Bill Aimed At Shutting Off NSA's Water Starts Moving Forward Again

from the firing-the-customer dept

The attempt to nerf the NSA's new data center in Utah continues. As we covered here at the beginning of this year, legislators and activists began pushing a bill that would cut off the NSA's water supply if it continued to gather data on American citizens. It's an interesting move, one that leverages the states' abilities to combat overreaching federal laws, but one that has gone nowhere so far. The bill was discussed and then tabled indefinitely, supposedly for "further study."

Apparently, some sort of studying has gone on during the intervening months, because it appears the bill is moving forward again.

On Wednesday, the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee discussed the bill that "prohibits cooperation between a federal agency that collects electronic data and any political subdivisions of the state."
The Salt Lake Tribune has more details.
Committee members expressed some concerns with the bill but no outright opposition. They asked the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, to better define who would be impacted by the bill.

The members also asked questions on whether Utah taxpayers are supporting the NSA.

"I just don’t want to subsidize what they’re doing on the back of our citizens," said Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville.
As is par for the course in legislative discussions, the prevailing public wind was checked. Apparently, it still blows in the direction of shutting down the NSA's water supply. Rep. Barrus' stated concerns about taxpayer subsidies are admirable, if a bit on the tardy side. As it stands now, the NSA is receiving cut rates on both electricity and water -- both of which are expected to be used heavily. (The data center is projected to use four times as much electricity as the entire town of Bluffdale and over a million gallons of water a day.)

If the bill does pass, the effect won't be felt immediately.
Roberts’ bill would grandfather in Bluffdale’s financial agreements with the Utah Data Center, but when those agreements expire, his bill would prohibit further cooperation with the NSA. It also would prohibit any other cities or water districts from signing new agreements with the NSA.
Not that grandfathering in old agreements would ultimately matter if the bill passes. Uprooting a large-scale data center doesn't happen overnight. The NSA would be back out shopping for real estate while simultaneously attempting to have the new law overturned. It buys the agency some time but doesn't eliminate a possibly waterless future.

Jokes were made during the meeting that the NSA had not only read the bill but was listening in to the session, something that seems to indicate a new-found wariness of the agency's power -- something that obviously wasn't present when Bluffdale approved the data center… or any time prior to Snowden's leaks.
Pete Ashdown, the founder of the Internet service provider XMission, toured the Utah Data Center before the leaks from Edward Snowden. He said an NSA administrator told him the data center came to Utah because of low energy prices and people who were patriotic.

Ashdown believes the latter implied Utahns would not question what the NSA does.
Whether or not that was the NSA rep's insinuation, there can be no question that many surveillance apologists believe the same thing: patriotism means unquestioning support of your government. This attitude completely ignores the founding of this country: the violent overthrow of the standing government and the installation of principles based on the government deriving its power from the people -- not just demanding it, along with the public's devotion.

Filed Under: bluffdale, nsa, surveillance, utah, water

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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Nov 2014 @ 8:38pm

    Re: Patriotism

    The fact that the second one was proposed at all shows just how toxic the NSA's reputation is becoming, when employment with them is seen as little better than employment at a 'regular' criminal enterprise.

    While such an amendment does seem to go overboard, it's not hard to understand where the motivation for it is coming from. If an agency is knowingly violating and undermining the rights and safety of the public, while lying, misleading, and giving 'least untruthful answers' when they get caught, then someone who chooses to work there is knowingly supporting those actions, and should face penalties for that, though for the most part that should only extend to social 'punishments', where working at the NSA is seen as no better than being involved in crime.

    'You're knowingly working for an agency that sees the american public as it's enemy, and their rights obstacles to be bypassed or eliminated, as such I've no interest in having anything to do with you', that sort of thing.

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