The following is a letter from the Occupy Oakland Privacy Working Group opposing the expansion of the Domain Awareness Center from the Port of Oakland to the City of Oakland.
I am contacting you regarding the “Domain Awareness Center” item of the July 30th agenda. As you experienced, about a dozen of us were at the July 16 City Council meeting to express extreme distress at this item moving so quickly through our City government process. I am writing you now to let you know there is a very substantial community in Oakland that does not want this surveillance system expanded from the Port into the community of the City of Oakland under any circumstance. We find the incremental implementation of street level surveillance unconstitutional, unnecessarily invasive and Orwellian, and in the end creating an environment of pre-emptive vigilante justice, and capricious uses, that will be destructive to community and most likely cause police actions that harm, injure or kill Oaklanders more than are already occurring. This could lead to lawsuits that may further devastate City revenues.
I don’t think it is possible to overestimate the concern we have that this system, while seemingly serving the needs of an understaffed police force, will be abused and misused by police, government and private contractors. It is just simply too much power in the hands of unaccountable entities. While our initial concerns grow out of standard “1984” style authoritarian fears of a state out of control, there have been a number of facts, articles and studies recently that substantiate these fears. And we are certain that once these issues are fully vetted that the city council will come to the conclusion that this system should be kept in the Port of Oakland as designed.
We understand the reasoning to have this system deployed at the Port of Oakland but a “mission creep” into our schools/neighborhood/parks and public venues is beyond problematic as it curtails people’s right to not be followed/watched like a criminal. Will this capability be used to pre-emptively, and illegally, arrest and halt political protest as has been done in NYC? In the “land of the free” one should be able to feel like they are not being watched and have data collected and, who knows, examined and stored or manipulated into some manufactured evidence in some fictitious “Minority Report” scenario.
Surveillance systems, such as Domain Awareness, have been implemented in London, New York, Baltimore, the Port of Long Beach and elsewhere. We are currently culling all the information we can about these systems, their effects on their municipalities, citizens and economy. We believe after studying this information it will become apparent that these systems do not, in fact, effectively prevent crime or environmental hazards. In fact they are a revenue stream for the surveillance industrial complex, creating more problems than they solve. They potentially victimize innocent citizens, require significant resources to staff and maintain and they promote speculative justice and a shoot-from- the-hip mentality with anyone who uses them. These misuses can be made by police, government or private contractors and any staff cleared to use these systems. Government is encouraged to use these automated processes to draw in ticketing revenues for defunded coffers when they should be taxing the 1% who are getting a free ride on the backs of the 99%. These are some of the many downsides we would like to explore with the Council before making any decision. This issue must be held aside until we are able to present this important information to the Council and the citizens of Oakland.
You should be receiving emails and correspondence from other Oaklanders in regard to these issues. Some of the issues our group has discussed are listed below and should become familiar to you before and during the July 30th hearing.
1) Privacy and Fourth Amendment Issues.
2) Potential criminalization of constitutionally protected political dissent.
3) Potentially heightened conditions of racial discrimination.
4) A lack of program guidelines that assure the constitutional rights of citizens are protected.
5) Public awareness and knowledge of what a Domain Awareness Center will actually implement in the City.
6) Is this DAC merely a kernel of a progressively expansive surveillance system?
7) Is the military contractor SAIC inordinately influencing the growth of this system for the sake of future profits when the City really does not need this system?
8) Does mass surveillance actually work to fight crime?
9) Will this surveillance system be misused by government or contract employees to harm innocent citizens as has been disclosed by Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks and other whistleblowers of our national security agencies?
10) Would society need mass surveillance systems if they were truly egalitarian and all citizens had access to the same quality of food, shelter, schools, health care and income equality?
I would also like to point out that articles about this potential Oakland DAC have been written up recently by Truthout, The Center for Investigative Reporting, Oakland Local, the San Francisco Chronicle, NBC Bay Area, and by journalist Darwin Bond Graham.
Thank you for your time and consideration of these issues. See you on Tuesday.
Occupy Oakland Privacy Working Group