Is NSA spying more than its machines can handle?

NSA's new Utah data center has suffered 10 meltdowns in the past 13 months because of electrical surges

By Natasha Lennard

Published October 8, 2013 4:35PM (EDT)


With a sliver of poetic justice, ripped from the canon of Marxist determinism: The new NSA data center is nearly destroying itself with its overload of spying.

To be more precise: the spy agency's new data center in Utah has suffered 10 meltdowns in the last 13 months due to electrical surges. The center, scheduled for opening in the coming months, is intended to help the agency in its hoarding efforts, collecting billions of bytes of communications data

The Wall Street Journal reported that the electrical surges "create fiery explosions, melt metal and cause circuits to fail" -- each incident costs $100,000 in repairs. This gives some sense of the sheer amount of electricity (which is cheap in Utah) needed for the NSA's sprawling surveillance dragnets and brute force decryption efforts.

Via the WSJ:

Backup generators have failed numerous tests, according to project documents, and officials disagree about whether the cause is understood. There are also disagreements among government officials and contractors over the adequacy of the electrical control systems, a project official said, and the cooling systems also remain untested.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Data Center Electrical Surges Electricity Nsa Spying Surveillance Utah