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Why the NSA Tried to Keep Its Water Use a Secret

"Armed with this information, one could then deduce..."

The NSA's massive new data center in Bluffdale, Utah, uses million of gallons of water daily (Associated Press).

The National Security Agency wants to keep water usage a secret. Theirs, anyway. Yours, perhaps not.

However, the federal agency lost its attempt to keep their water records under cover, when the Utah State Records Committee rejected the NSA's argument and ordered the info released, Wired reported.

The NSA's massive new data center in Bluffdale, Utah, uses million of gallons of water daily (Associated Press). The NSA's massive new data center in Bluffdale, Utah, uses million of gallons of water daily. (AP)

Last May, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle asked for local reports relating to the data center, but when he got his files a few months later, the water usage data had been redacted.

The NSA attempted to argue that the water usage at its massive Bluffdale, Utah, data center is a matter of national security.

“By computing the water usage rate, one could ultimately determine the computing power and capabilities of the Utah Data Center,” David Sherman, the NSA’s associate director for policy and records, wrote. In the undated letter, filed with Bluffdale in response to the Tribune’s public records request, Sherman argued the information would make the agency vulnerable.

“Armed with this information, one could then deduce how much intelligence NSA is collecting and maintaining,” he said.

From Wired:

[W]ater usage has become a very contentious issue for the NSA. An anti-government group called the Tenth Amendment Center is calling for Utah to simply cut off the NSA’s water supply, saying that water is the $1.5 billion data center’s “Achilles Heel.” And last month, a state Republican lawmaker named Marc Roberts said he would introduce a bill that would do such a thing.

But to the local paper, tracking water usage is just part of having an informed debate about the impact of the NSA’s data center, says Carlisle. “We are the second driest state in the nation,” he says. “We’re just in the habit of accounting for water in this state because we have to. There’s just not enough water.

Early planning documents for the NSA’s data center estimated the facility would use roughly 1.7 million gallons of water per day. Since the center has opened, that number was revised down to 1.2 million gallons, according to the Tribune.

Do you think the NSA's water usage should be a matter of national security? Check out the Tenth Amendment Center's video below, to see what they think:


(H/T: Wired)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.

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