April 2010


Counter-Terror Expo protest banner

Counter-Terror Expo protest banner (source: Demotix)

Demotix reports that a small group of protesters gathered outside Kensington Olympia yesterday to speak out against the Counter Terror Expo 2010 in London. There was a strong police presence inside and outside the event and one protester was arrested for writing “No more death for profit” and “Capitalism sucks” on the ground in front of the entrance.

The exhibition is sponsored by arms company Thales and organised by Clarion Events [responsible for Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi), the world’s largest arms fair and a long-standing target of anti-arms trade campaigners] and officially supported by a host of military, police and private security organisations. It features over 250 exhibitors, including leading arms companies such as BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, and is formally endorsed by the likes of the MoD and NATO.

You can read more about the goings on at the Counter-Terror Expo 2010 in SchNEWS and on Open Democracy, where Clare Sambrook has taken a close look at New Labour’s cosy relationship with the surveillance and detention industry.

Here is an e-mail from FRONTEX that we did not receive:

We would like to inform you that Frontex R&D Unit has issued a tender call for the conduct of two studies as follows:

1.    Ethics of Border Security

2.    Forward Study on European Border Checks

The deadline for proposals is 21 May 2010 and the studies should be completed within 6 months, in close consultation with us.

As companies/institutions/individuals with whom we have had fruitful contact in the past, we would like to invite you to consider making a proposal for one or both studies should the subject be within your area of expertise, or to forward this information to others who you believe can offer the skills we are looking for.

Full details on the tender can be found at: http://www.frontex.europa.eu/procurement/calls_for_tenders_above_60000/

Please note that the “above €60,000” figure mentioned refers to both studies TOGETHER, though each lot can be bid on separately.

[From Statewatch news online]

Last month Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation published a report showing how European companies are participating in the global trade in types of equipment widely used in torture or other ill-treatment. Fixed wall restraints, metal “thumb-cuffs”, and electroshock “sleeves” and “cuffs” that deliver 50,000V shocks to detained prisoners are amongst the “tools of torture” highlighted in the report, From Words to Deeds. Such activities have continued despite the 2005 introduction of a Europe-wide law banning the international trade of policing and security equipment designed for torture and ill-treatment.

IPS reported yesterday that not only are European states exporting the tools of torture, they’re importing them too. Under the 2006 rules, the EU has expressly prohibited the ‘Band-It’ system which is attached to a prisoner’s arms or legs and administers an electric shock of 50,000 volts. Here is a video purporting to show the device in action:

Despite the ban, the manufacturer of the device, Florida-based firm Stinger Systems, has acknowledged that it exports such goods to Europe, though it refused to specify which countries. “We only sell to military and law enforcement authorities” said Bob Gruder, the company’s president. “Our products are sold worldwide but we prefer not to disclose where,” he told IPS.

Those involved in the import and export of torture tools rely on a defence of only selling their wares to law enforcement and military personnel, as if this somehow negates the potential for torture or ill-treatment. A spokesman for Sirien, a Belgian company named as a Stinger agent in the AI/Omega report, told Time Magazine: “The problem with Amnesty International is that they only see the bad side to everything… Yes, these can be used to torture but so can all sorts of ordinary devices like knives, forks and spoons”.

Another surveillance project funded by the EU’s FP7 project that crosses the line into the realm of the ridiculous, reported this week by the Daily Telegraph in the UK.

There’s not much that can be said about the aims of this project that hasn’t already been said by those cited in the article, which is reproduced in full below. Following the Telegraph article is a video report from theglopalreport.org.

Telegraph logo

David Millward, Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2010 (click here for original article)

Airline passengers could have their conversations and movements monitored under a European Union project aimed at tackling terrorism.

Brussels is funding research at Reading University aimed at detecting suspicious behaviour on board aircraft.

It uses a combination of cameras, microphones, explosives detectors and a sophisticated computer system which would give a pilot early warning of any danger.

But the work has alarmed civil liberties campaigners who fear the growth of the surveillance state.

At present intelligent CCTV systems which monitor and analyse passenger behaviour using computer software are used in a number of airports across the world, including at Hong Kong and Washington DC. They are designed to pick up unusual or suspicious behaviour, such as a bag being abandoned.

Currently security on airplanes is mainly limited to a CCTV camera located by the cockpit.

But under the new system microphones would be installed and passenger conversations listened to for the first time. Suspect words and phrases would alert a monitoring system.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said: “Audio airline surveillance is the line that must never be crossed in a high security environment. Passengers must already face intolerable intrusions and restrictions on their movements. The day the airlines install hidden microphones on planes is the day that all trust in the airlines is destroyed.”

But the research also alarmed Gus Hosein a lecturer at the London School of Economics. “This is getting out of control. An airplane is not a privacy free zone.”

The Reading team, headed by James Ferryman, have already conducted trials of the camera system on a British Aerospace plane and the computer system on a mock Airbus.

“What we are doing is extending technology which is already used at airports and railway stations and placing it on an aircraft,” Dr Ferryman said.

Cameras dotted around an aircraft would look out for the abnormal, such as several passengers entering a lavatory at the same time or individuals seeming agitated.

One option would be to allocate some seats to passengers whose behaviour has already raised concern at the airport, so they could be monitored on board.

Microphones would eavesdrop for anything which could suggest terrorist behaviour. Inside the lavatories explosives sniffers would detect if a bomb was being assembled.

All this information would be analysed by computer and if it spotted something untoward, the flight deck would be told instantly.
___________

Join Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, and the folks from Security & Defence Agenda to answer a question the EU and the Homeland Security industry have long been answering with a resounding “yes”.  The roundtable “Does Europe need Homeland Security?” takes place in Brussels on 12 May 2010.

Session I – 12:30-14:00- Prospects for cooperation in building a European Homeland Security policy

Terrorist attacks in Europe since 9/11 have prompted greater efforts in European homeland security. What concrete achievements can EU governments and institutions point to? Is there now a greater coherence of national security policies in the EU, and what political will exists to go further towards creating a genuine EU strategy? How has the Lisbon treaty and the Commission portfolio reshuffle affected such a fundamentally inter-pillar issue, and should Europe consider creating a European Homeland Security Agency? What lessons can the EU draw from the US Department of Homeland Security experience?

Solvay SDA Members’ Lunch – 14:00 15:00

Session II – 15:00-16:30 – Security & resilience: the case of Critical Infrastructure Protection

Protecting critical infrastructures is the cornerstone of homeland security. To what extent have EU member states now agreed on a common definition of critical infrastructures with the design of new tools such as the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) and the Critical Infrastructure Warning Information Network (CIWIN)? Can Europe build a common framework that guarantees a better matching of needs and solutions in critical infrastructure protection? What role for NATO in CIP? Are public-private partnerships a viable option, and is it only larger companies that own critical infrastructures? In sectors as diverse as telecommunications, water, energy, transport and power, what terrorist attacks scenarios are being studied?

Click here for full Programme.

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