In what amounts to a pissing match on a national scale, a Utah state legislative committee will vote on a bill that could deprive a National Security Agency facility just outside Salt Lake City of its water, all in protest of the government agency’s collection of civilian data. Specifically, the bill prohibits municipalities from giving “material support or assistance in any form to any federal data collection and surveillance agency.”
That’s a barely veiled reference to the Utah Data Center, a massive collection facility operated by the NSA in Bluffdale, a small suburb of Salt Lake City. The facility, completed last year at a cost of about $1.7 billion, houses super computers that require 65 megawatts of power, enough to power about 33,000 homes, according to the Associated Press.
All those computers require a lot of water, which keeps them cool. Bluffdale issued $3.5 million in bonds to pay for water lines that will eventually pump a million gallons a day into the facility. Bluffdale signed an agreement with the NSA that allows the agency to pay less for water than city ordinances would otherwise require.
The data center basically functions as a giant storage unit for phone calls, emails and online records culled and collected by the intelligence agency. The bill, proposed by Republican Congressman Marc Roberts would grandfather in that deal with Bluffdale, and when that deal expires, it would become forbidden to cooperate any further with the NSA. It would also prohibit other cities and water districts from signing new agreements with the government body, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Joe Levi, the vice chair of Utah’s Davis County Republican Party said, “This is not a bill about a data center. This is a bill about civil rights.”