Securing everything


The Security Research Division of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has published a brochure detailing cooperation between Germany and Israel in the area of civil security. It features research projects covering transport security, preparation for CBRN attacks, detection technologies, transport security, crisis management and surveillance.

Click here to view the brochure (pdf).

As with the EU Security Research Programme, in which Israel is also deeply involved, the research has the twin objectives of enhancing security and developing technologies that can be profitably brought to the rapidly expanding Homeland Security market.

As the foreword to brochure notes:

“The BMBF now funds a diverse spectrum of German-Israeli research projects… These projects thus form an important foundation for the further development of international markets for security solutions and for future collaboration in research. Productive exchange in these German-Israeli projects makes an indispensable contribution to further raising the security standards in the two countries for the benefit of the citizens”.

Unlike the EU security research programme, which also claims to be wholly focussed on “civil” security, Israel’s largest military contractors do not appear to be directly involved.

More information on EU research subsidies for Israeli military and security contractors will follow shortly…

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.

Wired has revealed details of NATO plans to issue biometrically backed identification cards to 1.65 million Afghans by next May. Local and NATO forces are already compiling “biometric dossiers on hundreds of thousands of cops, crooks, soldiers, insurgents and ordinary citizens”.

According to Wired, there are two primary biometric projects underway in Afghanistan.

“One is run by NATO forces, and uses the fingerprint readers, iris scanners and digital cameras of the Biometric Automated Toolset (.ppt) to capture information on detainees and other “persons of interest.” The U.S. military says it has assembled 410,000 of these biometric dossiers in the past year-and-a-half.

The second project, the Afghan Automated Biometric Identification System (AABIS), run by the Afghan government, collects data on Afghan National Army and police recruits.

Fingerprints, irises and faces are all scanned into Crossmatch Jump Kits. The kits are periodically brought back to Kabul, where the data is dumped into the AABIS mainframe — and cross-checked with biometric records from the Afghan National Detention Facility, Kabul Central Police Command, Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan and FBI prison enrollments from Kabul, Herat and Kandahar.

As the report observes: “It’s a high-tech upgrade to a classic counterinsurgency move — simultaneously taking a census of the population, culling security forces of double agents and cutting off guerrilla routes”.

Starting in September, the entire 2,000-mile US-Mexico border will be monitored by drones, the Christian Science Monitor has reported.

The EU is headed the same way. Subject to drone manufacturers and operators getting clearance from European air traffic controllers, the EU’s borders could be buzzing with UAVs within a few years. Not that any of this is being debated by, for example, the European parliament.

Human Recognition Systems (“the UK’s leading independent identity management and biometric specialists”) has entered into partnership with defence giant Thales and the UK Home Office to find “the airport security technology of the future” (a.k.a. INSTINCT-Technology Demonstrator 2).

INSTINCT-TD2 is described as “a government initiative to discover, trial and showcase emergent airport security technologies, solutions and ideas” (see HRS press release).

UK Security Minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones says: “The threat to our security is real and is evolving, and technology can play a key role in reducing that threat. This project shows how the Government is working with industry to find those innovative and emerging technologies.”

As are governments everywhere…

The EU is also holding its annual security research conference this month, from 22-24 September in Ostend, see conference website.

SCR ’10 is focussed on the EU’s R&D programme (the security research component of FP7) and includes plenary sessions on “Halfway through FP7″,  “After Lisbon: The continuum of internal and external security” and “Security as a pre-requisite for prosperity”.

In addition, there are dedicated sessions on Maritime Security, Standardisation, CBRN, Cybersecurity, Transport Security, Security of the Citizens (sic), Security of Infrastructures, Restoring Security, Improving Security, Security and Society and the coordination of EU Security Research.

As with the Berlin security research conference, “ethics and justice” are squeezed into a single session (on Security and Society). The words privacy, human rights, governance and accountability do not appear anywhere in the conference programme.

The conference also includes a “brokerage event” and exhibition to “facilitate networking between companies, scientific experts, operators and policy makers”. More than one thousand participants are expected.

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) and the European Commission are co-organising a one and a half-day briefing tackling the “current state of play on security research, its challenges and its opportunities in the future”.

The fifth German Security Research conference, organised by the Fraunhofer Group for Defence and Security, is under way in Berlin, see conference website and programme (pdf).

The eight conference sessions cover Security of Transport Systems, Building Protection, Surveillance and Control (2 sessions), Security-Related Legal and Ethical Principles, Detection of Hazardous Materials (2 sessions), Protection of Supply Networks and Security of Communication Networks.

While the inclusion of a session on legal and ethical principles is a welcome addition to the overwhelming focus on security technology, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that society should be (re-)oriented toward “future security”, and not the other way around.

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