Activists Push For Utah To Cut Off Public Utility Service To The NSA's Data Center

from the so-crazy-it-might-work-be-discussed-periodically dept

Plenty of legislation is currently aimed at the NSA's collection programs. The agency also has the recommendations of various committees to contend with should the administration actually decide to hold up its end of the "debate" on intelligence gathering.

Of course, those that feel the government itself is irreversibly broken (and there are very many people who feel that) find these solutions inadequate -- or at the very least, prone to subversion by career-minded bureaucrats or skittish policy makers who have last-second changes of heart in the face of "the terrorists will win" fearmongering.

So, another solution has been proposed, one that changes the field of play from politics to logistics.

The Tenth Amendment Center is encouraging passage of a model law it calls the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, which would go as far as barring the provision of water to the NSA's $1.5 billion computing center in Bluffdale, Utah. At least one Utah lawmaker has agreed to support the bill, according to a Tenth Amendment Center spokesperson, who declined to identify the lawmaker before the bill is introduced.
The rationale behind the Tenth Amendment Center's push to turn NSA officials into this game's protagonist is the following:
1. Wait on Congress: They’ve already had plenty of chances to shut it down. Our representatives and senators keep rubber stamping it.

2. Wait for the Courts: When was the last time those black-robed federal employees did anything to limit federal power? They rubber stamp it too.

3. Wait for the President: Maybe the president will save the day. But the commission Obama formed to review NSA surveillance was packed with government insiders. More rubber stamps.

4. Follow the Advice of Madison and Jefferson: Act NOW on a state and local level, whether congress, the courts, or the President want us to or not.
There's a fair amount of cynicism present here, not that all of it is unearned. This legislation would leverage public utilities (as an arm of the government) against its own kind -- another government agency. The center hopes to turn every publicly-controlled utility against the NSA. No water means no speedy, powerful data centers. The center also asks electric utilities, sanitation services and the highway department to join Utah's government in fostering the spirit of non-cooperation that made this country great. (Or rather, has a chance to make this country great again.)

It's an interesting tactic, albeit one that's no more assured of success than anything else currently on tap, legislation-wise. As it stands right now, Utah's governing body probably considers the data center a win for local economics. That would explain the cut rate its giving the NSA's information center on the millions of gallons of water it uses every day.
The city of Bluffdale successfully competed to supply water to the new NSA data center with an eye toward future economic development and offered discounted rates, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Nov. 30. The city is reportedly charging the NSA a rate of $2.05 for every 1,000 gallons of water, significantly less than the typical rate for high-volume consumers of $3.35 per 1,000 gallons.
The "nullification" gambit the Tenth Amendment Center is deploying aims to block out the NSA by utilizing the state's innate right to combat overreaching federal power. The center claims one (unnamed) state rep has signed on, but the chances of widespread support are limited. A certain amount of self-interest is in play when a federal agency builds a multi-million dollar facility in the neighborhood. The promise of further riches down the road via federal programs and further agency expansion (not to mention the arrival of private government contractors looking to open offices nearer to the "heat") will steer many legislators from denying service to a cash cow, no matter how unpopular that particular cow is.

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Filed Under: bluffdale data center, public utilities, utah

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  1. icon
    nasch (profile), 9 Jan 2014 @ 10:47am

    Re: Typical

    The ACA and this case are very different situations. In the former, the House first passed the legislation, and then later tried to screw it up. With the NSA, the federal government is doing something that the locals don't like. Since the locals have no authority to change federal policy, they're doing what they can to interfere with the federal government's ability to take what they view as nefarious action.

    The House Republicans looked like idiots not because they were trying to fix something they saw as a problem, but because they were trying to obstruct a law that they themselves helped pass. IMO anyway. If they had pulled all those shenanigans over something the executive branch did without their consent - let's say, massive surveillance abuse by the NSA, just for example* - it would have made a lot more sense.

    * ignoring for the sake of argument that Congress wasn't doing their job of overseeing the NSA, hopefully you get the point anyway

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