A bit of street theatre took place Saturday, February 1st, in Oakland, just a block away from where Scott Olsen was shot and nearly killed by Oakland's Police Department during the first major Occupy protest.
Just as much as Scott's near death was serious business, so was this. These sitters were protesting not amidst tear gas, bean-bag rounds and insane cops, but in a more existential way: against threat of endless state surveillance. As 1984's famous inquisitor, O'Brien, put it:
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.
Such is the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), Orwell's dystopian vision brought to life in Oakland, CA. It is to be controlled by the worst police force in the nation, and overseen by a City that took eight years to decide not to decide whether they should build a dog park.
The future O'Brien speaks of is now.
Not only is a future with "Domain Awareness Centers" and their ilk bleak, oppressive and depressing, the history of this particular one is sordid. It radiates, pun intended, bad faith as it seeks to escape from an almost-forgotten law enacted in 1992 known as the Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance.
WHEREAS, the expenditure of City funds on goods and services produced by nuclear weapons makers, the investment of City funds in nuclear weapons makers, and the presence of nuclear weapons and work on nuclear weapons within the City directly conflict with the maintenance of the City's public health, safety, morals, economic well-being and general welfare; and...I first wrote back in November about how the DAC's original contractor, SAIC, had been disqualified as a contractor for Oakland's DAC in my essay Oakland's Big Brother Contractor Caught With Its Hand in the Nuclear Weapon Jar.
WHEREAS, the public morality is affronted by the expenditure of City funds on goods and services produced by nuclear weapons makers, the investment of City funds in nuclear weapons makers...
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED...
The City of Oakland is hereby declared to be a nuclear free zone...
But the tale of deception and rot goes back much further. On or before January 23, 2013, Oakland City offcials became aware of Oakland's 1992 Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance and its relation to SAIC, which was then in the process of being hired to construct the DAC.
According to Darwin BondGraham, an investigative reporter writing in the East Bay Express
The problem of SAIC's nuclear weapons work first emerged at Oakland City Hall in January, before the city and SAIC signed a final contract... On January 23, Renee Domingo, Oakland's director of emergency services, sent an urgent email to staffers in the city's technical and legal departments stating that "we must have a fully executed contract for the DAC project by no later than 2/1/13." Domingo warned that if the contract wasn't soon finalized "the Port/City is at risk to lose $2.9 mil[lion] of grant funding..."Did City officials then notify the City Council of the problem? Not at all. They first tried to get around the requirements...
Under pressure to finalize the deal quickly, Deputy City Attorney Celso Ortiz asked Ahsan Baig, Oakland's technical project leader on the DAC, if he had spoken to the contracts and compliance office about "SAIC's issues." Ortiz's email to Baig mentioned the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Ordinance as one of SAIC's issues. SAIC's original proposal delivered to Oakland for the DAC project shows that the company "assumed that the City would grant SAIC a waiver" for the Nuclear Free Zone requirement.
Domingo then wrote to Deborah Barnes, Oakland's director of contracts and compliance, about SAIC's request for the city to waive the nuclear ordinance. Barnes responded on February 13 via email that it was not an option: "Renee, only the council can waive these policies."... and when that failed, appealed to SAIC in what might have been some kind of wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more language:
On February 13, Domingo broke the news to Anastasios Zografos, SAIC's project leader for the DAC. "Hello Anastasios, we can't obtain waivers on the following: living wage, nuclear freeze, and prompt payment without going back to the city council which is not an option. Can SAIC fulfill these requirements??"What happened after February 13th? In one word, as best can be determined: "Crickets."
None of the emails from later in February until the contract was signed in March seem to discuss the NFZO (although with 2500 pages of them, one hesitates to make statements of certainty). But just as clearly SOMETHING happened, if only a decision to deep-six the issue, because SAIC ultimately got the contract. Whatever was discussed and whatever actions or inactions were decided on were apparently done out of the public's eye and the City Council's oversight.
In fact, to answer Domingo's question, SAIC could not "fullfill these requirements." But it was not until after Phase I had been completed in June, 2013, and after the City Council had awarded the Phase II contract to SAIC in July, 2013 - AGAIN, WITHOUT BEING TOLD OF THE NFZO PROBLEMS BY CITY STAFF - in fact it was not until August, 2013 that SAIC was recognized as being in violation.
And even then city staff was resolved to stand by their decision to give SAIC the DAC contracts.
Let's dig deeper into both circumstances.
January, 2014. The Big Lie.
On January 28th, 2014, Renee Domingo spoke before the Public Safety Committee of the Oakland City Council and said, at approximately 2:04:30 into the video
"And we did not know about SAIC, about them not being in compliance ((with the NFZO)) until we were notified in August ((2013))"But the email Renee Domingo sent on February 13th, 2013, almost a year earlier, specifically mentions SAIC in relation to obtaining a waiver from the Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance.
From: Domingo, ReneeSo one of the principal staffers on the DAC project notified the person from SAIC responsible for negotiating the DAC contract, telling him that staff could not get a waiver for the NFZO by themselves, and were not willing to take the issue to City Council.
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 12:45 PM
To: 'Zografos, Anastasios'
Cc: Eide, Cathey; Baig, Ahsan; Michael O'Brien; Eric Napralla
Subject: FW: ARRA Domain Awareness Center (DAC)- City EOC enhancements $2.9 mil contract(s)-Urgent need for expedited Attorney services for contracts
We can't obtain waivers on the following: Living Wage, Nuclear Freeze, and Prompt payment without going back to City Council which is not an option. Can SAIC fulfill these requirements?? We can discuss further.
Also, where are we on the final SOW and Contract Execution???
Just trying to keep us all on track.
Again, insofar as anyone can determine no one on the City Council was ever even briefed on the issue until months later, thereby - at the very least - denying City Council its proper oversight role, and - at worst - engaging in some sort of deception.
August, 2013. The Convoluted Conspiracy.
This incredible email from Debrorah Barnes, Director of Contracts and Compliance for the City Administrator of Oakland, shows how deeply City Staff was committed to getting SAIC the Phase II DAC contract, REGARDLESS OF THE LAW. Remember: this email is from the Director of the Compliance Unit!
From: Barnes, Deborah(To their credit, someone at City Hall did eventually realize that SAIC had to go, and they were let go sometime in early Fall, 2013.)
To: Johnson, Scott; Santana, Deanna
Cc: Baig, Ahsan; Domingo, Renee; Darensburg, Shelley
Sent: Fri Aug 02 11:45:46 2013
Subject: Heads Up on DAC - Domain Awareness Center
In a previous email you were advised of my conversation with CM Schaaf regarding her conversation with KGO Radio and the claims made against SAIC the vendor for the DAC.
KGO staff essentially questioned SAIC's compliance with the Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance, a 500M contract violation penalty to City of New York and a federal contract to build a portion of a border wall in Arizona.
Specifically, In review of that Nuclear Free Zone claim, we have a preliminary finding that SAIC is not incompliance. The Ordinance holds Finance responsible for review.
We are ready to move this to you for consideration. A memo is forthcoming outlining the specifics to include documentation and recommendations for resolution.
You may have been briefed - but just in case, yesterday, Renee and Ahsan convened a meeting with city and port staff to include our legal, Mayor's Office and Karen B. It was determined that Compliance will follow up on the Nuclear Free Zone and Arizona policies and most importantly that we would collective stand by the decision to award to SAIC.
Ahsan and Renee, please chime in.
You would think wrong.
On January 28th the Public Safety Committee voted to proceed, to push the Phase II contract for the DAC to the City Council. On February 18th the Oakland City Council is set to vote on awarding that Phase II contract for DAC integration to a company called Schneider Electric, replacing SAIC. Yet if one simply googles 'Schneider Electric nuclear weapons' one of the first hits is a page by Schneider Electric which has on it
Our main application domains include:Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
Weapon launching control system for nuclear submarines
Nuclear weapon handling system
All is not lost. On February 4th (today - this evening!), there will be a big rally against the DAC in downtown Oakland, at Oscar Grant Plaza right next to City Hall, at 14th & Broadway, beginning at 6:00 PM.
Dan Siegel, a civil rights attorney and candidate for Mayor of Oakland, will be speaking against the DAC, along with other prominent activists.
There will be entertainment, politics and a spirit of resistance in the air! Come join us!
We'll also be at the February 18th meeting of the Oakland City Council.
And, while this article is long enough and I won't go into the details here, we are planning a lawsuit against the City of Oakland to stop implementation of the Domain Awareness Center, the first step of which is challenging the contract award to Schneider.
If you would like to help in that effort you can by contributing a buck or two to * OUR LAWSUIT FUND *.
Here's looking at you, kid.