While Keith Alexander, outgoing NSA chief, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and other leading lights of the military-industrial-surveillance complex ate and drank at the White House last night along with French dignitaries, the NSA’s beleaguered Bluffdale, Utah data center is threatened with cutoff of its water supply by a bill recently introduced in the Utah legislature.
I must say I had no idea that there was any water left in Utah to cut off. Anyhow, the Tenth Amendment Center, which worked on the model legislation (in this case, the “Utah 4th Amendment Protection Act) is on the move: “The Constitution. Every Issue, Every Time. No Exceptions, No Excuses.” They attack the “sweetheart water deal” the NSA reportedly got from the town, but their aims go far beyond quibbles over two dollars versus three or four dollars per thousand gallons. I think their constitutional argument, based on the “anti-commandeering doctrine,” is sound enough as far as it goes. The fascinating issue to me is how far will legislators in Utah (or in states with plentiful water–think voodoo surveillance data centers on the bayou!) go to challenge federal surveillance. People in the mountain west, perhaps more than in most other U.S. regions, claim to prize individual liberty in the form of “negative liberty” and freedom from state intrusion. But will a state legislature really take concrete action against the surveillance state? I doubt it, though I am ready to be surprised about the outcome.
Nonetheless I am very skeptical of claims that the anti-surveillance “boil” is headed down to a “simmer” (as Walter Pincus of the Washington Post asserted the other day), because major elements of the political right and left are committing themselves to the cause of reining in the NSA–just today Senator and soon-to-be-presidential=candidate Rand Paul is joining a class action lawsuit against NSA warrantless surveillance.
The NSA “Domestic Surveillance Directorate” webpage, in the face of all this plebeian uproar, puts on its jaunty “what? me worry?” face in “2014 Status of the Utah Data Center”: “We are happy to report that we ‘dodged a bullet’ recently when President Obama gave his January 17th speech on NSA ‘reforms.’ We were all ready to provide complete transparency about the current operating status of the Utah Data Center, but happily now it looks like we won’t have to!” How’s that for attitude?