of Mexican President Felipe
Calderón to provide a $3 million phone and Internet eavesdropping
center that would reach into every town and village in the country,
James Bamford wrote in his book, The Shadow Factory.
The agreement stipulated that the United States would get full access
to the data, raising the possibility that communications from Mexico
into the United States might be intercepted in Mexico and relayed to NSA
without NSA having to satisfy any of the legal requirements the agency would
have to legally intercept those communications within the United States,
Experts foresee a bright future for NSA surveillance operations based in
I think we'll see the intelligence community refocusing on Latin
America, said Joseph Fitsanakis, an intelligence expert at King University
in Bristol, Tenn., and author of National Security Agency: The
Historiography of Concealment.
Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador all are challenging the United States. U.S.
relations with Mexico are in transition, as well, after six years of deepening
military and intelligence cooperation to combat drug cartels and detect any
signs of collaboration between cartels and terrorists.
The United States cannot pretend to be a world power if it cannot overcome
challenges in its immediate surroundings, Fitsanakis said. A
lot of countries are looking at Ecuador to see how America reacts.