SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers are sending mixed messages to the National Security Agency, which runs a massive data-storage warehouse outside Salt Lake City.
One proposal calls for legislators to make good on a promise not to collect utility taxes from the center, following a commitment from former Gov. Jon Huntsman. That measure moved forward this week, but several lawmakers questioned why they should honor the estimated $6 million yearly tax break that they weren't consulted about.
Meanwhile, another lawmaker wants to cut off water to the center, which uses more than 1 million gallons daily to cool its computer processers. Republican Rep. Marc Roberts of Santaquin says his proposal, still in the works, protects state rights and also defends Utah residents' right not to be spied on.
"The end game here is to limit the encroachment on our 4th Amendment rights," Roberts told the Daily Herald of Provo. "We'd love to see Congress fix that on their own, but I don't have a lot of faith in that happening. So this is a state effort to take a step in that direction."
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined comment on the proposals, saying it wouldn't be appropriate because the issues are state matters.
The $1.7 billion facility, the NSA's largest data-storage center in the U.S., has generated much discussion and concern in Utah since the agency chose the location over 37 others because electricity is cheaper here and land more easily available.
NSA officials say the center plays a key role in the nation's effort to protect national security networks and allow U.S. authorities to monitor for potential cyber threats. But they don't offer any details about what exactly goes on in the center, and fears grew after revelations last year that the NSA is collecting millions of U.S. phone records along with digital communications stored by nine major Internet providers.