Utah can’t quit figure out how to deal with the NSA datacenter

While the NSA datacenter and its activities are in the national spotlight, local authority remains divided on how to treat it.

While the rest of the country bemoans the behavior of the NSA and its mandate to collect all the data they can find, Utah, where the primary NSA datacenter sits, can’t quite decide on how to handle the facility that has caused such an uproar. Like any political issue, there seems to be an undercurrent of “if we ignore it long enough the problem will go way,” but to a few Utah legislators, the datacenter is a target of opportunity to make a statement.

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The Utah state Senate can’t quite make up their minds on the tax status of the NSA datacenters. While the state stands to earn roughly $6,000,000 annually on taxes on the facility, there is a movement to make it tax exempt. This would treat the civilian NSA facility in the same way the state currently treats military installation, exempting them form the tax base. According to a report from the Salt Lake City Fox News' affiliate, state senators seem torn on the issue, not wanting to lose the potential revenue, yet not being sure they have the ability to tax the facility. 

A court battle to determine the issue could be very expensive for the state and potentially set a precedent that would not be beneficial for the state in the long run, especially given how much land and natural resources in western states are already under the aegis of the federal government.

On the more extreme side of the anti-NSA a fervor, one State Representative has put forward a bill, which is still in committee, that would forbid the state to provide services to any facility that collects data on the citizens of the state. House Bill 161 effectively states, “The state, nor any of its political subdivisions will enter into any agreements, service, provide material support to any agency conducting surveillance or collecting mass data on U.S. citizens” — language that would make it unlawful, for example, for utility power to be provided to the NSA datacenter.

While the first bill highlights the confusion surrounding the taxable status of the datacenter, an issue that is usually resolved, at least in the strictly commercial datacenter world, before construction of the facility starts, the second is more of a political statement. Even its author is unsure it will make it out of committee. But it does represent the way that a lot of people feel about what the NSA is doing at the Utah datacenter, especially in Utah.