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Bluffdale • When you turn into the driveway of the Utah Data Center you're not supposed to because the National Security Agency considers it a restricted area, but if you did the first government markings you see won't be of the NSA.
It'll be that of the Utah Highway Patrol.
From the start of 2014 through March of this year, the NSA has paid the state $1,033,850 to patrol the perimeter of the data center, according to records provided by UHP.
A trooper typically sits in a pullout spot on the Utah Data Center driveway near Redwood Road. And on a recent weekday, Salt Lake Tribune journalists saw a second UHP car sitting north of the main entrance, in an area of the NSA campus along Redwood Road where some construction is underway.
Specifically, state troopers are supposed to be ensuring that no one obstructs traffic on Redwood Road, said the superintendent of the Utah Highway Patrol, Col. Daniel Fuhr.
"It's not security on the interior of the property," Fuhr said.
The NSA issued a statement Wednesday saying no one incident precipitated the contract with the UHP.
"The National Security Agency takes responsible measures to ensure the security of our workforce," the statement said. "Operating cooperatively with local law enforcement where our facilities are located is an absolute priority to ensure safety for the community as well.
"NSA routinely partners with federal, state and local emergency responders at domestic locations," the statement added. "For a variety of operational security reasons, NSA does not disclose the full range of these relationships."
Fuhr said a trooper is stationed at the Utah Data Center at all times.
The NSA is paying overtime rates about $50 an hour to UHP and troopers who are otherwise off-duty from their state jobs.
Most of that money goes to the trooper, but UHP keeps some to cover administrative costs, Fuhr said. The NSA also is paying mileage on the UHP vehicles.
The Utah Data Center is a massive storage facility for digital information collected by the NSA. The agency had said it would be operational in fall 2013, but has refused to provide any updates on its status.
As have all NSA facilities and programs, the Utah Data Center has come under scrutiny since spring 2013 when then-government contractor Edward Snowden provided journalists with files detailing NSA workings. The files disclosed the mass gathering of America phone and Internet records as well as foreign spy programs.
In Utah, an organization called Restore the Fourth has led protests against the NSA and the Utah Data Center. Redwood Road is also State Road 92, and Restore the Fourth adopted the stretch of road outside the data center. The group has picked up litter while carrying protest signs.
Lorina Potter, a representative of Restore the Fourth, said she has never noticed any state troopers at the data center. Restore the Fourth whose name is a reference to the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches picked up trash on Redwood Road on Independence Day and did not encounter any troopers.
Potter questioned why the NSA needs to spend the money on the troopers.
"I guess it's a preventive measure for something that there's never even been a hint of need for," Potter said. "It's like over-preparation."
Fuhr said he's not aware anyone has actually tried to block traffic at the Utah Data Center or that troopers have made any arrests or issued any citations to any such person.
As to why the NSA wants troopers there at all, Fuhr said, "99 percent of it is visual deterrence."
UHP is not the only public safety agency with a contract for the Utah Data Center.
When the NSA placed fire protection up for bid, the Unified Fire Authority won. It is receiving $343,000 over a five-year contract that began Oct. 1, 2012. The contract anticipated UFA would respond to 20 calls at the data center every year.