If NSA was snooping in Park City during Games, City Hall was unaware | ParkRecord.com

If NSA was snooping in Park City during Games, City Hall was unaware


Main Street was turned into a pedestrian-only celebration zone during the 2002 Winter Olympics, drawing crowds of revelers through much of the Games. Park City officials from the Olympic era say they were not told the National Security Agency was monitoring the Games. Courtesy of Myles Rademan via the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation

If the National Security Agency was monitoring the e-mail traffic into and out of Park City during the 2002 Winter Olympics, City Hall officials of that era were unaware of the snooping.

In interviews, high-ranking figures involved with Park City’s preparations for the Olympics said they did not realize the NSA was one of the federal agencies assigned to help protect the Games. They say they did not come across anyone who identified themselves as being with the NSA during the years of security planning that preceded the opening ceremonies.

Frank Bell, who directed Park City’s preparations for the Olympics and served as the city’s police chief before that, said he was not told the NSA was part of the federal government’s efforts to protect the Games. There was a heavy federal presence in the security blanket during the Olympics.

"They simply never came up in any of the conversations I had," Bell said.

He said nobody identified themselves as a member of the NSA during any meeting he attended.

"It’s not like NSA was writing us memos saying ‘look at Joe so and so,’" Bell said.

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The chief of police in Park City at the time, Lloyd Evans, also said he was unaware of the NSA presence. Evans said representatives from the FBI, the Secret Service and the Department of Justice were at some of the meetings he attended, but he could not recall anyone saying they were from the NSA. Evans said it would have been reassuring if he had been told the NSA was involved.

"Retrospectively, it would have been nice to know that work was being done," Evans said.

There was a broad security operation in place in the Olympic region in 2002 with local, state and federal agencies working alongside each other. Security was among the costliest parts of the Games. The security concerns, critical to Games planning from the outset, became further heightened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks five months before the opening ceremonies.

The Park City area hosted approximately 50 percent of the athletic competitions during the Games and Main Street was a popular gathering spot for Olympic revelry. Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Olympic Park were important athletic venues while Main Street was closed to traffic in favor of a pedestrian-only celebration zone.

"I’m sure they looked at the entire Olympic theater, including Park City," Evans said.

Another City Hall official of that era who was involved in the efforts, former Administrative Services Director Bob Stephens, cannot recall the NSA participating in the security meetings.

"There was never any specific representative of NSA at the meetings I attended," Stephens said, adding, "It never even occurred to me that was going on at the time."

As the administrative services director, Stephens oversaw City Hall’s information technology capabilities. During the Games, Stephens attended morning security meetings. He said electronic surveillance such as monitoring e-mails was "never ever a topic that surfaced." Stephens said the meetings centered on what he calls physical security issues, such as planned responses to an emergency like a bomb threat.

Mayor Dana Williams, who took office a month before the start of the Games, said City Hall was one of the communications bases during the Olympics. With that role, Williams said, the NSA might have been interested in Park City. He said it would not surprise him if Park City was monitored. If the NSA looked at his own e-mails during the Olympics, the agency would not have seen much of interest, though, he said.

"Most of the correspondences had to do with things I was supposed to be present at . . . all pretty mundane stuff," Williams said.