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Utah legislator to propose halting water to NSA data center

Published February 12, 2014 7:38 pm

Legislation • The bill also would prohibit universities from partnering with NSA.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A state representative wants to shut down the National Security Agency's Utah Data Center by shutting off its water, but has not yet filed a bill that he acknowledges has little chance of passing.

Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, has entered what is called a boxcar bill labeled "Prohibition on Electronic Data Collection Assistance." The bill had not been formally filed as of late Wednesday, and no draft had been posted online.

Roberts, a former Brigham Young University basketball player in his first term, said he believes NSA data collection violates the Fourth Amendment, which deals with searches and seizures requiring a warrant.

"It's left to the states in times like these, and other times too, when the federal government gets too big to take action," Roberts said.

He acknowledged that both state and local government have made commitments to the NSA, and his bill will have a difficult time becoming law.

The bill would do more than shut off water to the Utah Data Center, which needs the water to cool the massive facility in Bluffdale. Mike Maharrey, the national communications director at the Tenth Amendment Center, said he has seen a draft of the bill and it would also prevent Utah's public universities from partnering with the NSA and prohibit businesses from receiving state contracts if they also do business with the NSA.

The universities provision would impact the University of Utah, which for years has received NSA grants to conduct mathematics research and recently created, at the NSA's request, a course teaching data center management.

"The idea is we are not going to do business with this agency as long as it's violating the highest law in the land," Maharrey said.

The Tenth Amendment Center is part of a coalition of libertarians and anti-war groups calling themselves Nullify NSA. For months they have waged a campaign to shut off water to the Utah Data Center. The coalition contends that the NSA's data collection programs violate the Fourth Amendment, which discusses warrants to conduct search and seizures.

"We're not trying to shut down the NSA for the sake of shutting down the NSA," Maharrey said. "The goal is to get this agency to operate within constitutional constraints."

Bluffdale sells water to the Utah Data Center at a lesser rate than what's called for in city guidelines. Bluffdale City Manager Mark Reid in November told The Tribune that the contract with the NSA does not allow the city to shut off the water.

Bluffdale has refused written requests to say how much water has thus far been sold to the data center. Planning documents have said the Utah Data Center will consume 1 million gallons a day when it becomes fully operational.

— Tribune reporter Jennifer Napier-Pearce contributed to this report.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle