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Utah May Fight NSA by Cutting Off Their Water

nsa blimp greenpeace

Greenpeace blimp flying over NSA’s Utah Data Center

It may be time to fight fire with water. Specifically, the NSA’s fire with Utah’s water.

Congressional Fail

Some eighteen months after the first Snowden revelations showed the government of the United States, primarily via the NSA, has created a near-complete surveillance state over its own frightened citizens, the people’s voice in Washington, Congress, has done exactly nothing in response. Even the comically-weak and Orwellian-named Leahy attempt at showpiece reform of the NSA, the USA Freedom Act, failed to move forward.

Once again the intelligence agencies’ allies in Congress fought to kill the bill, as they succeeded in doing with a companion House measure that passed in May. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, due soon for his upgrade, argued the bill would help ISIS. “God forbid that tomorrow we wake up to the news that a member of ISIS is in the United States,” claimed Senator Marco Rubio. Without the NSA’s call tracking program, he said, “that plot may go forward, and that would be a horrifying result.” “Let’s not have another repeat of 9/11,” added Senator Dan Coats. It is unlikely in the hyper-extreme that the Republican-controlled Senate would act any differently once they take power in January.

Utah Water Sports

So it is with some Quixotic pleasure that 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 Utah bill prohibits municipalities from giving “material support or assistance in any form to any federal data collection and surveillance agency,” a very thinly veiled reference to the NSA’s Utah Data Center, a massive collection facility in Bluffdale, outside Salt Lake City. The Bluffdale center is believed to be one of the world’s largest data warehouses, intended as the electronic realization of the NSA’s stated desire to “collect the whole haystack.” The haystack is every piece of data the NSA can collect on every single person and entity globally. The concept is to amass such data with the ability to later reach back into it as needs grow and emerge. The email you send today is likely of little value to the government, but will be stored anyway. If in three years you or someone you know becomes a “person of interest,” your entire life can then be reconstructed historically.

Power from the People

The Bluffdale facility consumes a staggering 65 megawatts of power, enough to run about 33,000 homes. Hardware that uses that much juice needs a lot of cooling, hence the center’s need for water. A lot of water. Cut off the water and you close down the center.

In the spirit of these Post-Constitutional times, the people are getting doused twice by the NSA. Not only are Constitutional rights being trod upon, but taxpayers are being made to pay for it. In addition to the actual construction and maintenance costs of the center, the city of Bluffdale chose to issue $3.5 million in bonds to pay for the water lines servicing the facility. Bluffdale also signed an agreement with the NSA that allows the agency to pay less for water than city ordinances would otherwise require.

And exactly how much cheap, taxpayer-subsized water is the NSA gulping down? That’s a secret. The Salt Lake Tribune has so far failed to force the NSA to reveal how much water the facility requires. The NSA contends information about water usage would allow someone to calculate the computing power inside the data center.

Symbols

Though there is no chance that even one drop of water will be denied the NSA in Utah, the action is symbolic, and in troubled times symbols may count for something. Remember, Congress refused to endorse even the lightest of symbolic gestures, so the action of a Utah state legislative committee should not be dismissed.

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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from Amazon

Photo by Greenpeace and EFF under Creative Commons license

CommunityFDL Main Blog

Utah May Fight NSA by Cutting Off Their Water

nsa blimp greenpeace

Greenpeace blimp flying over NSA’s Utah Data Center

It may be time to fight fire with water. Specifically, the NSA’s fire with Utah’s water.

Congressional Fail

Some eighteen months after the first Snowden revelations showed the government of the United States, primarily via the NSA, has created a near-complete surveillance state over its own frightened citizens, the people’s voice in Washington, Congress, has done exactly nothing in response. Even the comically-weak and Orwellian-named Leahy attempt at showpiece reform of the NSA, the USA Freedom Act, failed to move forward.

Once again the intelligence agencies’ allies in Congress fought to kill the bill, as they succeeded in doing with a companion House measure that passed in May. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, due soon for his upgrade, argued the bill would help ISIS. “God forbid that tomorrow we wake up to the news that a member of ISIS is in the United States,” claimed Senator Marco Rubio. Without the NSA’s call tracking program, he said, “that plot may go forward, and that would be a horrifying result.” “Let’s not have another repeat of 9/11,” added Senator Dan Coats. It is unlikely in the hyper-extreme that the Republican-controlled Senate would act any differently once they take power in January.

Utah Water Sports

So it is with some Quixotic pleasure that 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.

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Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren has served with the Foreign Service for over 23 years. He received a Meritorious Honor Award for assistance to Americans following the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, a Superior Honor Award for helping an American rape victim in Japan, and another award for work in the tsunami relief efforts in Thailand. Previous assignments include Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UK and Hong Kong. He volunteered for Iraq service and was assigned to ePRT duty 2009-10. His tour extended past the withdrawal of the last combat troops.

Van Buren worked extensively with the military while overseeing evacuation planning in Japan and Korea. This experience included multiple field exercises, plus civil-military work in Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii, and Sydney with allies from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. The Marine Corps selected Van Buren to travel to Camp Lejeune in 2006 to participate in a field exercise that included simulated Iraqi conditions. Van Buren spent a year on the Hill in the Department of State’s Congressional Liaison Office.

Van Buren speaks Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, and some Korean (the book’s all in English, don’t worry). Born in New York City, he lives in Virginia with his spouse, two daughters, and a docile Rottweiler.

Though this is his first book, Peter’s commentary has been featured on TomDispatch, Salon, Huffington Post, The Nation, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others.

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