Thursday, 10 October 2013

New NSA Data Centre Rendered Impotent by Power Surges

The troubled United States National Security Agency (NSA) has been the subject of an incredible amount of international scrutiny due to surveillance practices that may eventually prove to be a violation of international privacy laws.  And now, just as things couldn't get any worse for the agency, their brand-new data centre has been rendered impotent by a series of costly power surges.

According to the Wall Street Journal and BBC News, the 1 million square-foot facility in Bluffdale, Utah has experienced 10 different electrical surges over the last 13 months. The surges have allegedly damaged up to USD $100,000 worth of computer equipment and delayed the opening of the centre for at least a year.

The $1.4 billion project includes the data centre, administrative and support space, and additional facilities including chiller plants, cooling towers, water treatment facilities and generator facilities.  Apparently, American contractors can design and build every type of facility known to man except that which requires a reliable and stable source of electricity.

News reports are not clear about what has caused the electrical surges. Nonetheless, the NSA spent six months investigating the issue without returning any concrete results. The agency is not even saying whether the problem has been fixed or not.

On their own website, the NSA has presented the issue in a way that seems rather curious.  They downplay both the delay of the data centre's opening and the power surges themselves as no big deal.  Furthermore, the website openly discusses how the agency ‘quietly and secretly’ changed its plans for opening the centre in 2012.  The entire presentation is not what you would expect from an agency like the NSA.  It all seems just a bit surreal.

Cause for Speculation


Reading the reports from various news outlets leaves more questions than are answered.  All of this gives reasonable cause for speculation regarding the delayed opening of the new NSA data centre.  Does it seem reasonable that 10 power surges over 13 months could render such a technologically advanced facility impotent?  Does it seem reasonable that a US agency with the financial resources and expertise to build the necessary infrastructure is somehow unable to solve something as common as a power surge?

Although there is no evidence forthcoming, some international security experts wonder if the alleged power surges are just a way for the NSA to cover itself in the midst of fresh scrutiny over its operations.  Perhaps the delayed opening of the data centre is really the result of some in Washington rethinking the NSA's legitimacy.

In light of whistle-blower Edward Snowden and his leaked documents, questions over the delayed opening seem legitimate.  The NSA has already been caught red-handed exceeding its authority on a number of fronts; perhaps the agency and the current Administration are trying to avoid further embarrassment.  Perhaps the new data centre will open when all of the current anxiety finely dies down. We will have to wait and see...

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