The National Security Agency has many secrets, but here’s a new one: the agency is refusing to say how much water its pumping into the brand new data center it operates in Bluffdale, Utah. According to the NSA, its water usage is a matter of national security.
The agency made the argument in a letter sent to officials in Utah, who are considering whether or not to release the data to the Salt Lake Tribune. Back in May, Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle asked for local records relating to the data center, but when he got his files a few months later, the water usage data was redacted.
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“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.”
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Early planning documents estimated that the NSA’s data center, which opened last year, would guzzle about 1.7 million gallons of water per day. That number was revised downward to 1.2 million gallons — made available at a discounted rate — according to other local documents uncovered by the Tribune. NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.