Could state law curtail NSA’s massive Utah data center?
- By Frank Konkel
- Dec 04, 2013
With its opening already delayed a year following a series of electrical surges, the National Security Agency’s $1.5 billion Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah, might face future challenges if an effort by anti-surveillance activists is successful.
According to US News and World Report, several groups are pushing for state-level legislation that would bar local governments from “providing services to federal agencies that collect electronic data from Americans without a personalized warrant.”
Members of the OffNow coalition of advocacy groups want states laws enacted that prohibit local governments from cooperating with the NSA and other intelligence agencies, telling US News they want to use the NSA’s need for local utilities as leverage.
The utility in question in Bluffdale, a city of about 7,500 south of Salt Lake City, is water. The city charges the NSA a discounted rate of $2.05 for every 1,000 gallons, compared with the $3.35 per 1,000 gallons it typically charges other high-volume users. The data center will be a water glutton, requiring about 1.7 million gallons of water per day to cool the computers that handle, process and store the data the 1 million square foot center can hold.
The Utah Data Center -- rumored to be the largest on Earth -- and is the expected destination of enormous amounts of surveillance data collected by the spy agency, much of it through controversial methods detailed through leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden.
However, for the model legislation to have a chance at becoming law, a Utah lawmaker would have to introduce it.
Thus far, nobody has, although Mike Maharrey, a spokesman for the Tenth Amendment Center – one of the groups affiliated with the OffNow coalition – said at least one legislator had committed to introducing a bill. Maharrey did not identify the legislator, but added that OffNow’s campaign reaches beyond Salt Lake City.
He said lawmakers in a half-dozen other states, including Washington, have expressed interest in the idea.
"We are still very early in the campaign, and this is in fact a multi-step, multi-year, long-term strategy," Maharrey told US News and World Report.
Frank Konkel is a staff writer covering big data, mobile, open government and a range of science/technology issues. Connect with him on Twitter at @Frank_Konkel.