The NSA selected Bluffdale, Utah as the site of the new Utah Data Center for six attributes: cheap power, unused land, security, logistics, the region’s low humidity and cold winter climate, and the patriotism of Utahns.
NSA chose Utah for five basic attributes, ranging from the cost of power to the relative ease of securing the site, according to Harvey Davis, the agency’s director for logistics and installations.
And that security is tight. “We don’t allow anyone on without the proper vetting and the proper business purpose,” Davis told me, adding, with a smile, “You can’t come in.”
But during construction last fall, NSA invited in local private data farm operators for limited tours, including Pete Ashdown of XMission, Utah’s first Internet service provider.
“You have to get through several layers of security to actually get back to where the computers and servers and systems would be operating,” Ashdown recalls. “They steered around those. They wouldn’t let us anywhere near them.”
During the tour, the NSA official guiding Ashdown mentioned another reason for the Utah location: the “patriotism” of Utahns.
“That really rubbed me wrong,” says Ashdown, a privacy advocate. “I believe that patriotism is questioning your government, questioning authority, making sure that the government stays in line, to preserve the government.”