(KUTV) In a vote on Wednesday morning, Utah's State Records Committee ordered the city of Bluffdale to release their water records relating to the National Security Agency's new data center.
The committee voted in favor of the Salt Lake Tribune's appeal to release the documents regarding water usage, after Bluffdale officials denied the newspaper's requests.
The city buys water wholesale from the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District and and sells it to the Utah Data Center at an amount believed to be one million gallons per day for cooling the computers there.
Many have questioned the parameters of the NSA's surveillance programs and alleged violations of Constitutional privacy rights.
Exactly what functions are carried out at the agency's data center in Bluffdale is unknown.
At Wednesday's hearing, Bluffdale officials cited compliance with federal law and a need to keep secure their client's functions.
"Congress intended the organization or any function of the National Security Agency or any information with respect to the activity there would be protected," said Bluffdale City Attorney Vaughn Pickell. "There is no requirement that NSA has to show that it would jeopardize the national security, but only that it would relate to the activities. Water certainly relates to the activities."
Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle, who submitted the records requests, said he understood Bluffdale's difficult position.
"I do have some sympathy for Bluffdale. The NSA is their client buying water, and the client doesn’t want the records released, and Bluffdale's caught in the position of either trying to accommodate the NSA or releasing the records," Carlisle said. "We felt the law was on our side. We also felt there was a public interest in knowing how much water the NSA is using in Utah, so Utahns are informed about the role of the NSA in their state."
Committee member Ernest Rowley said the water is the state's and there should be an accounting of the state's water.
"It is the public's water that we are talking about here. It is not a private water interest," said Rowley. "I think there is a great public interest in knowing how much water is being consumed."
Patricia Smith Mansfield disputed the city's argument that the purchase of water constitutes NSA functions.
"An activity is doing something," she said. "Buying water in itself I don’t think is enough to define it as an activity."
The panel also voted to reduce the fees the city had charged the newspaper for digging up the records from $767 to $285.
Pickell said he and two other city employees spent hours researching and sending 500 pages of emails, contracts and other documents to Carlisle.
Bluffdale can appeal the ruling in state district court. The NSA can also intervene. The agency declined to comment about the matter on Wednesday.
By Christine McCarthy
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)
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