My name is US Bandwith, king of kings:

“My name is US Bandwith, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

I’m thinking of planting a sphinx in UT in front of the UT Data Center. What other appropriate response is there to this?

The U.S. National Security Agency failed to install the most up-to-date anti-leak software at a site in Hawaii before contractor Edward Snowden went to work there and downloaded tens of thousands of highly classified documents, current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.


The main reason the software had not been installed at the NSA’s Hawaii facility by the time Snowden took up his assignment there was that it had insufficient bandwidth to comfortably install it and ensure its effective operation, according to one of the officials.

Due to the bandwidth issue, intelligence agencies in general moved more slowly than non-spy government units, including the Defense Department, to install anti-leak software, officials said.

This is precisely the excuse they used after Chelsea Manning absconded with several databases on a Lady Gaga CD. They’re still using it.

Then there’s this:

The NSA’s Utah data center is still struggling to get up and running. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the site slated to hold exabytes of NSA spy data has been suffering from lightning arcs and meltdowns that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and prevented the NSA from using the center for its intended purpose: massive data storage and mining. The WSJ reported there had been ten incidents thus far. A source familiar with the project says the center underwent yet another shutdown over the weekend after electrical problems on Thursday and Friday.

The data center was shut down through Tuesday. The source says there aren’t “arcs and fires anymore” but that the experts on the site still haven’t figured out what’s causing the problems. They have figured out how to prevent flashes of lightning, though.

“They’re seeing a pattern of where it gets to the meltdown point and they stop it before it blows again,” says the source. The source says that contractors have been injured and taken to the hospital due to electrocution, but not in the most recent shutdown.

At least they’ve stopped electrocuting contractors.

Our empire needs the intelligence, you see, but apparently can’t ensure an adequate supply of power, of any type.

Update: Argh. As Morris Minor notes, it’s bandwidth, not bandwith. But I’ve grown fond of it, so I’m going to leave it as is, calling it poetic license, while I hang my head in shame.

37 replies
  1. PJ Evans says:

    It sounds like the electrical system at the Utah center is seriously unsafe for use and the place needs to be gutted and rebuilt.

  2. Nell says:

    The electical snafu at the Utah data center is as bitterly hilarious, in its way, as the non-working sprinkler systems at the ginormous US bunker-embassy in Iraq circa 2007.

    It occurred to me when I first read about the Utah complex (via Bamford) to wonder why, in a desert, there was zero effort to make use of solar for even some of the vast electrical needs. Maybe they’ll consider it if they have to start all over…

  3. Nell says:

    Wonder if there’s been any NSA snooping into the off-site lives of the electrical contractors involved. The principle of ‘never assume conspiracy where incompetence could explain it’ is a good one in general, and even more so wrt a complex construction project. But the NSA bigs are paranoid for a living, and the electrical problems seem to have intensified after the NSA’s activities became more public.

  4. prostratedragon says:

    I’m thinking of planting a sphinx in UT in front of the UT Data Center.

    You’d think folk would take the hint from that other one (if not from Shelley).

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I suppose Ozymandias failed, too, to do an environmental assessment of where to put his kingdom, what to build it, with and what it should do once built. Needless to say, he asked for no permission from his subjects before building it, only obedience. Bandwith, for him, probably meant the number of slaves available to build his monuments.

  6. RexFlex says:

    Why in God’s name didn’t they build this thing next to a coal mountain in WVA?
    I guess the tax revenue for that kind of energy customer is a self perpetuating gold mine. At the prevailing billing rate of course.

  7. orionATL says:

    if i recall correctly, the root problem with protecting the classified data in the manning situation was the military’s need to widely share that data.

    could it be the case that there is an analagous “incompatibility/resource problem” when the nsa

    – collects and stores data, and

    – retrieves and analyzes that data, and

    – shares data with u.s. security agencies,and

    -tries to secure all those categories of data with encompassing seoftware ?

    do the energy and computing resources needed just to do what is being done building today’s haystacks preclude nsa from having available the additional energy and computing resources it would need to protect its data?

    if so, nsa put the haycart ahead of the horse.

    or, put another way, quantum computers urgently needed yesterday.

  8. rosalind says:

    “At least they’ve stopped electrocuting contractors.”

    alt: the contractors have figured out how to avoid electrocution during the “incidents”.

  9. bell says:

    “At least they’ve stopped electrocuting contractors.”
    could they try it instead on the nsa/usa leadership? might help resolve the many problems to do with ‘power’ here as well..

  10. Snoopdido says:

    I don’t understand how the NSA can claim its Hawaiian facility is somehow lacking in bandwidth.

    A look at the world’s submarine cable map ( shows that there are plenty of cables to Hawaii and I’ve got to believe that a good bit of it is fiber (as opposed to copper).

    It would be hard to believe that the NSA would not be using some of those cables to Hawaii for its traffic. I can’t imagine that the NSA would still be using satellite links for traffic from one of its top Pacific basin outposts.

    So what is the NSA talking about with its “insufficient bandwidth” claim? On the surface, it looks to be bogus given what that submarine cable map shows with all the submarine cables connecting Hawaii to the US mainland.

  11. William Ockham says:

    I think they were using Raytheon’s SureView:

    “Raytheon SureView’s newest version, 6.7 will continue to aid federal agencies in complying with President Barack Obama’s memorandum in November aimed at implementing an insider threat detection program to address national security threats while protecting privacy rights.”

    Looking at the product brochure, it is easy to see the problem. The “agent” that is installed on every machine collects tons of data (including recording screen captures during suspicious behavior) and uploads it to an “appliance” (in this case a Linux box). And it captures activity when machines are off the network, so there is the potential of saturating a WAN connection under the key scenario (user unplugs from the network to do the dirty work).

    Classic big org IT decision-making. Ozymandias, indeed.

    I would post links, but WordPress hates me when I do that. Use your search engine of choice to find out more.

  12. Citizen92 says:

    I know little about this subject area.

    But I do know that the U.S. electrical infrastructure is regularly described as “antiquated” as well as “vulnerable” and potentially at risk of being hacked.

    So are we getting the real reason about why the Utah complex is having “electrical problems?” Do they have any of those pesky Siemens or Bosch switches that Stuxnet likes to go after?

  13. Snoopdido says:

    @William Ockham: The Raytheon SureView link is here:

    In regard to the data capture at the user’s machine and then forwarding it, including screen captures, when the user’s machine is back on the network, I question how big an impact that would have even over a WAN.

    My reasoning is that even if the user’s activity was taking place on the network (over a LAN or combination LAN/WAN), that activity itself is unlikely to bog down the network so therefore the same captured data being transmitted again would itself not tend to bog down the network. This presumes that the network is scaled to handle the user activity in the first place.

  14. emptywheel says:

    @Morris Minor: Argh.

    Thanks for the correction. I’m calling it poetic license because I’ve now grown fond of it. But I do appreciate the correction, which I’ve noted in the post.

  15. orionATL says:



    the nation would benefit greatly if nsa’s hal9000 would rip open the spacesuits of difi and keith and mike and michael and the rest of the coterie of “big-spy” managers, corporate moochers, congressional enablers, and former-manager-apologists,

    and send them into deep space for, oh say, a thousand years (a.c. clarke, 3001).

  16. orionATL says:


    so where is the resource problem, if there is one?

    and that does seem to be, from the posting, the problem that is stalling the spying agencies from installing protective software.

  17. PeasantParty says:

    @ Person1597

    I’ve tried to do exactly that! I’ve given my word and links in prior posts here at Emptywheel. So, I’ll help out again since you made the comment.

    Hawaii, Booze-Allen facility is a Subsidiary of the mother entity of Carlyle Group. Carlyle Group is a large multi-faceted venture capital owned and operated by a group of political movers and shakers, one of which is Poppy Bush. Booze-Allen’s income is generated almost 98% on the backs of tax payers via Govt. contracts in which they are paid via Pentagon, NSA, and other Federal Government agencies.

    Carlyle Group is a giant squid with tentacles in every facet of our govt. I’m sure most of you have seen me rant about Barbara Bush’s comments regarding welfare queens. She is one of this country’s largest Welfare Queens.

    Also, please know that the persons serving on the Board of Directors at Carlyle Group also serve on the boards of Raytheon, Northrup Grummon, Siemans, and many, many other MIC benefactors. I have pointed out many times that Carlyle Group bought up the Yellow Pages directory a decade ago, and could not understand why until I read that NSA Data Analyst spend their evenings typing in phone numbers. The now, new and improved Comcast/Comporium phone Directories are still owned and operated by the same.

    I can’t say it any plainer. If you still need further verification you can Google all of it, ask Charlie Savage, or send FOIA requests to the SEC.

  18. bloodypitchfork says:


    Funny. I’ve been ranting about the Carlyle Group from day 1 of Snowdens revelations..and all I’ve ever got is “conspiracy theory” thrown back at me. Well, all I can say is go to their website and spend a day researching their financial papers, and WHO is connected to this Octopus. You want a conspiracy? One look no further than this degenerate corporation. Did I mention..ahem..ruling class. Youbetcha. By way of BoozAllen.

  19. bloodypitchfork says:


    In regards to the press release, within 4 short paragraphs..the words..”create value” appear 4 times.

    quote” He joins a group of 25 senior business executives – with an average of 40 years of experience – who help Carlyle create value across a range of industries.”….
    We believe Peter’s depth and scope of strategic and business experience in the aerospace and defense arena will help us to create value in our existing portfolio and to make new promising investments.”…
    “Mr. Malone said, “I am excited to become part of a firm that is committed to this sector and creating value.”….
    “Carlyle’s purpose is to invest wisely and create value on behalf of its investors, many of whom are public pensions”…unquote

    Public pensions. right. now I understand. The last great pools of money on the planet and the Carlyle Group is thirsty and the NSA has the straw.

  20. lefty665 says:

    Maybe they found that the policy of “The electrocutions will continue until performance improves” was counter productive. Or maybe the contractors are putting their own self interests (survival) first as usual.

    On the sobering side, think how many watts they’re drawing to generate lightning and other spectacular electronic phenomena. At a couple of hundred watts per server, that’s a yotta storage. Just as claimed.

  21. person1597 says:

    Ironic that the latest in-box promotion is a white paper “Are your Servers Safe? — Power outage protection guide”

    “Deploying modern power management software significantly eases the complexities of keeping critical applications continuously available during power outages.

    VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and other server virtualization software vendors all offer “live migration” products that can swiftly transfer virtual machines from one host server to another for load balancing purposes or when the original server experiences operational problems or requires maintenance. None of those systems include built-in functionality for responding to power outages.

    Download this paper to learn best practices to protect your virtualized servers.”

    Our friends in the industry should avail themselves of such best practices, eh?

    Carlyle, eh… Figures!! Forty years experience, indeed. Boy, put that on the resume for a quick rejection!

  22. William Ockham says:

    @Snoopdido: Reason all you want, but you are making a flawed assumption. The activity being recorded for a single user can easily exceed the capacity of the best networks, at least in short bursts. The data being recorded isn’t just what happens across the network. That is the whole selling point of systems like SureView. The local interfaces have speeds measured in gigahertz (millions of operations per second). The best network adapters talk to the wire at 50 Mhz (50,000 operations per second). When you try to gather as much local state as possible, that basic mismatch causes problems.

    I have actual experience managing big complex networks and writing distributed software systems. These are well-known issues.

  23. What Constitution? says:

    Listening to this technical discussion makes me wonder whether maybe there are limits to “because we can.” Wouldn’t that be a kick in Alexander’s pants?

    Oh, and “maybe we can’t” seems like a good time to ask “should we” — or maybe even just “pretty damn pricey, huh?” might be enough.

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