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Blackouts coming for NSA black ops?

The National Security Agency likes to operate in the shadows, but it could soon end up completely in the dark.

That's the upshot of a story in Sunday's Baltimore Sun, which reports that the NSA's high-tech operations face a very real threat from potential power outages at the agency's Fort Meade headquarters. The spy agency's power demands could exceed its supply of electricity as soon as two months from now, sources told the Sun.

Another danger from an overloaded electrical system is that power surges could cause precision equipment to lock up or lose data--or at least keep technicians scrambling to reinstate order.

The installation of two new supercomputers, along with other equipment, is on hold because of fears of blowing the NSA's fuse box, the Sun reported. Meanwhile, some equipment already online is not being cooled adequately, officials have said.

The power grid worries come at the time of year when blackouts and brownouts are a very real concern in urban areas and elsewhere. They also come as the circumspect NSA finds itself at the very public center of controversy for its role in the Bush administration's eavesdropping on suspected terrorist conversations, a large-scale operation that critics say threatens the privacy of many innocent citizens.

The Baltimore Sun, citing intelligence expert James Bamford, says that the NSA is the largest customer of Baltimore Gas & Electric and uses as much electricity as the nearby city of Annapolis, Maryland.