Good security research


A study commissioned by the European Parliament’s ‘Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs’ policy department has produced a damning indictment of the European Security Research Programme (ESRP), reiterating and confirming many of the findings in Statewatch and TNI’s earlier Neoconopticon report.

The key findings of the European Parliament study are:
  • With regard to the “public-private dialogue”: EU security research and development activities have been mainly driven by a concern to bring together representatives from the ministries of Defence and Interior of the Member States and Associate countries, and representatives of major companies from the defence and security industries. In the process, representatives from civil society and parliamentarians, as well as bodies and organisations in charge of civil liberties and fundamental freedoms, including data protection authorities and fundamental rights bodies, have been largely sidestepped. The outcome of this process is a dialogue that is limited in its scope, addressing security research through the concerns of security agencies and services and the industry, without taking into account the requirements flowing from the EU’s internal area of freedom.
  • With regard to security research undertaken in the framework of FP7-Security theme: an overview of current security research projects sponsored through FP7 show an unequal distribution of funding, which is concentrated on a small number of participating countries and a small number of organisations, mostly major defence and security companies and applied research institutions. In addition, a large proportion of these projects is dedicated to developing technologies of surveillance, to the detriment of a broader reflection on the impact of such technologies for citizens and persons concerned with the EU’s security policies.
  • With regard to future developments in the field of security research in the EU: plans for the future development of EU-level security research, including the European Research and Innovation Agenda recently proposed by ESRIF, do not fundamentally challenge the abovementioned trends. While these proposals indicate a growing awareness for questions of fundamental freedoms and rights, they remain overly framed by the concerns of the defence and security industry and national and European security agencies and services.

The study also contains updated information about the extent of arms industry involvement in FP7 (see pages 23-24 of the report, link below), confirming 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 of FP7-ST funds”. The report analysed 91 FP7 projects, worth a total of €443,2 million, and found that “companies such as the Thales group are involved in roughly one third of the projects (27), representing more than half the FP7-ST (57%) in terms of projects’ total worth (€ 253.8 million)”.

The study recommends that a comprehensive evaluation of EU-funded security research and development to date should be conducted before any decision on future funding for security research in FP8 is taken. Four options for such a review are set out:

i) an accounts and budgetary evaluation through the European Court of Auditors;

ii) a data-protection and privacy evaluation conducted by the EDPS and/or the Art.29 Working Party;

iii) a fundamental rights and freedoms assessment conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights agency;

iv) a full-spectrum evaluation conducted under the auspices of the European Parliament’s STOA unit.

Given the fundamental conflict of interests at the heart of the security research programme (in which multinational defence corporations have been able to set the research agenda and secure the lion’s share of the available funding), a review by the Court of Auditors would be most welcome. Given the limited mandates of the EDPS and FRA, however, any further review should only be conducted in the much broader STOA framework.

The study also recommends a transfer of competence for EU security research from DG Enterprise to DG Research and the “earmarking [of] a certain amount of future funds to be dedicated to security research for projects in the field of fundamental freedoms and rights (10-15%)”.

Although transferring the ESRP to DG Research would be a most welcome initiative, it seems implausible given that one of the programme’s central objectives is “industrial competitiveness” – in other words developing a globally competitive European Homeland Security industry. The second recommendation, increased funding for rights and freedoms-based research, is much more likely to happen. The question we should be asking, however, is whether this can somehow ‘offset’ or ‘human-rights proof’ the kind of security envisaged by the security-industrial complex.

What is needed more than anything in FP8 is a fundamental realignment of priorities for the entire security research programme. It is time that MEPs paid due regard to the growing body of evidence before them.

The European Parliament study, “Review of security measures in the Research Framework Programme”, is available here.

Statewatch and TNI’s “Neoconopticon” report has now been downloaded more than 200,000 times from www.statewatch.org.

This figure does not include downloads from TNI or other websites hosting the document.

Few people make the case against excessive security and defence expenditure quite as well as Simon Jenkins.

Here he is describing the British government’s new National Security Strategy (A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty):

“…one of the most bizarre documents to emerge from the ectoplasm of the MoD. It was a paranoid’s manifesto, a Matrix movie horror. Admittedly, the authors had a tough job. There is no Wehrmacht hovering across the Channel, no Napoleonic Grande Armée massing at Calais and no megaton missile with itchy communist fingers pointing at Britain. So how on earth were they to justify £45bn? They decided, in their tidy way, to group various so-called threats into three tiers of seriousness.

The first tier contains four threats, like a Russian doll. Number one, presumably the greatest, is “attacks on British cyberspace by states and cyber-criminals”. The second is international terrorism. The third is a “military crisis” between other states, one that “draws in” Britain. The last is “a major accident or natural hazard that requires a national response,” such as coastal flooding or flu.

The second tier of threats comprise “an attack from another state using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons”. Next come “instability, insurgency or civil war overseas,” that affect us by somehow “creating an environment that terrorists can exploit to threaten Britain”. In other words terrorism again. Next is a big rise in organised crime. Next is “severe disruption to satellite-based information, possibly deliberate from another state”. This is a repeat of the cyberspace threat.

Lastly we have the third tier of threats, the least serious. The first is “a large-scale conventional military attack on Britain” by an unspecified other state. The second, somewhat desperately, is terrorism again, the third is crime again. The authors clearly ran out of threats, but had to fill their threat quota. We are also threatened by immigrants and smugglers “trying to cross the UK border”. We are “threatened” by an accident at a nuclear site; by a conventional attack on a Nato ally, and by an attack on a British colony. Finally, we face a curious bundle of threats: fuel shortages, price instability, and “a short- to medium-term disruption to international supplies or resources”.

You may note that almost none of the above is a threat. They are crimes and catastrophes or, in the case of being “drawn in” to a foreign conflict, a matter of political choice. Many things on the list may make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but few are remotely to do with the security of the state. They are incoherent and repetitive and rather desperate, like a madman with a sandwich board crying, “They are coming to get you; the end is nigh!”

Yet this list was the basis for last month’s strategic defence review with its £45bn price tag. A set of threats that are almost entirely non-military is to be met by submarines carrying nuclear missiles, two new aircraft carriers and dozens of jet fighters.”

You can read the full-text of the article, which appeared recently in the Guardian, here. The UK National Security Strategy should be read in conjunction with Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, which organised the recent “Drone Wars” conference in London,  has published a briefing on the rise of Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in armed conflict.

It raises a number of serious concerns about the introduction of armed drones into modern warfare, including high levels of civilian casualties, the use of drones in targeted killings and the idea of a ‘Playstation Mentality’ whereby the geographical and psychological distance between the drone operator and target lowers the threshold for launching an attack.

The Drone Wars conference brought together over 80 academics, peace activists, and concerned citizens. Delegates took part in a range of talks and workshops aiming to find practical ways of challenging this new, lethal, robotic technology that is being brought in with very little public debate.

Convenient Killing: Armed Drones and the ‘Playstation Mentality’ [PDF, 1.3MB]

Here’s a question: what do Monsanto, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and the Netherlands police have in common with the US Military’s European Command?

The answer, as Jeremy Scahill – author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army – explains in The Nation, is that they have all availed themselves of the services of one of the most controversial private security companies on the planet. Here’s most of the article…

Blackwater’s Black Ops | 22.09.10 | Jeremy Scahill | The Nation

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation.

Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince’s companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

On September 3 the New York Times reported that Blackwater had “created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq.” The documents obtained by The Nation reveal previously unreported details of several such companies and open a rare window into the sensitive intelligence and security operations Blackwater performs for a range of powerful corporations and government agencies. The new evidence also sheds light on the key roles of several former top CIA officials who went on to work for Blackwater.

The coordinator of Blackwater’s covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique “Ric” Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their “deniability” as a “big plus” for potential Blackwater customers, according to company documents. The CIA has long used proxy forces to carry out extralegal actions or to shield US government involvement in unsavory operations from scrutiny. In some cases, these “deniable” foreign forces don’t even know who they are working for. Prado and Prince built up a network of such foreigners while Blackwater was at the center of the CIA’s assassination program, beginning in 2004. They trained special missions units at one of Prince’s properties in Virginia with the intent of hunting terrorism suspects globally, often working with foreign operatives. A former senior CIA official said the benefit of using Blackwater’s foreign operatives in CIA operations was that “you wouldn’t want to have American fingerprints on it.”

While the network was originally established for use in CIA operations, documents show that Prado viewed it as potentially valuable to other government agencies. In an e-mail in October 2007 with the subject line “Possible Opportunity in DEA-Read and Delete,” Prado wrote to a Total Intelligence executive with a pitch for the Drug Enforcement Administration. That executive was an eighteen-year DEA veteran with extensive government connections who had recently joined the firm. Prado explained that Blackwater had developed “a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations.” He added, “These are all foreign nationals (except for a few cases where US persons are the conduit but no longer ‘play’ on the street), so deniability is built in and should be a big plus.”

The executive wrote back and suggested there “may be an interest” in those services. The executive suggested that “one of the best places to start may be the Special Operations Division, (SOD) which is located in Chantilly, VA,” telling Prado the name of the special agent in charge. The SOD is a secretive joint command within the Justice Department, run by the DEA. It serves as the command-and-control center for some of the most sensitive counternarcotics and law enforcement operations conducted by federal forces. The executive also told Prado that US attachés in Mexico; Bogotá, Colombia; and Bangkok, Thailand, would potentially be interested in Prado’s network. Whether this network was activated, and for what customers, cannot be confirmed. A former Blackwater employee who worked on the company’s CIA program declined to comment on Prado’s work for the company, citing its classified status.

In November 2007 officials from Prince’s companies developed a pricing structure for security and intelligence services for private companies and wealthy individuals. One official wrote that Prado had the capacity to “develop infrastructures” and “conduct ground-truth and security activities.” According to the pricing chart, potential customers could hire Prado and other Blackwater officials to operate in the United States and globally: in Latin America, North Africa, francophone countries, the Middle East, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia

[…]

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto-the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds-hired the firm in 2008-09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson “understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] nameŠ. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.” Black added that Total Intelligence “would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.” Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater “could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.” Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s “generous protection budget” but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto’s Wilson initially said, “I’m not going to discuss it with you.” In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating “there was no such discussion.” He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto “with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.” Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was “a completely separate entity from Blackwater.”

Monsanto was hardly the only powerful corporation to enlist the services of Blackwater’s constellation of companies. The Walt Disney Company hired Total Intelligence and TRC to do a “threat assessment” for potential film shoot locations in Morocco, with former CIA officials Black and Richer reaching out to their former Moroccan intel counterparts for information. The job provided a “good chance to impress Disney,” one company executive wrote. How impressed Disney was is not clear; in 2009 the company paid Total Intelligence just $24,000.

Total Intelligence and TRC also provided intelligence assessments on China to Deutsche Bank. “The Chinese technical counterintelligence threat is one of the highest in the world,” a TRC analyst wrote, adding, “Many four and five star hotel rooms and restaurants are live-monitored with both audio and video” by Chinese intelligence. He also said that computers, PDAs and other electronic devices left unattended in hotel rooms could be cloned. Cellphones using the Chinese networks, the analyst wrote, could have their microphones remotely activated, meaning they could operate as permanent listening devices. He concluded that Deutsche Bank reps should “bring no electronic equipment into China.” Warning of the use of female Chinese agents, the analyst wrote, “If you don’t have women coming onto you all the time at home, then you should be suspicious if they start coming onto you when you arrive in China.” For these and other services, the bank paid Total Intelligence $70,000 in 2009.

TRC also did background checks on Libyan and Saudi businessmen for British banking giant Barclays. In February 2008 a TRC executive e-mailed Prado and Richer revealing that Barclays asked TRC and Total Intelligence for background research on the top executives from the Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) and their potential “associations/connections with the Royal family and connections with Osama bin Ladin.” In his report, Richer wrote that SBG’s chair, Bakr Mohammed bin Laden, “is well and favorably known to both arab and western intelligence service[s]” for cooperating in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Another SBG executive, Sheikh Saleh bin Laden, is described by Richer as “a very savvy businessman” who is “committed to operating with full transparency to Saudi’s security services” and is considered “the most vehement within the extended BL family in terms of criticizing UBL’s actions and beliefs.”

In August Blackwater and the State Department reached a $42 million settlement for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations. Among the violations cited was the unauthorized export of technical data to the Canadian military. Meanwhile, Blackwater’s dealings with Jordanian officials are the subject of a federal criminal prosecution of five former top Blackwater executives. The Jordanian government paid Total Intelligence more than $1.6 million in 2009.

Read the article in full in The Nation

In July the Washington Post began its ‘Top Secret America’ series, examining the rapid growth of the USA’s heavily privatised intelligence establishment. Investigative journalism at its best, the series and its findings  should prompt those of us in Europe who care about such matters to start making the same kind of inquiries about our own security-corporate nexus.

The most alarming findings (summarised here) include:

* 1,931 intelligence contracting firms doing work classified as “top secret” for 1,271 government organisations at over 10,000 sites around the USA; 533 of these  firms were founded after the ‘9/11′ attacks.

* Contractors make up nearly 30 percent of the workforce of America’s intelligence agencies. At the Department of Homeland Security the ratio of contractors to permanent staff is 50-50. The Washington Post estimates that of 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, 265,000 are contractors.

* 18 government organisations contract 37 private companies to conduct psychological operations;

* 16 government organisations use 50 companies for “special military operations” (e.g., SWAT teams and unconventional warfare);

* 14 government organisations contract 50 companies for top-secret conventional military operations;

* 32 government organisations employ 36 different companies for counter-drug operations.

* The National Security Agency intercepts 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications every day and divides some percentage of these between 70 different databases.

* At least 263 intelligence organisations have been created or reorganized in response to 9/11.

Why does any of this matter? As the authors of Top Secret America point out: “What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest — and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities”.

See Washington Post TSA series. Part one: “A hidden world, growing beyond control“, part two: “The secrets next door“, part three: “National Security Inc.” and Top Secret America blog.

What are the long-term consequences for democracy of treating the urban poor as an enemy population to be beaten into submission, of the militarisation of policing, of the expansion of intrusive surveillance of society?”

Article by Richard Drayton on the involvement of the “global security establishment” in Jamaican counter-insurgency operations. Originally published in the Guardian on 14 June 2010, here.

From Kabul to Kingston: Army tactics in Jamaica resemble those used in Afghanistan – and it’s no mere coincidence

For two weeks, the Jamaican army and police have fought gun battles in Kingston. The many allegations of human rights abuses committed by the security forces – including extrajudicial killings and the disposal of bodies – have received almost no international attention. Nor have the linkages between the Jamaican crisis, the security establishments in the US, Britain and Canada, and the mutations of the “war on terror”.

But strategy and tactics deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are being applied in Jamaica. Drones fly over Kingston, and were used in the 24 May assault to select targets. On 7 June, Tivoli residents discovered that to enter or leave the area they had to produce “passes” issued by the police (revised, after protests, to restrictions on movement after dark). There is blanket surveillance of electronic communications in breach of Jamaican privacy protections – indeed, it was the illegal provenance of some of the evidence against Christopher “Dudus” Coke that initially held up extradition proceedings.

Propaganda “information operations” are at full tilt: while the army guides the Jamaican press on tours in which soldiers pat the heads of children, and in which criminal “torture chambers” are revealed, abroad we are told this is just about breaking drug gangs.

That Kingston today resembles aspects of Kabul is not by chance. In 2008, the Jamaican army’s Major Wayne Robinson submitted a master’s thesis to the US Marine Corps University: Eradicating Organised Criminal Gangs in Jamaica: Can Lessons be Learned from a Successful Counterinsurgency?.

In October 2009, the manual on counterinsurgency operations of the US joint chiefs of staff equated police action against “criminal organisations” with counterinsurgency, and described key tactics – including aerial and electronic intelligence and targeting, the use of “passes” to restrict movement, and information management. For two years the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) has combined operations in Afghanistan with training the Jamaican special forces, the Ninjas. In March 2010 Jamaican newspapers reported a joint US-UK-Canada intelligence operation was being run from Kingston.

Advisers from all three Nato powers are active in Jamaica. The Jamaican army has been tightly integrated with the US military since the early 1980s. The irony is that the criminals the army now fights were also, in substantial part, created by the US and the Jamaican Labour party (the JLP, which now governs) in the 70s and 80s.

The origins of Coke’s Shower Posse lie in the cold war. In 1972 Michael Manley, of the People’s National party, was elected prime minister. He increased the taxes paid by US and Canadian mining companies, while leading third world demands for new international economic and information orders. Jamaica opened relations with Cuba, and defended Havana’s sending troops to defend the Angolan government exactly when the US and apartheid South Africa were arming rebels against it. What had happened in Chile in 1971-73 came to Jamaica, except that in the Caribbean the US also used crime and terrorism to destabilise the regime.

As the CIA station in Kingston became one of the largest in the world in the mid-70s, weapons flooded in to political gangs. A campaign of arson and bombings, allegedly organised by anti-Castro Cubans, spread chaos: one old people’s home burnt to the ground with the death of 150 women. Critically, the transshipment of cocaine from South America began in the late 70s. At the centre of this unrest were the gangs of Tivoli, of which Lester Coke (Dudus’s father) was a key leader. These criminals were enforcers for the JLP and gave help in the 80s to the covert allies of the Nicaraguan Contras through the cocaine and arms trades.

Perhaps the west, belatedly, wants to clean up some of the mess it made in Jamaica. But in 2009, the CSOR’s commanding officer admitted the Jamaican operation helped his unit compete in the “resource-scarce environment” of Canada’s defence ministry.

How much of the current crisis is being driven by the need of the interlocked global security establishment to justify its existence? What price will be paid in Jamaica for the transformation of policing into counterinsurgency? What are the long-term consequences for democracy of treating the urban poor as an enemy population to be beaten into submission, of the militarisation of policing, of the expansion of intrusive surveillance of society? These questions should be asked far beyond Jamaica.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers