Big Data

Could state law curtail NSA’s massive Utah data center?

data center

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.


About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

Cyber. Covered.

Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Thu, Dec 5, 2013 Bewildered

I find it odd that the State of Utah would allow such a water guzzling facility in their backyar when NOAA has projected that the state will be facing water shortages in the near future (5 years or so). Auquifiers are becoming extremely fragile and dumping the waste heat from the gargantuan center will no doubt produce some impact on the local climate. Was an environmental impact study done for this place? It seems to be required to even rebuild a footbridge on private property.....

Thu, Dec 5, 2013 RayW

Nice idea, however that law will then force the water department to treat the NSA site under different rules than other users, especially since there is nothing in the article (and probably the anti-NSA group's propaganda also) that states what the criteria was for the steeper discount. I believe that the bill would be rendered null and void since that is the same as saying you can not provide services to an Arab since a race they have committed many of the terrorist attacks lately. Also, if the bill does go thru modified and the NSA has to pay more for water, then who really pays for the water? I wonder if the folks in the anti-NSA groups even consider or care about the cost to the working people if they manage to do something like this.

One thing not mentioned, if the contract was already signed, then a new law can not be enforced retroactively, that is one premise that I learned in school (do not know if that is still true today), so unless they have a contract that is 100% subject to renegotiation at the end of the contract, then the law is a one more waste of paper and electronic storage.

Off topic, why so much water? Do they just dump the warm water or is there some sort of cooling that takes place? That is even more important here in the desert than the billing costs.

Caveat: I do not support the NSA data storage centers, I am only looking at the law being proposed as one more law that could be used as prior accepted law to do other things similar that may not be so useful or people friendly.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group