March 2010


European Voice, 18 March 2010


comment article in today’s European Voice by Ben Hayes.

The inclusion of Israel in the European Security Research Programme undermines the EU’s commitment to even-handedness in the Middle East.

Since the European Community began funding research in 1984, both the amount of funding available and the range of topics on offer have steadily increased (the latest framework programme, FP7, has a seven-year budget of €53 billion). So has the participation of researchers from outside the EU in collaborative projects.

In per capita terms, no non-EU country has received more from the EU’s largesse than Israel. Indeed, the European Commission says that the EU is now second only to the Israel Science Foundation in Jerusalem as a source of research funding for Israeli academics, corporations and state enterprises.

More and more of that funding is finding its way to Israel’s already buoyant security sector. Israeli revenues from the export of counter-terrorism-related products now top $1bn annually, according to the Israeli government.

Since incorporating Israel into the ‘European research area’, the Commission has signed off on dozens of lucrative EU research contracts to the likes of Israel Aerospace Industries (a state-owned manufacturer of drones), Motorola Israel (producer of ‘virtual fences’ around Israeli settlements) and Elbit Systems (one of Israel’s largest private military technology firms, responsible for segments around Jerusalem of, to use the United Nation’s term, the separation wall constructed between Jewish and Palestinian communities).

Some 58 EU ‘security research’ projects have now also been funded under the new €1.4bn ‘security research’ component of FP7. Israeli companies and institutions are participating in 12 of these, leading and co-ordinating five of them. Only the UK, Germany, France and Italy lead more projects.

Among this latest tranche of contracts is a €9.1 million project led by Verint Systems that will deliver “field-derived data” to “crisis managers” in “command-and-control centres”. (These contracts tend to avoid phrases such as ‘surveillance’ and ‘homeland security’, substituting less emotive terms.)

Verint describes itself as “a leader in enterprise workforce optimisation and security intelligence solutions, including video intelligence, public safety and communication intelligence and investigative solutions”. What it primarily provides is workplace surveillance, CCTV and wire-tapping facilities. Verint is now effectively being subsidised by the EU to develop surveillance and communication systems that may ultimately be sold back to the member states.

The raison d’être for establishing the EU security research programme was to enhance the ‘industrial competitiveness’ of the nascent European ‘homeland security’ industry. The Commission argues that funding for Israeli ‘homeland security’ is wholly consistent with this aim (insofar as it will enhance Europe’s “knowledge base”).

But should the Commission be giving more money to Israel’s flourishing security sector than to its counterparts in most of the EU states?

More importantly, should it be subsidising it at all? Israel’s control of what remains of the Palestinian territories now depends as much upon the hardware and software provided by its ‘homeland security’ industry as its traditional military supremacy.

The EU therefore risks complicity in the actions of a military that frequently shows too little regard for the lives and livelihoods of civilians. And the EU’s subsidies make it appear less than even-handed in the peace process.

In the eyes of many Palestinians, it is already fundamentally compromised. Last September, Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief for a decade, told an audience in Jerusalem: “Israel is, allow me to say, a member of the European Union without being a member of the institutions.”

“No country outside the continent has the type of relations Israel has with the European Union,” he said, adding that Israel’s “relation today with the European Union is stronger than the relation of Croatia” (which still hopes for membership in 2011).

Solana apparently did not mind whether the EU appeared even-handed or not, or how its research budget was being spent. But do European taxpayers want the EU’s administrators to allocate their money to an industry at the heart of one of the bloodiest, most protracted and most sensitive geopolitical issues of our time?

Ben Hayes is a project director of the civil liberties group Statewatch and runs a blog on the EU Security Research Programme.

DETECTER is a three-year, university-led project that aims to co-ordinate and contribute work on detection technologies, counter-terrorism, ethics and human rights. It is funded under the security research component of the Fp7 programme. Representatives of the project have been speaking to the BBC:

The DETECTER project is certainly a most welcome initiative. But in the face of scores of EU funded-projects that call into question the EU’s commitment to ethical research and human rights, what we’d also like to see is a the creation of a standing committee with a DETECTER-like mandate to evaluate each and every ‘security research’ proposal before EU funds are committed.

This would see crucial legal and ethical issues take centre stage of the EU security research programme, instead of being bolted on as an afterthought as they have been in FP7.

For more information on DETECTER see the project website and blog.

NO2ID | Stop the database state

The “European eID Interoperability Platform”, or STORK, is an EU-funded programme to set up standards for the interoperability of electronic ID systems across Europe. The project has recently caught the attention of NO2ID, the UK-based campaign against ID cards and the database state which, “after careful negotiation over several months” and a grant from Microsoft’s corporate social responsibility fund to cover the costs of its participation, has now been formally admitted to a STORK working group, representing civil society interests.

“As far as we know, we are the first non-governmental and non-corporate organisation to be given such a level of access”, said No2ID. “As things stand the Home Office’s scheme is by far the most pernicious ID scheme in the continent, if not the world. But if developing European standards starts to present a threat to privacy and civil liberties, then we are now in a much better position to know about it and lobby against it”.

See also The Register: “With MS funding, No2ID gains entry to EU eID group”

Fresh from agreeing a Transatlantic government pay-off to end bribery and corruption investigations, it has emerged that BAE systems has been awarded a €2.3 million contract to develop a “Strategic crime and immigration information management system” (SCIIMS) for the European Union.

The contract has been awarded by the European Commission under the €1.4 billion EU Security Research Programme (ESRP), part of the ‘FP7‘ framework programme 2007-2013. The ESRP has been dominated by defence and IT contractors keen to diversify into the highly lucrative ‘Homeland Security’ market.

The EU contract tasks the SCIIMS consortium with developing:

“new capabilities improve the ability to search, mine, and fuse information from National, trans-national, private and other sources, to discover trends and patterns for increasing shared situational awareness and improving decision making, within a secure infrastructure to facilitate the combating of organized crime and in particular people trafficking to enhance the security of citizens”

Essentially an international police intelligence system for use by European and national agencies responsible for combating trafficking in human beings and organised crime (including EUROPOL and FRONTEX), SCIIMS represents the further outsourcing of EU policy to private contractors under the ESRP.

The stated objectives of the project are to develop “a secure information infrastructure in accordance with EU Crime and Immigration Agencies information needs” along with “tools to assist in decision making in order to predict, analyze and intervene with likely people trafficking and smuggling sources, events, and links to organized crime”.

The use of controversial information technologies such as data mining, profiling and predictive modelling are explicitly mandated by the EU contract, in spite of widespread concerns about their legality and effectiveness. Both the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights have recently called on governments to regulate and limit the use of these kind of technologies.

SCIIMS will mine “large data sets” in the hope of producing useful intelligence for state agents. This could include EU databases such as the EUROPOL and Schengen Information Systems, as well as national police and immigration databases in the member states. Unless these practices are regulated by national or international law, they will almost certainly be unlawful. Yet there is no mention whatsoever of data protection within the EU-BAE contract.

The SCIIMS project is coordinated by BAE Systems’ Integrated Systems Technologies Ltd. UK. BAE’s partners in the SCIIMS consortium are:

  • Elsag Datamat S.P.A., Italy (a Finmeccanica company)
  • Indra Sistemas S.A., Spain
  • Denodo Technologies SL, Spain
  • Universidade da Coruna, Spain
  • Columba Global Systems Ltd. (Ireland)
  • The Computer and Automation Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

___________________________

Start date:2009-11-01
End date:2012-10-31 
Duration:36 months 
Project Reference:218223 
Project cost:3595562 EURO 
Project Funding:2318996 EURO 
Programme Acronym: FP7-SECURITY
Programme type:Seventh Framework Programme 
Subprogramme Area:Secure strategic information management system 
Contract type:Collaborative project (generic)

The production of extravagant PR material is always a good indication that government agencies or public bodies have been given too much money. This is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from “No, you can’t”, the short film that now greets visitors to the European Commission’s security research website.


“No, you can’t” – EU Security Research ‘infomercial’

It’s clearly something to do with preventing lightly armed people with mental illness boarding European aircraft, but is the deranged central character, crude Asian stereotyping and abject lack of meaningful information in this ‘infomercial’ meant to convey a deeper message about the European Union? Barrack Obama said “yes, we can”, the European Commission says “no, you can’t”. Speaks for itself really.

Regardless of message or metaphor, how anyone thought this was a justifiable use of public funds beggars belief. You’d have thought the Commission might have learned a few lessons from the frankly even more embarrassing INDECT video and the ridicule it invited.

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