Journalists Detained Attempting to Video Record NSA Building where Snowden Worked



The National Security Agency, the government agency in charge of invading your privacy, acted as if its privacy was invaded when news reporters attempted to video record one of its buildings from a public road on the University of Maryland campus this week.

The building is officially known as the Center for the Advanced Study of Language (CASL), which on the surface, would make it a very uninteresting building to video record – except it is where NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is believed to have worked in 2005, eight years before he fled the country to Hong Kong where he gave an explosive interview to the Guardian about how the government is collecting our personal information.

On Wednesday, reporters from Campus Reform stood outside a guard shack of the building that is surrounded by a fence and trees and were told by University of Maryland police they were not allowed to point their cameras in the direction of the building.

The cops informed the reporters they were following orders from the NSA, which didn’t want its building photographed.

According to Campus Reform:

“Don’t film this direction,” an unidentified officer wearing a bulletproof vest who was accompanied by another unidentified officer in a suit, told Timpf.

“You cannot film the area,” Officer “Walker” of the University of Maryland Police Department said several minutes later. “[Y]ou have nothing more to do here except leave.”

Sergeant Davis told Campus Reform later in the day that he was not aware of any laws or ordinances the reporters may have violated by photographing the building, adding his team was simply following the directions of “NSA security.”

On Thursday, two other Campus Reform reporters returned and stood up for their right to record, which led to them getting detained and forced to hand over their identification- once again under orders from the NSA – before they were allowed to remain and record.

The reporters were later informed they were required to hand over their identifications under Maryland Education Article 26-102 (c), which states the following:

Administrative personnel, authorized employees of any public institution of elementary, secondary, or higher education, and persons designated in subsection (b) of this section may demand identification and evidence of qualification from any person who desires to use or enter the premises of the institution.

The videos from this week’s incidents are below but they are not the best quality, which makes it hard to hear much of the audio.

Oliver Darcy, senior reporter at Campus Reform, a coalition of professional and student journalists that cover college news throughout the country, said they started looking into the building after Snowden told the Guardian in his interview that he had worked at one of the “agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland.”

While it appears that the CASL building is shrouded in mystery, it is mentioned on the University of Maryland website, which acknowledges that it may be more difficult to find than anticipated.

CASL is located at 7005 52nd Avenue, College Park, MD 20742. This address is incorrectly indicated on most mapping applications, so please use caution when attempting to locate this facility via GPS or Google Maps.

The center also has a Wikipedia page that describes it as follows:

The University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) is the national laboratory for advanced research and development onlanguage and national security. Founded in 2003 under Department of Defense funding as a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), CASL represents a unique partnership between the university and the United States Government. CASL’s mission is to serve the nation by improving the language performance of the U.S. Government workforce. CASL is now the largest language research center in the United States.

Even the NSA mentions it on their website:

In 2003, NSA/CSS was designated Executive Agent for the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language. CASL was created as the first and only Department of Defense (DoD) UARC dedicated to research in human skills—language, cognition, and culture. This unique status came about because DoD and the Intelligence Community (IC) recognized the need for a sustained focus on language readiness.

In 2008, CASL was integrated into the NSA/CSS Research Directorate. This integration is expected to provide CASL with multidisciplinary knowledge, helping CASL address all dimensions of the language analyst’s tasks.

CASL’s mission is to provide empirical data from solid research to support management decisions involving language analysts. For example, how can we identify people who can learn languages more easily? How can we increase a language analyst’s ability to problem solve? How can we use technology to assist language analysts in finding unfamiliar words? These questions, and more, are addressed in CASL’s research as presented in this issue of TNW.

Mother Jones, which has never been afraid to uncover government scandal, also states there is nothing scandalous about this partnership:

As fascinating as this might be, there’s nothing scandalous or particularly unusual about the NSA’s partnering with the University of Maryland. The NSA has, as do other American intelligence agencies, including the CIA, a long history of collaborating with universities across the country. “Because of the nature of what the agency does, and their necessity to be on the cutting edge of computer science, it [is] required for them to have pretty close ties to academics and computer research centers,” says John Prados, a senior research fellow at theNational Security Archive at George Washington University.

So the fact that the building is operated by the NSA is not exactly a secret and maybe not even a scandal, depending on whom you believe, even if Google may intentionally mislead you of its exact location.

But the fact that they treat it as a secret makes one wonders what’s really going on inside there.




About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • rick

    4th Amendment or 1st Amendment, the NSA doesn’t give a shit.

    The National “Stasi” Agency says their programs protect Americans, but I fear their type of government surveillance far more than I do terrorism.

    • Tijuana Joe

      Seriously, do away with them and all 850,000 domestic spies Dana Priest warned us about.
      They’ve become a CIA directed against the people.

      What’s more un-American than that?

      • Jim Morriss

        You do mean their jobs when you say “do away with them”, right? They will start twisting your words when they can’t twist their own.

        • Tijuana

          I meant terminate the organization, but the other interpretation
          definitely has its merits.

  • JustaVetSailorfromPennsylvania

    If you are on the PUBLIC sidewalk you are ok, walk onto the property and you are trespassing.
    Do not talk to the Badge Uniformed Fascist Thugs! All they want to do is put you in handcuffs, kidnap you and throw in a cage. There is no law that requires you to talk to them.

  • Pádraig Pearse

    Unless you are driving a vehicle, never carry ID.

    • RaymondbyEllis

      In fact, you don’t have to carry ID whatsoever. (DL operating a vehicle, but that should be the default understanding of “to carry an ID” because it’s a license for a specific behavior.)

    • steveo

      In FL, you don’t actually have to have the DL with you when you are driving, either. But you would have to give the leo your name DOB and address (if you know your DL number even better). They then issue you a correctable citation which you can bring to the clerk of court, show them your license and pay a $10 processing fee. All of this assumes that you have a valid driving license. Same process if you don’t have the registration or insurance card with you or in the vehicle.

      • Fotaugrafee

        Ha, last I knew, New Jersey had legislated to fine the living shit out of you. Contrast of states, obviously, but I’m thinking upwards of $500 if you were lacking ALL 3 at the time of a traffic stop.

  • Guest

    Why do they have the McDonald’s logo next to their name?

  • El Guapo

    Hey Carlos, what does the NSA have to say about BING adding 270 Terabytes of High-Res Flyover images to their maps?

  • Needles Lmci

    thats why when i am not driving, i do not carry my wallet with me. if i am on foot, i have no need for any id

    • Tijuana Joe

      It ticks me off when cops ask for a “iicense” from a pedestrian.
      It was a controversial thing to implement Drivers Licenses 80 years ago,
      and if the people would have known it would become a domestic passport they
      never would have approved it.

      • Jim Morriss

        Cop asks me for a license when I’m walking I always reply I don’t have one.” That way I’m not lying, I’m not being a smart ass, (well a little bit) and I inform the LEO that I’m not a sheeple.

        • Fotaugrafee

          And, they haven’t a right to search your person even if you DO have one.

  • Phred

    It’s hard to provide ID if you have none with you. Leave it at home if that’s what it takes.

    • Aaron J Berg

      No offense and not trying to refute your tactic. Last year a female I was friends with was detained for an alleged crime she committed by local police. She told them she had lost her ID.

      Lakewood, Colorado Police then arrested her and took her to their nearest police station. They processed her and then released her. She told me they only took her in to a Police precinct because she did not have ID.

      • Fotaugrafee

        Is it state law to carry & exhibit an ID in the state of Colorado? If not, she needs to game up & make a stink about it.

  • JdL

    Criminal government thugs strike again. I hope people will return to that location and literally give the finger to anyone who harasses them. While recording video, of course!

    • steveo

      lady cop: What are you filming for?
      reporter: I have a medical condition called coleopropriasm, I record these scenes because usually cops show up and I play them back to myself as a form of pornography because it’s the only way, I can have an orgasm. So, go ahead, keep up the harassment, because I’m starting to get a woody.

  • steveo

    When police departments have “training” sessions on the 1st Amendment, I know that the leos probably get those glazed over looks as though, “you can show all the slides you want, I don’t have to listen”. But if leos really wanted to stop people from recording, they should learn about time, place and manner restrictions.

    Try to come up with some realistic TPM arguments, so you can ban newsgathering. Example: Like a secure area like a courthouse on the other side of the metal detectors, the chief judge can set up certain TPM restrictions, but on sidewalks, public parks, beaches, it’s probably unlikely any TPM restriction would be valid, but, leos, you could hire some 1st Amendment lawyers to look into it for you, get your unions to invest in legal arguments since you are so intent on public censorship.

    First, thing you should know though is that since 1787, the SCOTUS has never sanctioned a prior restraint, there is a steady number of Supreme Court decisions lasting this long, that continue to build on the last that forbids government from taking action against newsgathering and publication of the news. But go ahead, knock yourselves out. You want to sponsor book burning parties (modern day, camera breaking parties), see if it’s legal first.

  • Jim Morriss

    This is the time to use an airborne drone. You fly it over get your pics and fly away. What they going to do, shoot it down? Yeah, that wouldn’t attract attention to their building. The fact that all things public are being deemed as private should be disturbing to us all. Logic and common sense are being left out of this argument and both of them are sorely missed.

  • Media_lies2013

    Every time our government is caught in an act of criminality we should be flooding the streets outside their buildings with angry crowds.

    • Fotaugrafee

      Should be…but America is lazy & complacent, soooo, we won’t. I agree with part of the argument, but it gets old after a while, in that, “can you afford to take time off from your job & picket / protest among the masses?”

  • Proud GrandPa

    Carlos Miller writes: “Mother Jones, which has never been afraid to uncover government scandal, also states there is nothing scandalous about this partnership:..”
    One wonders if Mother Jones is capable of uncovering the scandals of the Bengazi security failure, killings, and cover up. Or does Mother Jones see scandals only when the present administration is not in control?

    • Fotaugrafee

      Who the fuck cares, and what does it have to do with this topic?

  • Fotaugrafee

    From what little I can understand of the audio, these have to be some of the most weak-willed media personalities I’ve ever seen. Might as well just hand in your ‘reporter’ card, you just gave up your rights to the establishment.