The appeal is obvious, especially for cash-strapped, high-crime cities such as Oakland, Calif. City leaders there say they simply don’t have the tax base to pay for the number of police officers they need, so they’ve looked toward “domain awareness” as a kind of force multiplier.
For the past couple of years, the city of Oakland has worked with the Port of Oakland to build its own version of the system. It’s called the Domain Awareness Center, or DAC. The federal government is paying for it with Homeland Security grants. But as the project grew, so did opposition.
After last summer’s revelations of domestic spying by the National Security Agency, protesters started showing up en masse at Oakland City Council meetings. One signed in for the public comment period as “Edward Snowden”; another stood up to videorecord the council while supporters cheered and jeered. In November, protesters became so raucous, they forced the council to clear the hall.