Fiber Optic Internet Cable from Dania Bay, Florida to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Fiber Optic Internet Cable from Dania Bay, Florida to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Background

In October of 2016, I read the following article written by Muira McCammon, which was published on SLATE:

Generally, when we hear about undersea fiber-optic cables, it’s because some sharks are trying to shut down the Internet with their teeth. But there’s more to them than that. Right now, there is a kind of magic at work beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Xtera Communications Inc. is in the midst of building an undersea fiber-optic cable from Dania Beach, Florida, to Guantánamo Bay. The $35 million project, which the Defense Department awarded to the Texas-based firm in May 2014, hasn’t been much publicized, for obvious strategic reasons. Not many people are talking about the cable—certainly not President Obama or Cuban President Raúl Castro.

But the cable is critically important—not least because of the effects it could have on the ever-evolving diplomatic talks between Cuba and the United States. As more and more people urge the U.S. government to shut down the Naval Station at Guantánamo, it’s important to remember that Gitmo is no longer just a surface structure. This subterranean submarine cable, predicted to be 950 miles in length, represents a substantial investment in the future of the base. And the real question: Who will benefit from it?

The world first got wind of it in July 2012, when Navy Capt. Kirk R. Hibbert revealed in an interview with Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald that U.S. officials had sent a diplomatic note to Havana explaining the fiber-optic project and that he’d received no opposition from his Cuban military counterparts.  * Click on the above link for the rest of the article.

There are many questions that arise from the approval of such a project, let alone the existence of the cable.

I originally requested the documents from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which informed me that the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) would be the controlling agency. So I refiled the request to them, and asked for the following:

I respectfully request a copy of records, electronic or otherwise, of the contract between DISA, and Xtera Communications Inc., to build an undersea internet fiber-optic cable, that stretches from Dania Beach, Florida to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I please ask that you not only include the contract, but please also include any and all reports, designs or summaries on what the cable will be used for and what it’s purpose will be. This would include, but not be limited to, letters, memos, reports, etc.

Much of my request was denied.  By  closing letter dated February 8, 2017, they stated in part:

With regard to your request for a copies of the reports, designs and additional documents requested FOIA Exemption 3 (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3), protects matters that a statute specifically exempts from disclosure. Contract source selection documentation is protected by 41 U.S.C § 2102(a)(1) and DoD contractor proposals is protected by 10 USC § 2305(g). Additionally, FOIA Exemption 5 (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5), protects “internal advice, recommendations, and subjective evaluations, as contrasted with factual matters, that are reflected in deliberative records pertaining to the decision-making process of an Agency, whether within or among Agencies (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 552(e) (reference (a)), or within or among DoD Components.” Therefore, the reports, designs and additional documents are denied.

For your information, redactions were applied to pricing under FOIA Exemption 4 (5 U.S.C. § 552 (b) (4)). Exemption 4 protects trade secrets or commercial or financial information received from outside of the Government, the disclosure of which would likely cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the source providing the information or impairment to a Government interest.

Redactions have also been made to phone numbers, email addresses, and signatures pursuant to FOIA Exemption 6 (5 U.S.C. §552 (b)(6). Exemption 6 protects personnel information.

Despite much of the request being denied, I was able to get the original “Solicitation Offer and Award” contract issued to XTerra Communications, which I have archived below.

Declassified Documents

 Solicitation Offer and Award [91 Pages, 9.3MB]

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