Dodgy projects


Jean-Pierre Audy MEP (a French Christian Democrat and member of the conservative PPE block) has drafted a report on the “mid-term review of the 7th Framework Programme for Research” for the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

The draft report proposes:

that an ambitious European research plan for technology and defence be adopted between the Union and the Member States and receive significant initial financing from FP7 and the European Defence Agency on the basis of Article 45(d) of the EU Treaty, with a view to enhancing the industrial and technological base of the defence sector while at the same time improving the efficiency of military public spending (paragraph. 14)

The report also suggests that:

industry’s participation rates do not appear any higher than in previous FPs, particular under the ‘Cooperation’ chapter (paragraph. 15)

This is patently not the case with the EU’s Security Research Programme (ESRP), which has thus far been dominated by large multinationals from the defence industry (see the Report commissioned by the European Parliament’s Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs’ policy department, published last October).

The new draft Committee Report signals a worrying potential shift in the position of the European Parliament, which has traditionally opposed the outright militarisation of the EU.

The report also goes much further than what the European Commission apparently envisages for the next EU Framework Research programme. That is: limited cooperation between the European Defence Agency and the ESRP, which is already taking place in FP7 (for example in respect to UAVs/drones). See further the Commission’s “Background Paper” to the public consultation on security research (p.4). In contrast, the draft Audy report is much more closely aligned with the repeated demands of European defence industry lobbyists.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy is scheduled to adopt the report at “first reading” on 12 April 2011 (see EP procedure file).

The Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) industry has grown rapidly over the past decade. Private companies and state agencies are now collecting and analysing “publicly available” data on a vast scale.

This article by Ben Hayes, published in the Statewatch Journal last year, looks at the evolution, theory and practice of OSINT; its use by police and security agencies; the rapidly developing OSINT industry; the blurring of the boundaries between OSINT and covert surveillance; and the embrace of OSINT by the EU.

The full article is available here (pdf). It concludes:

Writing recently in the Guardian, Professor John Naughton observed:

[T]he internet is the nearest thing to a perfect surveillance machine the world has ever seen. Everything you do on the net is logged – every email you send, every website you visit, every file you download, every search you conduct is recorded and filed somewhere, either on the servers of your internet service provider or of the cloud services that you access. As a tool for a totalitarian government interested in the behaviour, social activities and thought-process of its subjects, the internet is just about perfect.

The present threat to civil liberties, however, comes neither from the internet nor totalitarian governments, but from a neo-McCarthyite witchhunt for “terrorists” and “radicals”, and a private security industry bent on developing the “perfect surveillance” tools to find them. For all the concern about Facebook’s privacy policy, that company is no more responsible for its users’ wishes to ‘broadcast themselves’ than travel agents are for tourism. Of course Facebook should offer maximum privacy protection for its users, but those of us concerned with freedom and democracy need to see the bigger picture in terms of who is doing the watching, how, and why. We must then develop the tools and communities needed to bring them under democratic control.

The USA’s Secure Border Initiative, a complex network of high-tech surveillance equipment to police the entire northern border (with Canada) and southern border (with Mexico), has been cancelled.

While agents in the field were said to “love the gear”, Janet Napolitano (US Homeland Security Secretary) testified before Congress that the project “has been plagued with troubles from day one… It has never met a deadline, it hasn’t met its operational capacities, and it doesn’t give us what we need to have”.

Instead of fulfilling lucrative contracts with Boeing and Raytheon, the USA will instead procure surveillance systems, UAVs, thermal imaging and other equipment from the commercial market.

Defence Industry Daily has published a detailed dossier describing all the goings on.

Article by Andrew Rettman for EUOBSERVER, reprinted in full below. See also “A shameful investment in a dystopia“.

Greece to build wall on EU-Turkey border

The Greek government plans to build a wall along its 206-km-long land border with Turkey to help keep out unwanted migrants on the model of the US border with Mexico.

Greek junior minister for citizen protection, Christos Papoutsis, a former EU commissioner for energy, made the announcement in an interview with the Athens News Agency on Friday (31 December), saying: “Co-operation with other EU states is going well. Now we plan to construct a fence to deal with illegal migration.”

“The Greek society has reached its limits in taking in illegal immigrants … We are absolutely determined on this issue. Additionally, we want to provide a decisive blow against the migrant smuggling rings that trade in people and their hopes for a better life,” he added.

Mr Papoutsis compared the planned construction to the 1,050-km-long fence running through sections of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas on the Mexico-US border.

Built at a cost of €1.8 billion over the past five years and backed-up by cameras, radar surveillance, jeep-mounted patrols and predator drones, the 4.5-metre-high metal wall initially raised howls of protest on humanitarian and environmental grounds, but has since gained widespread public support in the US.

The EU and Turkey have not reacted to the Greek plan, even though it has the potential to cause upset.

The Union frequently voices complaints against Israel’s anti-Palestinian wall, while slow progress in EU-Turkey accession talks and historic Greek-Turkish tensions could see the new barrier become a symbol of EU antipathy toward its southern neighbour.

For its part, the European Commission in mid-December said it will extend until March its Rabit (Rapid Intervention Border Teams) mission and spend €9.8 million over the next six months on easing conditions in Greek migrant detention camps and on sending asylum and migration consultants to Athens.

The Rabit mission consists of 175 armed guards sent from 25 EU member states under the command of the Union’s Warsaw-based Frontex border control agency.

Greece is the main entry-point into the EU for irregular migrants from Africa and Asia. Noting the impact of the Rabit intervention, Brussels said that 7,586 people were intercepted on the Greek border in October prior to its deployment, compared to 4,270 in November after it was put in place.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in a statement on 15 December called on Athens to improve conditions in its detention centres, which were described as “inhuman” and “degrading” by the UN and by Amnesty International late last year.

“The Greek authorities are benefiting from European solidarity through a package of financial and practical assistance and I urge them to put all necessary measures in place to assist the persons in need,” she said.

The original text of this article is available here.

Article by Dave Cronin for IPS, quoting Ben Hayes of Statewatch, reproduced in full.

Arms traders are seeking to convince the European Union that publicly-funded scientific research grants should help develop weapons for future wars.

In a series of secret discussions, Brussels officials and representatives of the arms industry are examining if the EU’s multi-billion euro “framework programme” for research can be used for projects of a military nature.

Since the Sep. 11 attacks in Washington and New York, senior policy-makers in the European Commission, the EU’s executive wing, have been eager to ensure a greater involvement of arms manufacturers in the programme. Yet because of the reluctance of some EU governments to give the Commission a greater say in military matters, the scope of “security research” has so far been limited to projects that, according to EU officials, can be categorised as “civilian” and “non-lethal”.

About 1.4 billion euros (1.85 billion dollars) have been allocated to the “security” theme of the current framework programme, which runs from 2007 to 2013 and has an overall budget of 53 billion euros. With planning already under way for the next phase of the programme – from 2014 to 2020 – the arms industry is pushing for projects of a more explicit military nature to be funded.

Many arms industry lobbyists view the research programme as an important source of money at a time when military expenditure is being reduced throughout Europe. While the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) advocates that its members should devote at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to the military, France, Greece and Britain are the only EU countries that have met that target.

The secret talks on how science grants may aid the military are being organised by a network called SANDERA (Security and Defence policies in the European Research Area).

Burkhard Theile, a German arms industry lobbyist who is joning the talks, said he wishes to see EU research grants being used for developing new pilotless drones (also known as unmanned air vehicles, UAVs). Such weapons were used extensively by Israel to kill and injure civilians in Gaza during 2008 and 2009. They are also being used by the U.S. in carrying out extrajudicial executions – which frequently result in civilian deaths – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

“UAVs have both civilian and military uses and they should be funded by the Union,” Theile told IPS. “They can equally be used for border patrol or for missions like the one we have in Afghanistan.” Formerly a vice-president of Rheinmetall, a maker of tanks and warplanes, Theile now runs his own consulting firm for the arms trade.

Andrew James, a lecturer in Manchester Business School and coordinator of Sandera, acknowledged that giving the European Commission a greater say in scientific research may encounter resistance from EU governments. He said: “A number of powerful and influential stakeholders in Brussels and beyond would like to see defence in some form take funding more broadly than it does at the moment, not least because defence spending among (EU) member states is obviously declining. This is politically controversial. Not all member states would be comfortable to see the Commission getting involved in defence research.”

Rather than being financed as a “security” project, the work of Sandera is covered by the section of the EU’s research programme reserved for social science and humanities.

Academics from the Free University in Berlin have expressed concern that the research programme is focusing less on issues of a genuinely social nature. A paper drawn up by Tanja Boerzel, a professor at the university, laments how EU-financed social science projects are often driven by the interests of private companies. Although about half of all academic staff at leading European universities work in social sciences, only 2 percent of the EU’s research programme is allocated to this field, the paper says.

Ben Hayes, a campaigner with the civil liberties organisation Statewatch, argued that the research programme should concentrate more on social than on military issues. “There is a huge conflict of interest in allowing the military and security lobby to set the research agenda, to be able to define the priorities and then to apply for the funding on offer,” he said. “They are developing their wares with taxpayers’ money and then selling them back to the state. This is a hugely misdirected allocation of taxpayers’ money and scarce resources.”

Mark English, the European Commission’s spokesman on science, said that the EU executive expects to increase the amount of grants given to social research from 84 million euros next year to almost 111 million euros in 2013. He also denied that there are discussions taking place about using EU grants for military purposes.

But a study published in October by the European Parliament, the EU’s only directly elected institution, concluded that the arms industry is already adept at drawing down funds from the Union’s budget. The report said that it is “mostly large defence companies, the very same who have participated in the definition of EU-sponsored security research which are the main beneficiaries.” The leading recipients of these grants to date include Verint, an Israeli maker of surveillance equipment, and the German and French firms Fraunhofer and Thales.

Although Israel is not formally a member of the European Union, it has been a participant in the EU’s science activities since the 1990s. A recent paper by the Quaker Council on European Affairs noted that Israel “appears to be standing out” in its ability to receive funding earmarked for security research. The Quakers expressed concern about how companies that have supplied weapons used against Palestinians and provided services to illegal settlements in the West Bank are among the recipients of EU research grants. The report said: “Israeli industries that profit from the occupation in Palestine should not be eligible to apply for EU funding.”

The original text of this article can be found here.

Article by Ben Hayes for the Economist’s “European Voice” newspaper, published 2 December 2010.

The robot armies at our borders

The EU is entering a new, and disturbing, phase in its efforts to police its borders.

In a hi-tech upgrade to ‘Fortress Europe’, the EU is developing drone planes, satellite surveillance systems, unmanned ground and marine vehicles, even combat robots, to be deployed to ‘defend’ Europe from migrants.

The policy is the result of a convergence in the EU’s ‘industrial competitiveness’ strategy, which has identified the global ‘homeland security’ market as one in which Europe should prosper, and an EU approach to migration control that places the prevention of refugees and undocumented migrants from crossing borders above any other objective, principle or approach.

In this upgrade, the defence sector, the surveillance industry and quasi-autonomous EU bodies such as Frontex and the European Defence Agency are joining forces.

More than €50 million in EU funds from the security research component of the Commission’s seventh framework programme for research (FP7) has already been allocated to the adaption of military surveillance techniques to Europe’s borders – and the programme is still in its infancy. Defence giants such as BAE Systems, Finmeccanica, Thales, EADS, Dassault Aviation, Sagem and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) feature in numerous consortia. At least six EU-funded projects envisage the use of ‘drones’ (or unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs) for border control; others promise an array of surveillance and detection technologies.

They have names such as Seabilla, Sectronic and Talos, and ‘24/7 blue and green border situation awareness’ is their objective. Talos – a €20 million partnership between PIAP (a Polish producer of combat robots), IAI (the state-owned manufacturer of Israeli drones) and others – is field-testing “a mobile, modular, scalable, autonomous and adaptive system for protecting European borders” that will “take measures to stop the illegal action almost autonomously with supervision of border guard officers” – combat robots (or ‘Robocops’ perhaps?) in plainer terms.

It would be comforting to dismiss this research as a meeting of science fiction and science fancy, but the US has already deployed an equivalent – Predator drones – along its border with Mexico, part of an $850m (€624m) investment that also includes a ‘virtual fence’.

The determination to create a similar virtual fence in Europe is very real. The European Council has endorsed the European Commission’s Eurosur proposals for a hi-tech European border surveillance system and Frontex is now investing in fixed surveillance and border-drone technology (expressions of interest are currently being invited for UAV demonstration projects).

The European Defence Agency is also involved, by funding manufacturers to develop collision-avoidance systems and other measures needed to ensure the drone programme does not fall foul of rules on the use of drones in civilian airspace. At least seven member states are exploring how they might use drones for civilian security purposes.
There has been little comment so far about these plans in general or, specifically, about Europe’s intended deployment of drones, a technology now synonymous with ‘targeted assassinations’. The UN, though, has spoken forthrightly about the US’s drone programme: Phillip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, has accused it of giving the CIA a “licence to kill” and encouraging a “Playstation mentality” that devalues human life.

The hi-tech vision of the EU’s military researchers might be a less discomforting prospect if there were some assurance that the drones and other systems would simply be used to detect and rescue those on the overloaded and ramshackle boats and rafts in which so many perish.

But a sense of comfort is impossible, amid reports – for example – of European naval patrols “deliberately overturning” boats carrying migrants and of EU-sponsored Libyan patrols opening fire on Italian fishermen.

The EU’s interventions may already be making the sea more dangerous; drones and other robotic tools will add to the risks of a Playstation mentality developing along Europe’s borders.

The EU stands on the cusp of a shameful investment in a dystopia.

Ben Hayes is a project director for the civil liberties group Statewatch.

You can view the original article on www.europeanvoice.com.

Europe’s leading drone manufacturers have joined forces in yet another EU-funded R&D project on the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or ‘drones’. The OPARUS project brings together Sagem, BAE Systems, Finmeccanica, Thales, EADS, Dassault Aviation, ISDEFE, Israel Aircraft Industries and others to “elaborate an open architecture for the operation of unmanned air-to-ground wide area land and sea border surveillance platforms in Europe”. The consortium has received €11.8 million in EU funding.

Meanwhile IPS reports that FRONTEX has invited expressions of interest in a tender to demonstrate “Small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and Fixed systems for Land border surveillance”.

Another article, by Dave Cronin, reports that the European Defence Agency (EDA) has now launched the SIGAT project (Study on the Insertion of UAS in the General Air Traffic), featuring EADS, Sagem, BAE and Dassault (see also previous post on the EDA’s drone programme).

Finally, Cronin’s article also notes that Sagem has entered into a “joint venture” with Elbit, the Israeli company which manufactured some of the most lethal weaponry ever used in Gaza.

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