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Government The Almighty Buck

Utah Set To Exempt NSA Datacenter From Power Tax, After All 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-let-us-make-it-cheaper-for-you-to-spy-on-us dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "They may not all support what the NSA will do with its giant new datacenter in Bluffdale, but Utah officials do seem to agree on the value of having a world-class, $1.5 billion datacenter built in their territory. In general, they're for it, and are proving that by changing a law that would have added about $2.4 million in taxes to the datacenter's power bill—an addition that was an unpleasant surprise to NSA officials when they heard about it in May. A bill signed into law April 1 imposed a tax of up to 6 percent on electricity from Rocky Mountain Power, a requirement the NSA protested in an email to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert April 26. State tax agencies swear they informed the NSA about the impact of the law when it was still under debate; NSA officials denied knowing anything about it and complained that it would make Utah a less attractive site for the datacenter, which was only three to four months from completion at the time."
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Utah Set To Exempt NSA Datacenter From Power Tax, After All

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    An indicator of NSA surveillance effectiveness?

  • Well it figures. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcello_dl (667940) on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:34PM (#44460749) Homepage Journal

    State tax agencies swear they informed the NSA about the impact of the law when it was still under debate; NSA officials denied knowing anything about it

    Ladies and gentlemen, here are the guys whose job is information processing for the security of your nation...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Goverment deals are made like this: "Give NSA a break on taxes otherwise those juicy pictures, text and phone files get sent to your spouse."

    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:57PM (#44460985)
      Yea. we didn't know about it. We were too busy reading everyone's emails. Ignorance of the law is our excuse. Give us a tax break, which simply means that the average citizens pay more than the people who spy on them. The irony here is that they were only 3-4 months from completion, "AT THE TIME" and are less now. So it wasn't like they were going to leave the state, walk away from all of the money already spent, and let the citizens go without someone to spy on them. They would have paid the tax, they just didn't like it. Glad to know that everyone else there must like it. I guess the Utah state constitution doesn't have any sort of equal protection clause that would prevent giving this unfair treatment to some but not to others (mine does, but it is ignored when inconvenient).
      • by Common Joe (2807741) on Saturday August 03, 2013 @02:38AM (#44463827) Journal

        They would have paid the tax, they just didn't like it. Glad to know that everyone else there must like it. I guess the Utah state constitution doesn't have any sort of equal protection clause that would prevent giving this unfair treatment to some but not to others (mine does, but it is ignored when inconvenient).

        You know, I'm glad you said this because I don't see if said often. Different taxes for different entities blows my mind on a regular basis. People think giving large corporations (or in this case, large government) special tax breaks is a good thing. If cutting taxes are so good, why don't they do it across the board? Or, conversely, if raising taxes are so good, why don't they do it across the board? In other words, if the idea is good for one entity, it must be good for every entity or business. Why should my wife (who ran a business of just one person for a number of years) be treated any different from these guys or Amazon? Just treat everyone the same. Less waste of time, paperwork, and resources than making exceptions for here and there too.

        I get politics, but it frustrates the hell out of me most days.

    • by msauve (701917)
      It's their canned response to any question. Just like Schultz [wikipedia.org].
    • by icebike (68054)

      State tax agencies swear they informed the NSA about the impact of the law when it was still under debate; NSA officials denied knowing anything about it

      Ladies and gentlemen, here are the guys whose job is information processing for the security of your nation...

      Fine, have it your way. But before you do, lets get a discovery motion in front of a judge and we will see exactly what the NSA knew and when they Knew it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I guess the good news is the politicians must be 4 degrees of separation from the bad guys rather than the standard NSA-interested "2 to 3".

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      Ladies and gentlemen, here are the guys whose job is information processing for the security of your nation...

      Here's an entity that cares nothing of this country or the people who live ... er...struggle to survive while tax money once again is wasted on the ingrates.

  • by portwojc (201398) on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:34PM (#44460753) Homepage

    Just to be fair the NSA is denying knowing a lot these days.

    • by UdoKeir (239957) on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:57PM (#44460983)

      They may also have received the email, but now can't find it.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Maybe because they stored it in the UTAH data center, and haven't paid the power bill.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Duh. They can't find it since their searches returns too many results. You would think nerds would know this, right?

    • by ron_ivi (607351)

      the NSA is denying

      People keep speaking of the NSA as one monolithic organism.

      I think it's quite possible that many people in the NSA (including it's spokespeople and PR people) are kept in the dark about what goes on in other parts. One step further, it seems possible that the entire NSA doesn't know everything about what the contractors it outsources to (like the one Snowden worked for) are doing.

      For example in these interview: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/government_programs/july-dec13/whistleblowers_08-01.html [pbs.org] At a

      • by icebike (68054) on Friday August 02, 2013 @05:48PM (#44461519)

        TL/DR: maybe they're being sincere when they deny knowing what's going on. Not sure if that would be disturbing or re-assuring, though.

        Oh, come on!! Even YOU don't believe that tripe.

        Director: What do all you guys in this room do?
        Guys: Secret stuff sir. You don't want to know.
        Director: Right, well, I'd like to stay, but its lunch time. Gotta run.
        Guys: kbye!

    • Just to be fair the NSA is denying knowing a lot these days.

      They are only alleged to be all hearing, not all listening & knowing.

  • by harvestsun (2948641) on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:35PM (#44460759)
    Well there's one we haven't heard before.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:36PM (#44460765) Journal

    Even the federal government is looking at tax rates and making location decisions based around them. I suppose this makes a little sense to those who understand business and how they operate, but I bet it blows the mind of those who think it is a crime to subsidies business or that government can just print money and pay out the nose for their crap.

    • but I bet it blows the mind of those who think it is a crime to subsidies business or that government can just print money and pay out the nose for their crap.

      Oh. Like politicians.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      If tax-payer subsidization of religion is acceptable, might as well go for this, too.

    • Even the federal government is looking at tax rates and making location decisions based around them. I suppose this makes a little sense to those who understand business and how they operate, but I bet it blows the mind of those who think it is a crime to subsidies business or that government can just print money and pay out the nose for their crap.

      That just gave me an idea... government has been really good at escaping blame/having consequences for its actions... maybe what's needed is to have the IRS investigate some of these branches of government; I bet they could shut down the NSA pretty quickly, or at least get them cleaned up.

  • Spying fail (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If only the NSA had been doing a better job spying on the Utah legislature that would have found out about this in advance.

  • by schneidafunk (795759) on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:43PM (#44460819)
    They may be protesting, but don't be fooled into thinking they were going to move the billion dollar facility because of a $3 million tax. Utah should keep the tax money.
    • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062@gmaiMONETl.com minus painter> on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:46PM (#44460857)

      There you go. Why back down when it was close to completion. Sure, adjust it later, but the NSA had to have some mojo on Utah politicians to get thm to change a tax law they all voted for.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      I don't really see what the hubub is anyway. Either the taxpayers of Utah foot the bill or the taxpayers of the USA foot the bill. Either way, the bill's getting paid.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cold fjord (826450)

      They may be protesting, but don't be fooled into thinking they were going to move the billion dollar facility because of a $3 million tax. Utah should keep the tax money.

      Don't kid yourself into thinking that it isn't possible. When the US made various plans for closing military bases in the past, it was almost an omen of doom for new construction to start. It's almost as if the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. In some ways that hasn't changed.

      A brand-new U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan. And nobody to use it. [washingtonpost.com]

      The windowless, two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, was completed this year at a cost of $34 million. But the military has no plans to ever use it. Commanders in the area, who insisted three years ago that they did not need the building, now are in the process of withdrawing forces and see no reason to move into the new facility. For many senior officers, the unused headquarters has come to symbolize the staggering cost of Pentagon mismanagement: As American troops pack up to return home, U.S.-funded contractors are placing the finishing touches on projects that are no longer required or pulling the plug after investing millions of dollars. In Kandahar province, the U.S. military recently completed a $45 million facility to repair armored vehicles and other complex pieces of equipment. The space is now being used as a staging ground to sort through equipment that is being shipped out of the country. In northern Afghanistan, the State Department last year abandoned plans to occupy a large building it had intended to use as a consulate. After spending more than $80 million and signing a 10-year lease, officials determined the facility was too vulnerable to attacks.

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        Everyone should forward this to any politician they hear crying about the sequester.

        • by ron_ivi (607351)

          Everyone should forward this to any politician they hear crying about the sequester.

          As proof that it's badly needed to trim waste? Or as proof that it shouldn't happen?

          • by Richy_T (111409)

            Just that there's room for cuts (real cuts, not reductions in budget increases). Lots and lots of lovely cuts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 02, 2013 @04:47PM (#44460869)

    Dont know much how the taxes are calculated. But, does avoid having to pay taxes also help remove the power consumption data from being public ?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If NSA wasn't recording everyone's mail and voice they wouldn't need this center. It could still be put to good use: Make it the replacement for the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility. The servers, switches, generators, office furniture, coffee pots, etc. could be vital shielding. One possible drawback: the spent fuel might object.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    U.T.A.H = Ubiquitous Telephone Analysis Hub

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday August 02, 2013 @05:52PM (#44461565)

    ... forgets to enter this exception into their CICS system and the NSA is in arrears $2.4 mill, I want to be the lineman handling the disconnect notice.

  • $1.5B 4 months from completion ....

    hit them with the tax. what they are going to throw away $1.5B in setup cost and then spend another $1.5B if not more on a new centre. on $2.4M worth of tax ...

    Stupid politicians, sure they are just cover their arses... Wouldn't surprise me if the NSA flexed some muscle ... we will reveal this if you don't ....

  • The fscking NSA is snooping on damned near every American both onshore and offshore, as well as millions of people overseas, snarfing up dozens of terabytes of data on a DAILY basis; yet has no fscking clue as to the legislation that is going to directly affect them and their budget? This is another reason why we need to eliminate as many agencies of the Federal Government as possible, and get back to Article I, Section 8 permitted functions.
  • Fuck 'em. They can pay the bill like everyone else. Don't like it? Move your shit somewhere else - it's called outsourcing or offshoring or whatever.
    Lots of corporations have move their operations elsewhere when they were dissatisfied.

    The NSA can do the same; I'm sure they'd be welcome at Guantanamo Bay.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Umm.. That is exactly what they said they might do. The part about complaining that the location isn't as attractive with the tax in place is a threat (hollow or not) to move it or build it somewhere else that doesn't have the tax. Yes, the Federal Government has taken the concept of off shoring and embraced it.

      Except in this case, the NSA (and most companies for that matter) doesn't have to move it off shore, they can simply move it (or in this case, build it in) to another state that doesn't have the cost

      • by haruchai (17472)

        I would expect that the governors of states who want to secede because Obama is big, black and scary would not want any secret government listening post on their hallowed ground.

        So that knocks 30 states off the list.

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          ha ha.. that's a good one. But if you actually believe that, it shows your ignorance. Obama being big or black or scary has nothing to do with them- or more precisely their citizens wanting to secede. It's the legislation and policy that seems to be the problem and that is separate from a government listening post unless it's like the IRS and used against them for political purposes.

          • by haruchai (17472)

            The IRS scandal is bullshit - there was no involvement from the Oval Office and groups on both sides of the political spectrum were singled out for scrutiny.
            And if your stated philosophy is low taxes at any cost, why be surprised if the tax man is suspicious of you?

            A new story about the NSA giving $150 million to the Brits to help spy for them and they're bitching about $2 mil to a US state to house their datacenter?

            http://news.slashdot.org/story/13/08/02/2220201/nsa-provided-100m-funding-for-gchq-operation [slashdot.org]

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              Sigh, First, stop trying to defend obama and assuming crap was said when nothing of the kind was. The IRS suppressed the speech of political groups and disseminated private information about them to other groups apposed to their views. That in and of itself is cause to worry anyone whether an official from the oval office is involved or not (imagine if they did that to everyone wanting gay marriage to be allowed or whoever spoke against government sponsored religious activities or whatever) Imagine if the I

              • by haruchai (17472)

                The IRS suppressed the speech of political groups and disseminated private information about them to other groups apposed to their views

                "Suppressed the speech"?? How? But there was what seems to be a clear violation of policy in some of the info that was released to ProPublica.

                Finally, this isn't about wanting taxes or not. Besides, the IRS is NOT A POLITICAL organization and should not in any way be singling anyone out because of political ideology or political speech

                The IRS is an INVESTIGATIVE org and si

                • by sumdumass (711423)

                  "Suppressed the speech"?? How? But there was what seems to be a clear violation of policy in some of the info that was released to ProPublica.

                  lol.. you don't think blocking the tax exempt status which creates a huge disadvantage for those donating to them doesn't suppress the amount of or types of speech those organizations had the ability to do? Do you think having to pay taxes in the range of 20% of their intake doesn't mean they have 20% less ability to generate that said speech?

                  The IRS is an INVESTIGATI

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Friday August 02, 2013 @06:32PM (#44461969) Homepage Journal
    Look over Robert Hecht-Nielsen's "Confabulation Theory" -- in particular the confabulation equation [psu.edu] which he posits is a major discovery that debunks the "Bayesian religion" by providing a scalable model of cognition in which the parallel processing elements are performing functions similar to the brain's thalamocortical modules. Among other things, he claims that this is the holy grail of artificial modeling of natural intelligence -- that confabulation theory captures, in a scalable algorithm the essence of learning, thought and behavior. He is, in essence, claiming to have achieved strong AI [wikipedia.org].

    It is, of course, tempting to dismiss his extreme claims as some sort of mental aberration -- perhaps resulting from his having hit the jackpot with the sale of his company for, by some accounts, between $3B and $4B to one of the most prominent credit rating agencies in the world.

    On the other hand, he did sell his company for between $3B and $B to one of the most prominent credit rating agencies in the world.

    Moreover, if we give the initial statement in Clark's Laws any credence: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.", RHN's age and the fact that he is commenting on his specialization should be given some weight.

    With this in mind, I would ask you to review the linked presentation [sandia.gov] -- which I located at Sandia's website (and of which I recommend you commit to memory lest it disappear down the memory hole) -- made by RHN at Sandia in 2006. Note he proposes an "Extraction System Organization" with a budget rising to $300B/year by 2015.

    In particular, I found this item interesting:

    Collectors and Analysts have no need to know how extraction system works (this knowledge should be highly restricted) – users need only know extraction system’s capabilities and how to use it.

    CAUTION: Some obviously psychotic individuals [google.com] claim there to be a deep relationship between credit card companies and the surveillance state. They should be locked up for their own safety.

  • At first this topic seemed lame.... but.

    It makes me wonder about the cash flow associated with energy taxes in Utah.

    If this is an honest tax and not a pure revenue grab then I believe the Feds should pay their own way. i.e. if the tax exists to pay for associated infrastructure used and consumed by the site then there is a need for the Feds to pay their own way.

    Utah to my knowledge is a net energy exporter because of the Colorado River and the large low sulfur coal deposits and tall stack power gen

    • by tlambert (566799)

      At first this topic seemed lame.... but.

      It makes me wonder about the cash flow associated with
      energy taxes in Utah.

      If this is an honest tax and not a pure revenue grab then I believe
      the Feds should pay their own way. i.e. if the tax exists to pay
      for associated infrastructure used and consumed by the site then
      there is a need for the Feds to pay their own way.

      It's a tax to fund the purchase of carbon credits.

      Utah to my knowledge is a net energy exporter because of the Colorado
      River and the large low sulfur coal deposits and tall stack power generation
      facilities.

      Most Utah power generation is coal-fired plants, such as the one in Parowan, with a small amount of hydroelectric and other facilities. The plants use so-called "dirty coal". The low sulfur coal deposits were in areas declared to be National Parks under the Clinton administration, and are therefore inaccessible for mining. The general consensus is that this was done in trade for the campaign contributions from China which were funneled through the Buddhis

  • by houbou (1097327)
    the NSA doesn't want to pay taxes.. Go figure...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now we have a great dilemma for the government: Do we pay for our own surveillance or do we pay for our own surveillance? If they get a huge tax break, the people of Utah are subsidizing worldwide surveillance. If they don't, the NSA is pulling money from all taxpayers to fund it.

    As a matter of principle, I think that they shouldn't be getting a tax break (especially at such high consumption, they should be paying more for that than the businesses and people that draw less), that will also lead to them not

    • especially at such high consumption

      Why would you want to reward energy consumption, particular when the social benifits of the infrastructure in question is widely disputed?

  • by countach (534280) on Saturday August 03, 2013 @06:24AM (#44464371)

    So what if they didn't know about it? I have to pay taxes all the time that are introduced and that I hitherto didn't know about, and might have made lots of different investment decisions had I known they were going to happen. But I've got to live with it. Boo hoo to the NSA cry babies.

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