Salt Lake City, Utah State House

State Legislators Meet Inside Utah State House
State Legislators Meet Inside Utah State House
SALT LAKE CITY, February 12, 2014–Can Utah shut down the new NSA data center by turning off the water? A new bill introduced by state Rep. Marc Roberts seeks to do just that.
The legislation drafted by a transpartisan coalition organized by the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) called OffNow Coalition. The Utah Fourth Amendment Protection Act would expressly prohibit state material support, participation, and assistance to any federal agency that collects electronic date or metadata without a search warrant “that particularly desribes the person, place and thing to be searched or seized.”

“Without question, the mass surveillance and data collection by the Utah Data Center is a delicate and important matter,” Roberts said. “But for me, the language of the Fourth Amendment is clear.  It simply protects us against unreasonable and unwarranted searches or seizures of our persons, private residencies and property, documents and information and personal and private belongings.  This legislation preserves those rights to the people.”

This puts contracts that provide the 1.7 million gallons of water a day necessary to cool the NSA computers at its Bluffdale facility in the crosshairs.

Bluffdale, a political subdivision of Utah, provided the NSA with a sweetheart water deal. The bill would begin the process of ending that deal, potentially crippling the NSA’s ability to keep the facility functional.

“No water equals no NSA data center,” TAC executive director Michael Boldin said.

He called the potential impact of this legislation significant, especially compared to what Congress has done to deal with the agency.

“In 1975, Sen. Frank Church warned that the power of the NSA could enable ‘total tyranny.’ He recommended that Congress should limit the agency’s power. Almost four decades later, we’re still waiting. Congress is not going to stop the NSA. The people and their states have to,” Boldin said. “Turn it off.”

BORDC executive director Shahid Buttar echoed Boldin’s enthusiasm for state action.

“At stake is nothing less than our nation’s triumph in the Cold War. The NSA’s decade of warrantless surveillance en masse assaults not only the rights of hundreds of millions of law-abiding Americans, and our democracy as a whole, but resembles Soviet-style spying — on meth, empowered and amplified by the past generation’s remarkable advances in computing technology,” he said. “Utah residents have a chance to take matters into their own hands, defending democracy by shutting off state resources consumed by the Bluffdale data center in its assault on We the People, our fundamental rights, and the Constitution that enshrined them.”

Notable anti-establishment figures such as Naomi Wolf and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg advise the BORDC.

“The NSA was welcomed by politicians in Utah with a promise that their activities would be “conducted according to constitutional law”. As we all know, that promise has been violated—institutionally, repeatedly, and aggressively,” said Utah Libertas Institute President Conor Boyack. “If Congress and the Courts are unable or unwilling to rein in this beast and put a stop to the rising surveillance state, then it’s up to the states to stake their ground and resist such broad violations of the Constitution. This new bill, along with others like it in over a dozen states, would accomplish that very thing.”

As Boyack points out, Utah doesn’t stand alone. Earlier this week, a group of Maryland legislators introduced a similar bill, targeting water and other resources to NSA headquarters. Lawmakers in more than 10 other states, including California, Vermont and Alaska, have also introduced the legislation. A bill in Tennessee addresses material support and resources to the NSA’s encryption-breaking facility at Oak Ridge.

Boldin said other states need to join the push, even those without NSA facilities. He called it essential.

“If enough states do this in the coming years, the NSA won’t have a place in the country where their spy centers are welcome,” he said.

Other provisions of the Fourth Amendment Protection Act would also have an impact. The bill would make data collected by the NSA and shared with state and local law enforcement in Utah inadmissible in court, unless a specific warrant is issued.

TAC national communications director Mike Maharrey said that this provision might prove as important as cutting off the water, because it erases a practical effect of NSA spying.

“We know the NSA shares data with state and local law enforcement. We know from a Reuters report that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues,” he said. “This data sharing shoves a dagger into the heart of the Fourth Amendment. This bill would stop that from happening immediately.”

The legislation rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot “commandeer” or coerce states into implementing or enforcing federal acts or regulations – constitutional or not. The anti-commandeering doctrine rests primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. The 1997 case, Printz v. US, serves as the modern cornerstone. The majority opinion deemed commandeering “incompatible with our constitutional system.”

“The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

Boldin emphasized this is just the beginning.

“It took the people of Illinois ten years to legalize marijuana for medical use,” he said. “This isn’t going to be easy, and we’re not stopping until we win. The NSA has a choice; follow the constitution or get the hell out.”

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Michael Lotfi

CEO, Political Director at BrandFire Consulting LLC
Michael Lotfi is a Persian-American political analyst and adviser living in Nashville, Tennessee. Lotfi is the founder and CEO of BrandFire Consulting LLC. The firm specializes in public and private technology centered brand development, lead generation, data aggregation, online fundraising, social media, advertising, content generation, public relations, constituency management systems, print and more. Lotfi is the former executive state director for the Tennessee Tenth Amendment Center, a think-tank focused on restraining federal overreach.Lotfi graduated with top honors from Belmont University, a private Christian university located in Nashville, Tennessee.

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  • Michael Norton

    I hear terrorists are planning to use Tampax tampons to hide blasting caps in and smuggle them on airplanes to blow them up. Tampon bombs are the next major threat and must be detected somehow by the NSA.

    • Oink

      pork stops terrorists in their tracks.

    • Tannim

      Yeah, right. Lay off the Bond movies and crack pipes.

  • Willy Tell

    Well written article. it’s good to see someone stand up to the “powers that be” in a legislative way. That takes courage. I noticed the lack of comments on articles about the NSA on this website, almost like people start fearing they may be tagged as a dissident. That is exactly what they want, if nothing else, that you fear them enough to not stand up for what is right when the time comes.
    With all this surveillence you would think all corruption by corporations bribing politicians and paying off each other and all the banking ponzy schemes and money laundering and CIA involvement with drug running and the BATF allowing guns to go to Mexico and 9/11 and Bengazi and Seal Team 6 murders, the lies that led us into Iraq and Afganistan, the European owned Central Banking and Federal Reserve ponzy scheme, the 5200 DOD and Pentagon employees caught with child porn on their government computers would all be laid to rest, Justice done by the Surveillence State, but no. Business as usual, selective law enforcement is what it’s called. Some are too big to fail, too rich and powerful. Like the Bushes and Cheneys and Jamie Dimon, etc.

    • ObamaBinLyin

      I for one welcome our new NSA overlords and open wide my metaphorical anus for their use and abuse.

  • jrex

    Good! Now cut off the electricity and maybe the information lines and we’ll actually have a chance of winning! Honestly, I think of all the public services, the one that it could manage to get by without would be the water. I assume (hope) the electricity is public in that area, too? Maybe not the IT, but at least turn off their lights.

    • Josh McCullough

      Water is important to cool the hardware that steals our information.

      • jrex

        Oh you’re definitely right there, I just fear that it’s possible for the spies to come up with *some* other way to cool the machines. I’d guess that would be with electricity. I’m not at all booing this measure, just so you know; on the contrary I applaud it and respect it, and it makes me really happy! I’m just saying that I hope they *also* target the electricity, because I think that is THE most important resource they have and is likely something that’s also state controlled. I don’t know for sure, I just know that it is state- or city-run in the few places I’ve lived. Anyway, maybe if this bill passes, they can go for the electricity next!

        • Josh McCullough

          I agree. And while “they” are at it – relocate some people to Guantanamo Bay!

        • Logan Smith

          No. Even refrigerant chillers require cooling towers that use water.

          If someone could think of a way to cool servers on a large scale without using water, they’d never work another day in their life because every datacenter in existence would be using that technology.

          • jrex

            Oh I totally didn’t post that comment to debate or slag off water cooling, and I do understand its importance. I only mean that without, for example, electricity, they couldn’t even turn on those servers, so there would be nothing to cool. Without data cables, they wouldn’t be able to get our texts and emails in. Without public roads, people couldn’t even get there. And since electricity (if not internet) is something that’s generally also publicly controlled, why not hit them from both or all possible angles? Just why not?

            Why stop at water? Block all the roads, turn off the lights, cut their cables. If we have public control over it, we should restrict it! Don’t let them have anything! We should not be complicit by ANY means in their invasion of our privacy and trampling of our rights! I see no reason to just stop at water.

  • David King

    Thank you, this is great news. At the end of this chain, all those who assisted, aided and facilitated spy activities; not just against US citizens but globally, must face court, and if found guilty, the punishment must be sever.

  • Tough Choice

    I’d like to believe that this would work, but Mr. “I’ve got a pen, and I have a phone,” could change this attempt to stop the center from going live with a stroke of his pen OR with the NDAA, which when updatee in 2012, gave him the right to commandeer ANY resources in peacetime.

    • Liberty or Death

      Not if the military stands up for the Constitution and arrests him. The time for severe action is very close at hand.

  • anarchobuddy

    Awesome. I can’t wait to see this happen.

  • Vikodlak

    Not only that, we are already looking at water shortages in Utah as it is without wasting millions on illegally obtained personal info.

  • PattyFromTexas

    Obama will not let this happen. He’ll sign some sort of executive order is my guess. I’d love to see it drive them out though. It would set an important precedent for other states to follow.

  • joe

    how about if the sheriff deputizes the whole town and has all the NSA workers arrested?

    • Tannim

      Has to be a state-level crime for that first. There might already be one, dunno.

  • Robert Zraick

    I regret to point out that a tyrannical central government will not recognize any State action which goes contrary to its vile agenda.
    But that being said, turn off the water. It will be interesting to watch what happens.

    • Tannim

      A lot of melting computers is what happens…

  • carobi050

    Now we are talking direct action! Action is far better than Washington’s hot air politicians.
    Carrying out and up holding – rather than under mining – Constitutional Law, is the bedrock of all US Law. Anything else, is Treason.

  • scottbomb

    While I applaud the effort and anything that makes life harder on the NSA, one possibility is that the spooks will just relocate to multiple, smaller facilities, embedded within existing government-owned buildings and/or military installations. In fact, they probably already do this with distributed databases.

    • Logan Smith

      They do.

    • Matt Kenny

      Indeed, they have plenty of alternatives to get the job done. The battle of good vs. evil (citizens vs. governement, in this case) is endless. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that we need to press on. Shutting them down, while cutting off only one head of the Hydra, is a step in the right direction.

      Let’s shut them down and use the momentum to deter them from alternative options.

  • Tannim

    Good news, but I fear all they’ll do is move the data centers off CONUS, even into boats off shore (what better way to cool the servers on the boat than with sea water?) or into another nation like the CIA Interrogation (Torture) Centers…

    • D K

      Like those Google barges they’ve found in major ports.

    • weezilla

      Positioning of data centers is probably important to listen to routing centers.


    A good first step but expect the corrupt federal government to send in troops or thug cops to defend the black mailing nsa’s water supply.

  • ThomasThePaine

    May 16, 2015 The American Spring. . . The Tree of Liberty needs Refreshing!

  • ThomasThePaine

    Almost everything the federal government does is a crime. . .

    May 16, 2015 The American Spring. . . The Tree of Liberty needs Refreshing!

  • Greg Burton

    Problem is: these legislators are up against the Israelis and their “lodge brothers” in the Mormon church…

  • Roddy Pfeiffer

    They could drill a half-dozen wells on the property and wouldn’t need outside water.

    • tbone

      Kill the power and block the roads

  • Breaking Obama
  • tbone

    Where does this water go afterwards? Isn’t there a huge shortage out west for the people and farms? 1.7 million gallons might help. The government wastes it? and screws the people? Juicy