A US military and intelligence contractor, which has enhanced data sharing between US immigration authorities and local law enforcement agencies.
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) is a government military contractor that provides technical, engineering, and enterprise information technology (IT) services, primarily to the U.S. government. It is headquartered in Reston, Virginia. The company was founded in 1969, and split into Leidos and SAIC during 2013. In 2020, SAIC generated $7.1 billion in revenue, 98 percent of which was attributable to contracts with the U.S. federal government, primarily the U.S. Army, Navy, and other Department of Defense (DoD) agencies, which together amounted to 47 percent of the company's revenue.
As detailed below, SAIC is a key contractor for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its two agencies responsible for deportations and border surveillance: Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). From 2004 to 2021, the company signed around 35 contracts with the two agencies worth a potential $1.7 billion. A 2011 contract renewal characterized SAIC as "highly integrated into the day to day operation of the ICE infrastructure" and "mission critical" to ICE's law enforcement capabilities.
SAIC's subsidiaries include Engility (engineering and logistics), which the company acquired in 2019, and Unisys Federal, which SAIC acquired from Unisys Corporation in 2020. Both subsidiaries previously held independent ICE and CBP contracts, which were transferred to SAIC.
Targeting and Surveilling Travelers and Vehicles
In 2020 and 2021, SAIC was awarded two contracts worth a potential $866 million to enhance CBP's Targeting & Analysis Systems Program Directorate (TASPD), the agency's "cornerstone system for identifying travelers and cargo that present a potential security threat to the country." The company is helping CBP develop real-time data processing, machine learning, and cloud computing in order to flag shipments and travelers for "additional examination." Unisys Corporation previously held another large contract for TASPD, active through 2021, that was transferred to SAIC after its purchase of Unisys's federal contracting division.
TASPD is responsible for targeting and screening passengers and vehicles crossing the U.S. borders, and shares those passengers' personal information with other countries via the Global Travel Assessment System. It also administers the Analytical Framework for Intelligence (AFI), a platform that targets people of interest, which was a key tool for the Extreme Vetting Initiative planned by the Trump administration in 2017 (only to be abandoned a year later). Palantir Technologies, responsible for developing key ICE systems, played a role in developing this data platform for CBP.
The AFI platform incorporates data from other CBP and DHS systems, including the Automated Targeting System (ATS), a risk management tool that compares traveler, cargo, and other information, including biometrics such as fingerprints and facial images, against law enforcement and intelligence databases.
Both SAIC and Unisys, before its federal division was acquired by SAIC, have provided IT services under EAGLE II, a government contracting vehicle that covers numerous IT projects at DHS. Before the purchase of its federal contracting business by SAIC, Unisys had been involved in developing CBP's Biometric Entry-Exit Project, which collects biographic and biometric data from persons crossing the border, including facial recognition of travelers. The related BE-Mobile application allows CBP personnel to feed travelers' biometric data into TASPD using smartphones.
TASPD capabilities have also been developed by several other companies, including Mantech, Blue Tech, Panamerica Computers, and Govplace through separate contracts.
Past Involvement with ICE for "Polimigra" Data Sharing
From 2009 to 2015, SAIC worked on key programs to develop information sharing capacity between ICE and local law enforcement, which were responsible for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people. The company's ICE contracts during this period totaled over $220 million.
In 2009, SAIC was awarded a $35.6 million contract to provide IT support to the Secure Communities program, which was directly responsible for the deportation of some 450,000 people between 2008 and 2014. The Secure Communities program initiated mass biometric sharing between local law enforcement and ICE, requiring the former to share fingerprints taken at booking with DHS, thereby creating a biometric immigration dragnet. Under an additional 2009 contract awarded to SAIC, the company provided 60 analysts to work on the Secure Communities program, running biometric cross-checks on people targeted by ICE, while reviewing other law enforcement and private-sector data.
Secure Communities was a key factor in the Obama administration's record number of deportations and in the expansion of the phenomenon, which immigrant rights organizations characterize as the "polimigra" (police collaborating with federal immigration authorities). The program was reactivated by the Trump administration in 2017, but suspended by the Biden administration in 2021.
Also in 2009, SAIC was awarded a $21 million contract for web services to support ICE's Law Enforcement Information Sharing Service (LEISS), dedicated to the bidirectional sharing of personal information in ICE databases with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The newest version of the service, for which SAIC is no longer a contractor, is characterized by ICE as a "back-end superhighway data sharing system" between ICE and local law enforcement. According to U.S. solicitation documents, as of 2019, LEISS' contractor appears to be Integrity One Partners, which has held several contracts to migrate and maintain the data sharing system.
As of June 2021, two of SAIC's board members had close ties to the U.S. military. John Hamre served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2000, and as Comptroller under the Secretary of Defense from 1993 to 1997. Katharina McFarland served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics & Technology and Army Acquisitions Executive from 2016 to 2017, and from 2006 to 2010 she served as Director of Acquisition at the Missile Defense Agency. Previously, other board members were reported to have ties to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the DoD during the Iraq war.
From 1999 to June 2021, SAIC spent $28.8 million on lobbying expenses regarding issues such as military munition, cybersecurity, spaceforce, nuclear monitoring treaties, IT modernization and cloud mitigation, the potential privatization of the Air Traffic Control System, and the Security Clearance Process Reform. Additionally, the company also has a Political Action Committee (PAC) that spent $6.6 million from 1993 to June 2021 on both the Democratic and Republican parties through party committees, direct candidate contributions, and other PACs.