Philadelphia’s DVIC: The Fusion Center that Didn’t Exist – Opening Day

view from the west of the DVIC. Photo by Kenneth Lipp

view from the west of the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center. Photo by Kenneth Lipp

By Kenneth Lipp

First in a series of posts to inform the public on the public and private sector entities involved in the development, construction, and operation of the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center. The Declaration has been paying close attention to the fusion center since we started bringing you independent, needful coverage, “born of necessity.” I am posting this with my name in the byline because I am unable to address the facility without a firmly editorial voice, but the work includes indispensable editorial and research assistance from Dustin Slaughter.

This post is *first in a series because though we have covered the center somewhat extensively, our overall perspective evolves altogether even with some single revelations. Intensive recent research has newly crafted our understanding, and the excess of information and its importance make a serial posting dedicated to the project appropriate. The first is somewhat of an overview, before moving on to cover specific agencies and actors. The content of the report as well as appendices and citations as a downloadable pdf, and library of all sourced documents, will be posted to the Declaration’s Scribd.

Our previous coverage of the center can be read:

The Questionable Benefits of Philadelphia’s New Fusion Center

Military Contracting Giant Implicated in Iraq Prisoner Abuse Plays Major Role in Philly’s New Fusion Center

Updated Grand-Opening Day for the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center

Note: The Philly Police blog featured an updated post this week highlighting the Center with photographs from its high-tech control room (A Quick Look at the Brand New Delaware Valley Intelligence Center!). This post will be addressed within, but as this process so often seems adversarial and it is frequently unnecessarily so, I would like to offer a good-natured admonition, just a bit of Opsec humor

Opening Day

It is the position of Mayor Michael Nutter, and of the industry and various other governmental interests involved in its operation and development, that the presence of the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center makes the community and greater region safer, and constitutes a substantial economic boon by creating 100-plus job opportunities in Philadelphia (along, presumably, with the natural economic freedom that comes with real safety and security). While the center, according to the mayor, officially opens today, its development and construction has been nearly a decade-long process, with stakes shared by some of the largest purveyors of national security and intelligence services to the US government in operations around the world.

The City has said that some 40 PPD officers will be based at the center (Department is slated by City ordinance to relocate its operations to the facility) and perhaps it is this step which the facility lacks before the Mayor can cut the ribbon. As of last week the PD’s only visible presence at the center was a lone utility trailer in the parking lot, moved a few spaces but as solitary as on a recent Sunday visit. On Tuesday the 25th, a dozen or so cars dotted the parking lot for the first time in the newly paved quarter where construction plans and cosmetic improvement tattle-tale about recent activity.

The organization of the South Philly operation, in fact the operational model of the fusion center itself, makes evaluating claims about the center’s benefit burdensome. The  land  has been obtained through a somewhat opaque lease (The Commissioner of Public Property, on behalf of the City of Philadelphia, as subtenant, is hereby authorized to enter into a sublease agreement for a period not to exceed 30 years with the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development, as tenant and sublandlord, for use by the City, affiliated agencies and other government agencies cooperating with the City, of a premises located at 2800 S. 20th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pursuant to terms substantially set forth in the document attached hereto as Exhibit ‘A'”)  and the center has been constructed at total project cost of at least $10,000,000 to Philly taxpayers, with a commitment of a further $1,000,000 a year with matching Federal funds, and yet the citizens of the city have been provided with very little information on the center’s activity, or even provided firm confirmation of when the center will be operational.

“Some DHS Fusion Centers Do Not Exist”

In a response to a 2010 survey from the Subcommittee on Investigations, Philadelphia officials stated the center did not yet exist. They stated DVIC was to begin operations in December 2010. Five months later, during a May 2011 interview, however, officials in charge of the DVIC project informed the Subcommittee the center had still not yet opened. Since then, the State of Pennsylvania has frozen DHS funds associated with the project.  As of August 2012, the center still did not physically exist. Yet, in its most recent capability assessment report on fusion centers, DHS again lists DVIC as a recognized fusion center.

As I mentioned, and reported earlier, a definite date, today, June 28th, had been announced by Mayor Nutter for an expected opening, but it followed successive press reports and public announcements, first for December of 2012 and then for March of this year, of the Center’s impending debut.

Had the information been widely available at the time, and were it widely disseminated now, the fact that the project’s original timeline included a December 2011 anticipated roll-out, my skepticism would likely be echoed despite the mayor’s very first commitment to a discrete date.

phasedvic

Confusing as well is the criteria for operational status, as the center has been either publishing intelligence or franchising reports for some time now.

In December of last year, according to Delcotimes quoting ‘authorities,’ a tip through the center was key in the apprehension of a man making threats on Facebook (“The preliminary hearing for the Upper Chichester man charged with making death threats to a Media woman was continued Tuesday after he reportedly caused a problem at Delaware County prison….”).

After the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the DVIC joined the rest of the LEC issuing Active Shooter Awareness fact sheets.

The “Hidden Handcuff Key”was warned against in March.

Screenshot from 2013-06-28 07:29:49

The most probable explanation to this writer for the delay is that the City of Philadelphia simply did not have the money to complete its transition. According to a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report which seriously questioned the use of Federal funds for the whole DHS fusion center project (Dustin Slaughter reported on in February), in 2009, the FEMA officer assigned to monitor the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force’s use of grant funds reviewed the promises the task force made for DVIC progress after an additional $2.6 million was awarded the year prior.

The FEMA officer determined that no progress had been made on any of them, even  to “Establish the DVIC facility and provide contractors and staff to operate the fusion center” showed “zero progress.”  By October 2011 when FEMA conducted the next site visit to Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had already frozen the FEMA grant funds it held that were intended for the center “because of concern that the local officials in charge of the project were planning to improperly spend millions in FEMA funding to refurbish and equip an old industrial building to house not only DVIC, but an even larger criminal intelligence center for the Philadelphia Police Department.”*  FEMA grant guidance and Federal law prohibit the use of grant funds for construction.

*DVIC Funding Overview, SEPARTF; PSI-PEMA-05-0090.

Nearly 2 years have passed since FEMA’s site review and a year since the Senate criticized the operation. Neither employment nor opportunity are words which find themselves creeping to mind on the walk down Oregon Avenue from the Broad Street Line to 2800 South 20th Street, the old Defense Logistics Agency site (left at the Checkers, first guard booth on your right past the Chinese Furniture warehouse). Trulia Maps statistics for “worst places for crime in South Philadelphia West” puts 22nd and Oregon Avenue at the top.  At the entrance to the DVIC itself, aside from the Job Corps Life Sciences building, the only evidence of occupation is a handful of nondescript vehicles and the two guards (“rent-a-cops”) we’ve encountered, one of whom sits in a booth at the entrance on Oregon and who I am not 100% sure isn’t a mannequin.

Who is working, if anyone, behind the rusted gates and one-way glass, and what are are they doing? What are Philadelphians getting for their investment?

Example of video monitoring software platform in the DVIC Private Sector Briefing distributed by SOSSEC

Example of video monitoring software platform in the DVIC Private Sector Briefing distributed by SOSSEC

We were under the impression that we had been able to determine with some certainty that Genetec was the vendor of the center’s integrated IP video surveillance suite, as can be seen from this 3D map of Montreal from the DVIC Private Sector Briefing. Searching Google for “Rue Goyer Barclay” gets you results for Montreal, Canada, Genetec’s headquarters, and their Omnicast options for various functions match up, and the GUI for the software could easily match one of Genetec’s signature line.

Genetec's Omnicast surveillance platform

Genetec’s Omnicast surveillance platform

We were also able to tie Genetec directly to the project through the website of Boukouris Consulting Services, LLC, a two-employee firm that will be discussed in a later post at greater length.

Caveat: Taking the latest posting on the PPD blog at face value, the facility uses VSOC, presumably a version in Boeing’s “VSOC Sentinel Family of Intelligence, Surveillance” platforms.  Critical InfrastructureEmbassies. The same photographs seem to show logistic monitoring of ports, an appropriate use of grant funds but not clearly indicative of new activity.

Photo: Philly Police blog

Photo: Philly Police blog

And if Boeing’s VSOC is the chosen platform for the Center, what is Gentec working on with Boukouris? Is the website itself even accurate? Genetec traffic camera software is now used in Borough of State College through a local affiliate, and a wide variety of possibilities exist Boeing’s or any other company’s integration with Genetec, along with many varieties of the above with other firms named and yet unknown.

The overwhelming impression one gets from several visits to the facility, after parsing and sifting many hundreds to thousands of pages for commercial and public footprints of the operation is that there are quite a few companies performing what seems to be practically identical services in a few key, somewhat vague disciplines, especially considering the scale of visible operations.

Every associated entity thus far calls into question the contribution of the facility to local employment. The owner of the property itself is on record as Jonathan Zich, co-founder of a New York venture firm Glastonbury LLC  (According to an intent to remediate notice, for water contamination at the facility, filed in 2007), “a real estate investment and development company specializing primarily in the acquisition and management of hub and gateway industrial properties.  Its tenants are global leaders in manufacturing, distribution, assembly, and trade.” What seems clear is that while the dangers of misuse as well as intentional abuse are real in the relatively short history of fusion centers, the real tragedy is that the citizens of Philadelphia have been brought into an expensive project they cannot afford, do not need, and that does not ultimately provide them with anything they do not already have.

Just a few months ago, in February, local press reported on the Real Time Crime Center. At the time the RTCC was also said not to be fully operational, as they were still in the process of developing a major database that will contain information on incidents, criminal complaints, arrest records and photographs, parole and probation databases, national crime databases, and crime mapping systems.

“Currently, navigating all of those databases can take officers 30 minutes or more.  Once the crime center’s combined database is up and running, a thorough search of those databases should take minutes online.”

Reports such as the Active Shooter Awareness bulletin or handcuff key alert would be available to anyone, private or public, with access to a mailing list for first responders. The idea that additional, essentially carbon-copy reports, need to be generated and additional facilities are needed seems predicated on a flawed notion that mashing all the resources for intelligence together is an appropriate caulk for the “gaps” which lead to disaster.

The Information Sharing Environment is presented to its voluntary participants as the epochal coalition. Anyone can join, and all you need for participation at the same level as New York and LA is the same available basic infrastructure and resources, and you can use this huge bag of FEMA money for development.

Next, the contractors; we continue our efforts with this tangle of thorns

SOSSEC, Inc. and its constituents sell fusion centers accessorized with industry contacts, and Philadelphia was on track long ago to be buying.

The development of the DVIC involves CACI, Booz Allen Hamilton, and other giants of martial commerce embedding their time-honored institutionalized partnership with the military into the post 9/11 Homeland Security marketplace.

There are also companies that you will likely never have heard of unless you were a social, familial, or business associate, or incredibly inquisitive and at least a little obsessive, such as the two-employee firm Boukouris Consulting Services, LLC. They are all linked together through a recursive influence network built of memberships to trade organizations and interchangeable employment histories, a fraternity known writ large as the Intelligence Community.

Advertisements

About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

There is one comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s