The cooling units at the NSA’s billion-dollar data center in Bluffdale, Utah. CREDIT: AP – Rick Bowmer The Utah state records committee ordered the city of Bluffdale Wednesday to release records of the National Security Agency’s water use for its controversial data center, despite protests from the NSA that the information should be classified because of national security. The city redacted specific figures on the NSA’s water usage last year in response to a Salt Lake Tribune public records request. Estimates have ballparked the water usage of the agency’s new Bluffdale facility around 1.2 to 1.7 million gallons every day to cool an approximate 100,000 square feet of computer equipment. The NSA says it redacted the documents requested by the Tribune because they could reveal the breadth of the agency’s controversial surveillance program. Because that water is used to cool servers, the more water the building uses, the more computing power the agency has. Bluffdale is giving the NSA a massive discount on its utilities, allowing the facility to use essentially as much water as it wants without facing higher rates. Meanwhile, Utah is facing one of the worst droughts in recent history. The vast majority of the state is in a moderate drought or at least abnormally dry, and water reservoir levels are below normal for the third year in a row. Even with recent rainfall, Utah is on track for a repeat of last year’s drought that lasted through the summer. Last year, many cities implemented water conservation measures with stiff fines to keep residents and businesses from wasting water on lawns. The drought has also taken a toll on farmers who on water reservoirs to grow thirsty crops such as fruits and vegetables. With reservoirs still nearing a two-decade low, some farmers have even considered switching their crops to grains, which need less water. Data centers in general consume a lot of water. Microsoft’s San Antonio data center uses 8 million gallons of water each month. Research shows that hydro-cooling systems are expensive and, used alone, aren’t always the best way to cool data systems. Moreover, water usage only loosely estimates a facility’s data computing power. Facebook, Google and eBay have all taken steps to making theirs as energy- and water-efficient as possible. Both Facebook and Google use recycled water to cool their servers. Facebook’s Oregon facility uses a customized cooling system that recycles water found in the air and keep water use levels low, while Google’s centers use waste water or sea water. The NSA may have to start getting creative if state legislators get their way. In protest of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks that revealed the agency’s phone and email surveillance programs, Utah lawmakers are threatening to cut off the center’s water and cripple the NSA’s operations. In February, a state Republican lawmaker promised to introduce a bill that would bar anyone in the state from supplying water to the $1.5 billion facility. Thirteen states have taken up similar bills to limit the NSA’s presence by cutting off access to vital resources. Maryland lawmakers set out to cut off the electricity and water to the NSA’s headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland. There, the NSA’s water bill was estimated to hit $2 million a year for 5 million gallons of water a day. The post NSA Tries To Keep Its Water Use A Secret, But Drought-Stricken Utah Isn’t Buying It appeared first on ThinkProgress.
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Political reporters are often unaware of assumptions baked into the stories they write. Take the dispute between the Senate intelligence committee and the CIA. Politico’s latest on the subject: "Dianne Feinstein-CIA feud enters uncharted territory." Here is the lede: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s battle with the CIA has entered dangerous, uncharted territory. Caught in the crossfire of the powerful California Democrat’s fight with the nation’s most recognized intelligence agency: America’s ability to manage multiple geopolitical hotspots, top national security nominations and senior Senate and CIA officials who could lose their jobs or possibly even end up in jail. By way of background, Senator Feinstein, along with other Senate intelligence committee Democrats, say that the CIA withheld documents in the course of an investigation into its illegal torture and illegally spied on Senate staffers. If accurate, the Senate’s ability to oversee the CIA and the Constitution’s checks and balances are called into question. Yet Politico’s reporter, Darren Samuelsohn, has written his article as if Senator Feinstein’s decision to publicly complain about the CIA’s behavior and the dispute with the CIA it sparked is the threat. Her "battle" led to dangerous "crossfire" and important things are caught in it. Conflict is the problem! Comity is the answer! Why can’t they all just get along? It seldom occurs to the Beltway reporter that open conflict among establishment insiders can be a sign of health: our adversarial, Madisonian system may be alive after all. I’d argue that the CIA’s ongoing, well-documented efforts to thwart Senate oversight and escape accountability for lawbreakers within their ranks is the problem–and that we’d have great cause for alarm if Senator Feinstein wasn’t furious. History has shown that, absent an adversarial Senate that exercises oversight per the checks and balances at the core of our system, the CIA will run amok at home and abroad. Excessive deference to the intelligence community does the most, in the long term, to weaken our "ability to manage multiple geopolitical hotspots." The Politico article doesn’t marshal arguments to the contrary. It unwittingly forecloses my take from consideration. It adopts a contested frame as if it’s neutral. The article continues: Managing relations between Congress and the intelligence community is always tricky — an outgrowth of closed-door oversight into sensitive national security issues where lawmakers often complain that they must ask the right questions to get the right answers. Let’s try frank language. Relations are "tricky" to manage because the CIA is averse to oversight. If our Senate intelligence committee is functioning as intended, its relationship to the CIA is deeply adversarial, because they’re being forced to account for their behavior, some of which is indefensible. At times, for example, the CIA lies to or deliberately misleads overseers, in part to hide illegal behavior. Illegal CIA behavior is part of the 6,000 page torture report behind this dispute! But now that the Justice Department is involved in the dispute between Feinstein’s Intelligence Committee staff and the CIA — deciphering whether the CIA violated the Constitution or federal law by searching Senate computers, or whether Democratic staffers hacked into the CIA’s system to obtain classified documents — things have escalated to an unprecedented level. What vexes me about how this dispute is being covered–not just in this Politico story, but in many media outlets–is the false equivalence implicit in the juxtaposition: as if the CIA and the Senate intel committee stand accused of like transgressions. If the charges against the CIA are true, our nation’s foreign spy agency, which is forbidden from conducting any surveillance in the U.S., snooped on our legislature. That’s a transgression against our Constitutional framework. If the accusations against the Senate intel committee are accurate, its staffers, who have security clearances, obtained documents that the CIA ought to have turned over anyway. Are we prepared to accept that, during a comprehensive Congressional inquiry into torture, the CIA was justified withholding torture documents? Senate staffers committed no great sin getting documents wrongly denied them. To its credit, the Politico article proceeds to quote Harry Reid articulating some of these points about the separation of powers. But the analysis next offered is the following: With no clear resolution in sight, Capitol Hill and the CIA are stuck in the awkward spot of trying to maintain business as usual, when the reality is it’s anything but. “This is the most serious feud since the Intelligence committees were established,” said Amy Zegart, a former National Security Council staffer and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Most alarming, Zegart explained, is Feinstein’s Senate floor broadside earlier this month against the CIA. The senator’s remarks broke from her well-established reputation as a staunch defender of another wing of the intelligence community, the National Security Agency, amid scores of Edward Snowden-inspired leaks to the media. “When someone who says they can be trusted now says they can’t, it’s really bad,” Zegart said. Incredible. "Business as usual" is implicitly defined as the desirable state of affairs. And what’s deemed "most alarming"? Not CIA torture. Not the CIA withholding torture documents from a Senate investigation. Not the CIA spying on Congress, or trying to intimidate oversight staffers with criminal charges for doing their jobs. Bizarrely, the thing declared "most alarming" are Senator Feinstein’s words! By attacking rather than deferring to the CIA, she disrupted business as usual. Her act of "saying" is emphasized as the important factor. Then a bit farther on: Feinstein and [CIA Director John] Brennan are standing by their contradictory explanations of what happened in the course of the Democratic staff’s investigation into the Bush-era CIA programs. Absent a meeting of the minds, some say the only way for the chairwoman to save face is for Brennan to go. The article might have said, "Absent a meeting of the minds, some say the Senate intel committee should show its oversight ability is intact by forcing Brennan to resign." Instead, the focus is on Feinstein’s ability to save face, as if her face-saving itself–not its implications for good governance–is what’s important. Perhaps face-saving is what they’re gossiping about in Washington, D.C.? In the article’s defense, it then goes on to quote Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who has a far more sensible analysis of the stakes: "The real question it will come down to is whether Dianne Feinstein believes she can have a working relationship with John Brennan. And if she believes that relationship is beyond repair and it’s going to be difficult to rebuild that trust between the oversight committee and the CIA, … then there’s really only one alternative. And that’s Brennan has to step aside." The reporter also quotes House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: “Our oversight is alive and well and robust. That won’t change,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said in an interview. But the Michigan Republican also warned that the dispute needed to be resolved, and soon — otherwise there could be consequences. “I think if this doesn’t get handled right in the next short period of time this has the potential of having other broader implications, and I hope it doesn’t get to that,” Rogers said. “You don’t want everything to become adversarial,” he added. “The oversight will continue. If it’s adversarial or not, it will continue. It’s always better when both sides agree to a framework on what will be provided; otherwise, it becomes a subpoena exchange, and that’s just not helpful.” This is why the Tea Party should subject Rep. Rogers to a primary challenge: a man charged with overseeing the CIA actually believes that the spy agency would agree to a framework where it voluntarily provided overseers with all they needed to know! It’s hard to say whether he’s been co-opted or is staggeringly naive. The article goes astray again by putting forth the following passage without rebuttal: In the absence of answers of what happened, several intelligence veterans said the Feinstein-CIA dispute is taking up lawmakers’ limited oxygen supply on complex issues ranging from Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance overreach to cybersecurity threats and tensions flaring in Ukraine, Syria, Egypt and other global hotspots. Implicit in this treatment is the notion that CIA spying on Congress is a tertiary concern, a controversy distracting us from more important issues. I’d argue that, if there’s a limited oxygen supply in Washington, D.C., safeguarding the separation of powers and adequate oversight of the CIA is far more important than, say, Syria. It is troubling, but unsurprising, that intelligence veterans think otherwise. The Church Committee investigation was the high point of Congressional oversight of the intelligence community. By calling this current disagreement "unprecedented" and reporting on it as if the resulting conflict itself imperils America, the Politico story obscures the fact that Senator Feinstein and her colleagues generally have a far cozier relationship with the CIA, the NSA, and other parts of the Deep State than is healthy, for their job is, in fact, to be adversarial. The present dispute, in which the Senate objects to being spied on by the CIA, is a welcome break from that too cozy relationship, but is not sufficient to defend and protect the Constitution from lawbreaking at the CIA, the NSA, and other agencies. All reporters should understand that conflict is a necessary part of oversight–a sign that the system is working, not that it is mired in dysfunction. The barest bit of context helps clarify this situation. Once it is public, the Senate intelligence committee report will expose behavior that could, if prosecuted, put some people who work at the CIA in jail. Of course the CIA is lashing out against its Senate overseers.
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Representative Mike Rogers’s assertions about the former National Security Agency contractor expanded on his previous suggestions, for which he has yet to offer evidence.
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This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.
[Editor's note: Our old friend Colonel Manners (ret.) made his first appearance at TomDispatch last October. Today, he's back for the third time. We have yet to run into anyone more knowledgeable in the mores, manners, and linguistic habits of the national security state. His CV (unfortunately redacted) would blow you away. At a time of heightened tension among the US Intelligence Community, the White House, Congress, and the American people, who better to explain the workings and thought patterns of the inner world of official Washington than the Colonel? Once again, he answers the questions of ordinary citizens about how their secret government actually works. Among advice columnists, he's a nonpareil. Here's just a sampling of his answers to recent correspondence.]
Dear Col. Manners,
When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he insisted that we "look forward," not backward. While he rejected the widespread use of torture and abuse by the CIA in the Bush years, his Department of Justice refused to prosecute a single torture case, even when death was the result. (The only CIA agent to go to jail during the Obama presidency was the guy who blew the whistle on the CIA torture program!)
Jump ahead five years, and instead of looking forward, it seems that we’re again looking backward big time. The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, usually the staunchest backer of US intelligence, seems to have sworn a vendetta against the CIA on the Senate floor for spying on her oversight committee as it prepared its still-unreleased report on the Agency’s torture program. The CIA denies it all and claims committee staffers spied on them. Once again, the Justice Department faces the issue of charges over the Agency’s torture program! It seems like little short of a constitutional catfight.
What gives, Colonel? Shouldn’t President Obama have prosecuted CIA torturers in the first place and isn’t it time that he and his Justice Department finally take all this to court?
Tortured in Tacoma
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In the New York Times Magazine this week, Carlotta Gall has a long piece laying out a case that Pakistan’s ISI not only knew where Osama bin Laden was hiding all along, it actively worked with him to recruit and train new members of the Taliban:
In trying to prove that the ISI knew of Bin Laden’s whereabouts and protected him, I struggled for more than two years to piece together something other than circumstantial evidence and suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge. Only one man, a former ISI chief and retired general, Ziauddin Butt, told me that he thought Musharraf had arranged to hide Bin Laden in Abbottabad. But he had no proof and, under pressure, claimed in the Pakistani press that he’d been misunderstood.
Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden. I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when I learned this, and I remember gasping, though quietly so as not to draw attention. (Two former senior American officials later told me that the information was consistent with their own conclusions.) This was what Afghans knew, and Taliban fighters had told me, but finally someone on the inside was admitting it. The desk was wholly deniable by virtually everyone at the ISI — such is how supersecret intelligence units operate — but the top military bosses knew about it, I was told.
America’s failure to fully understand and actively confront Pakistan on its support and export of terrorism is one of the primary reasons President Karzai has become so disillusioned with the United States. As American and NATO troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year, the Pakistani military and its Taliban proxy forces lie in wait, as much a threat as any that existed in 2001.
This is an adapted excerpt from Gall’s upcoming book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014. The right enemy, she says, is Pakistan, which has been exporting anti-American terrorism for years:
In Punjab, mainstream religious parties and banned militant groups were openly recruiting hundreds of students for jihad, and groups of young men were being dispatched to Syria to wage jihad there. “They are the same jihadi groups; they are not 100 percent under control,” a former Pakistani legislator told me. “But still the military protects them.”
The United States was neither speaking out against Pakistan nor changing its policy toward a government that was exporting terrorism, the legislator lamented. “How many people have to die before they get it? They are standing by a military that protects, aids and abets people who are going against the U.S. and Western mission in Afghanistan, in Syria, everywhere.”
I don’t have the chops to comment intelligently about this, but thought it was worth passing along. Needless to say, the double game the ISI has been playing has been obvious for a long time. Whether it’s as bad as Gall says is something I’ll defer to those who know more about this than I do.
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