Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Utah Lawmakers Consider Cutting Off NSA Data Center’s Water

NSA Utah Data Center (Photo: EFF)

NSA Utah Data Center (Photo: EFF)

Utah lawmakers are set to consider a bill that could cut off the water supply for a massive National Security Agency facility near Salt Lake City.

State Rep. Marc Roberts (R-Santaquin) is sponsoring HB 161, the ‘Prohibition on Electronic Data Collection’ bill, which would ban Utah municipalities from providing “material support or assistance in any form to any federal data collection and surveillance agency.”

The Washington Post reports the NSA’s Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, south of Salt Lake City, is the assumed target of the bill.

According to the Associated Press, the 1.5 million square foot, $1.7 billion center, which was completed last year, requires 65 megawatts of electrical power, or enough to power about 33,000 homes, to power NSA supercomputers engaged in data collection and surveillance.

Those computers require massive amounts of water. Bluffdale issued $3.5 million in bonds to fund the water lines which will eventually deliver a million gallons a day to the NSA facility.

The NSA’s well-publicized activities — including collecting metadata from virtually all US phone calls, spying on Americans’ electronic communications, social media and even gaming activities, snooping on foreign corporations, officials and even closely allied heads of state and the Pope — have outraged many Americans of all political stripes, including Utah lawmakers.

“I just don’t want to subsidize what they’re doing on the back of our citizens,” said Rep. Roger Barrus, (R-Centerville) in explaining his support for the proposed bill.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports Pete Ashdown, founder of the Internet service provider XMission, toured the NSA facility last year. Ashdown says an NSA official told him Utah was chosen to host the center due to its low energy costs and because it was populated by patriotic Americans.

Ashdown believes the latter statement implied that Utah residents would not question the NSA’s activities.

“This data center is a stain not only upon the tech industry of Utah, but upon Utah itself,” Ashdown told the legislative committee considering the measure.

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