SAIC = spooky
by Geoff Kelly - posted 10:52 am, March 24, 2008
On Friday afternoon, the offices here at AV were quiet—lot of folks out of town, lots of folks getting ready for Easter. So when the phone rang around 1:15, I answered. A woman named Charlotte E. Smith said she was calling from SAIC and looking for advertising rates in the Buffalo area for a proposal she had been asked to write up that afternoon. How much does it cost to advertise in AV? she asked.
You’re calling from where? I said. I made her repeat “SAIC” twice to be sure I’d heard correctly.
SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) is one of the largest and spookiest defense contractors in the US, employing 44,000 people and bringing in $8 billion in revenues in 2006, according to a 2007 article in Vanity Fair by Donald Barlett and James Steele. The company holds at least 9,000 federal contracts. SAIC, according to Barlett and Steele, “sells human beings who have a particular expertise—expertise about weapons, about homeland security, about surveillance, about computer systems, about ‘information dominance’ and ‘information warfare.’ If the C.I.A. needs an outside expert to quietly check whether its employees are using their computers for personal business, it calls on SAIC. If the Immigration and Naturalization Service needs new record-keeping software, it calls on SAIC.”
What could SAIC—this behemoth with its thumbprint on war planning for Iraq, database mining, all sorts of spooky stuff—be advertising in Western New York? In Artvoice, for God’s sake?
In fact, SAIC has been quietly present for some time in this region, or at least in Niagara County, where the company has been a contractor in projects like this one—the removal of radioactive material from Lewiston Road. (Similar contamination is scattered throughout the county; an upcoming repaving project for Buffalo Road faces similar issues.) SAIC also was involved in a 2001 radiation survey at the Lewiston-Porter Schools. The Lew-Port Schools sit on a former section of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works (read more, more, more) and adjacent to the Niagara Falls Storage Site, where the Army Corps and the Department of Energy manage an underground containment center holding thousands of tons of radioactive waste, just one legacy of the region’s role in the Manhattan Project.
(Here’s a US Army Corps of Engineers precis that says contamination at Lew-Port Schools is no big deal, though a University at Buffalo report said the schools should be immediately closed because of the danger posed by the adjacent properties.)
Here at AV, Lou Ricciuti and I have been writing about this stuff, off and on, for seven years. (And causing some discomfort in officialdom for doing so right from the start—see this letter from the Army Corps to former Representative John LaFalce about our very first article, way back in 2001.) Lou has been researching the issue for 10 years. Neither of us is predisposed, shall we say, to think highly of the various contractors who have taken part in hiding or minimizing the region’s industrial history and its toxic legacy, through quiet cleanups, deceptive studies and misdirection. And SAIC gives us the creeps, both generally (as a tool of intelligence and military agencies) and specifically (for its work in Niagara County).
Why would SAIC want to advertise in Artvoice? Hell if we know, and SAIC’s Charlotte E. Smith hasn’t yet replied to our inquiries. Maybe they don’t want to advertise with us at all. But there will be more to this story soon, we hope.