While Americans are invariably subject to prying eyes, the National Security Agency (NSA) is holding in as many secrets as possible post-Snowden. When asked for information about the NSA Utah data center, authorities replied with documents, but redacted the water bill amount.
According to Wired, the official argument "requires a pretty big leap of logic":
"By computing the water usage rate, one could ultimately determine the computing power and capabilities of the Utah Data Center," wrote the NSA's associate director for policy and records, David Sherman, in an undated letter filed with Bluffdale in response to the Tribune's public records request. "Armed with this information, one could then deduce how much intelligence NSA is collecting and maintaining."
The State Records Committee, the state panel tasked with overseeing open records laws, was not convinced. Yesterday, it ruled 5-0 in favor of ordering Bluffdale, the city that supplies the NSA with water, to release the information.
Water consumption is peculiarly significant issue in the state of Utah. "We're just in the habit of accounting for water in this state because we have to. There's just not enough water," Nate Carlisle, the Tribune reporter that filed the initial information request, told Wired. The OffNow campaign has been fighting tooth and nail to turn off the NSA's water. State rep. Marc Roberts introduced a bill in February to discontinue the flow of water to the massive data facility.
As far as plans to tame government snoops go, this is eccentric approach. But the huge data center, estimated to hold exabytes of data, swallows, perhaps, a million gallons of water a day to cool down the surveillance-data-holding computers and equipment.
Coincidentally, the Associated Press released a study on federal handling of open records requests. They found that mismanagement of Freedom of Information Act requests is on an upward swing. The Obama administration cites national security as grounds to reject a request more than under any other administration ever.
Carlisle expects the records to be released within the week. Wired is less confident, "Don't expect the NSA to give up its water numbers without a fight."