Long before the National Security Agency started building a data storage facility in Bluffdale, it courted Utahns who could speak foreign languages.
For many years, Utah National Guard soldiers in the 141st and 142nd military intelligence battalions have helped translate foreign-language communications captured by the NSA. The battalions specialize in linguistics.
There is even a secured room inside the Utah National Guard headquarters in Draper where soldiers can receive and access NSA data, retired Col. Dee Snowball said.
"We work together with [the NSA] in support because of our unique language capability," said Snowball, who speaks German and commanded the 142nd and its brigade, the 300th Military Intelligence, during his career.
The NSA has recruited civilians, too. The student newspapers at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University have published stories of NSA recruiters coming to campus.
Jason Nelligan, a career counselor at the U. of U., said the NSA attends career fairs on campus at least twice a year. Nelligan also has attended NSA informational sessions for students.
NSA recruiters "talk to students about a love of the language and make sure that students, if they were to apply … have a true understanding of that language," he said.
Neither the NSA nor the Utah National Guard provided details about the secured room in Draper or the relationship between the two agencies. Snowball said the secured room is required because the NSA and military intelligence data is too sensitive to risk transmission on conventional communications systems or for someone to view in the open.
Snowball, who retired in 2005, declined to discuss some of the missions in which Utah soldiers helped the NSA. But Snowball said Utah soldiers were always instructed not to collect and store intelligence on Americans.
"There was never a time we weren't briefed about being extremely careful about that," Snowball said.