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
    McCrea (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 3:43am

    Sad that we have to play these reindeer games.

    ...Sorry, I'm near Buffalo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Michael, 21 Nov 2014 @ 5:00am

    They'll just drink soda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    nasch (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 6:19am

    Water

    I still haven't heard a good explanation of why it will use so much water. If it's a cooling system, why isn't it a closed loop? It makes no sense to me to use clean drinking water once for cooling and then put it into the waste stream. Maybe they don't care about the environmental impact, but surely it's cheaper to reuse water when you're talking about such huge quantities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Rob, 21 Nov 2014 @ 6:21am

    Hope it's better definied in the bill

    "prohibits cooperation between a federal agency that collects electronic data and any political subdivisions of the state."

    The way that's phrased, they just shut off all contact with the federal government. Given that just about everything is digital now, who doesn't collect electronic data?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Sketch, 21 Nov 2014 @ 6:59am

    Re: Water

    A closed loop would still need refrigerant to cool the water back down - unless you're going geothermal and can sink the water back down below the frost line long enough to cool and then bring it back up to cycle again. Maybe it was just easier and faster to have the water used once and be done with it, return it to the aquifer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    R.H. (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 7:11am

    Re: Hope it's better definied in the bill

    Here's a link to the bill itself, the language is a bit more precise than the articles I've read about it state. For example, it specifically states that the data collection must be without the consent of the people who the data is collected on and without a warrant or valid court order to trigger this law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2014 @ 7:18am

    Re: Re: Water

    Outside of the arctic tundra and shallow depths, the deeper you go the hotter it gets. If you are near a volcanic region, you can boil water at reasonable depths, which is what geothermal is.
    The usual way of cooling water is the use of cooling towers, which evaporate some water to cool the rest, and a hot dry climate increases this evaporation. As a result water cooling consumes water, by losing it to the atmosphere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    John O, 21 Nov 2014 @ 9:17am

    We could know which Utah legislators have embarrassing secrets to hide, just by the way they vote on this bill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2014 @ 9:18am

    I hate it when someone assumes I am not patriotic just because I don't believe a government agency has the right to callously disregard the 4th amendment to the constitution. If anything that should prove my patriotism, in that I believe we already had a system that worked by just requesting from a judge, a warrant for a search.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    tqk (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Water

    The usual way of cooling water is the use of cooling towers, which evaporate some water to cool the rest ...

    Yes, that is one way it can be done. If you look under the hood of any automobile, you'll see another way it can be done. We're just talking about losing heat here. Unheated air passing over radiator fins take away radiated heat. I wonder which way is really more "usual" than the others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    tqk (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    I hate it when someone assumes I am not patriotic ...

    I don't think you need to feel bad about thinking "patriotism" means supporting your country, as opposed to supporting your country's government. They're trying to redefine the word in their favor, to your detriment.

    "Your country" != "Your country's government."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Michael, 21 Nov 2014 @ 10:15am

    Re:

    I'll save you the suspense. They all do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Alien Rebel (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 10:24am

    Symbolism

    Impractical, for sure; but how about a bill to cut off their air?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 11:35am

    Water? Like out of the toilet?

    Brawndo has electrolytes. It's got what data centers crave.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2014 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Water

    A radiator works for low volume cooling, but becomes expensive to run at large static scale, massive radiators, and significant fan power. Further the less the difference between air temperature and output water temperature, the larger the radiator needed. Radiators are useful when you can work near 100C, or higher with a pressurized system. ( that is why you have to let an engine cool before opening the radiator cap, as the water will boil if you take the pressure off by opening the cap while it is hot). Silicon likes a rather cool temperature for radiators at the large scale. When you have megawatts of heat to get rid off, using a handy river, or the sea for cooling water, are the best options, followed by cooling towers when you do not have a large volume of cool water available.
    With the right climate, and the ability to shut down if the air temperature climbs too high, air cooling is possible, but I do not think Utah is the right climate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2014 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Water

    and man has no impact on climate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2014 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Water

    Evaporative cooling is much more thermally efficient than closed-loop heat exchangers. As we see here, though, it's hell on water bills.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Re: Hope it's better definied in the bill

    I certainly hope they exempted the FISA 'court' from 'valid court' under that definition, given they're effectively little more than a branch of the NSA , and not a real 'court'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 5:08pm

    Re: Re: Hope it's better definied in the bill

    Missed it the first time I read your comment, but there's also a rather large loophole in the phrase 'without the consent of the people who the data is being collected on', given that the government continues to argue that, thanks to the third-party doctrine, by simply using a service and giving them your personally data, you've already 'given consent' to anyone else who wants the information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 21 Nov 2014 @ 10:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hope it's better definied in the bill

    Here's a quick fix: 'without the full, informed consent of the people who the data is being collected on'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    nasch (profile), 22 Nov 2014 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Water

    The usual way of cooling water is the use of cooling towers, which evaporate some water to cool the rest, and a hot dry climate increases this evaporation. As a result water cooling consumes water, by losing it to the atmosphere.

    Thanks, that explains it. That is still an amazing amount of water to use. Kind of hard to comprehend how much power this place is going to use.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2014 @ 8:25am

    Patriotism

    He said an NSA administrator told him the data center came to Utah because of low energy prices and people who were patriotic.
    Clearly, the Utah legislators supporting this are not only patriotic, but believe more strongly in the rule of law than does the NSA. Their patriotism is demonstrated by their refusal to let the state actively support an agency so clearly acting against the best interests of the people. Their belief in the rule of law is demonstrated by them not introducing these two companion bills, which are far more pointed, but run contrary to the ideal of rule by law:
    Be it enacted by the Utah state legislature, any contract or other agreement which could not be renewed under [Robert's bill] is hereby immediately void.
    Although voiding existing contracts can be done, it's not to be done lightly and generally should be done only when the voided contract is obviously against the intent of existing law.
    Be it enacted by the Utah state legislature, any person who, on or after January 1st, 2014, knowingly and willfully maintained employment at [an agency targeted by Robert's bill], commits a Felony Offense punishable by not less than 1 year in jail per month (or portion thereof) employed at such agency.
    This is outright legally deficient, since (a) it is an ex post facto law, which generally only works in tax law (and should not work even there) and (b) criminalizes Federal employees who were "just doing their job." However, if you do not believe in the rule of law and the Constitution's constraints, then there is nothing stopping you from enforcing laws which are clearly contrary to both. Without the rule of law, you have only the rule of man, and whatever the highest official says is law, regardless of how much or little sense it makes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 4:29am

    Maybe they'll use recycled nuclear waste water.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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