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US state lawmaker asks why city water going to NSA

November 20, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah state lawmaker concerned about government spying on its citizens is questioning whether city water service should be cut off to a massive National Security Agency data storage facility outside Salt Lake City.

Republican Rep. Marc Roberts said there are serious questions about privacy and surveillance surrounding the center, and several Utah residents who spoke at a legislative committee hearing Wednesday agreed.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers opted to hold off on Roberts’ bill to shut off the facility’s water and decided to study it during the interim.

Pete Ashdown, founder of Salt Lake City-based Internet provider XMission, called the center a stain upon the state and its technology industry.

Lawmakers said they aren’t considering shutting down $1.7 billion facility, but the committee chair acknowledged the concerns and said there might be another way to get the point across. “We may look at some type of strong message to give our representatives to take back to Congress,” said Republican Sen. David Hinkins.

The NSA’s largest data storage center in the U.S. was built in Utah over 37 other locations because of open land and cheap electricity. The center sits on a National Guard state militia base south of Salt Lake City in the town of Bluffdale.

NSA officials said the center is key to protecting national security networks and allowing U.S. authorities to watch for cyber threats. Beyond that, the agency has offered few details.

The center attracted much discussion and concern after revelations last year that the NSA has been collecting millions of U.S. phone records and digital communications stored by major Internet providers.

Cybersecurity experts say the nondescript Utah facility is a giant storehouse for phone calls, emails and online records that have been secretly collected.

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