Further evidence of arms industry diversification into criminal intelligence and investigations as BAE Systems offers £184 million for Norkom, an Ireland-based counter-fraud and anti-money laundering solutions provider that employs around 350 people.

BAE already owns Detica, a company specialising in “collecting, managing and exploiting information to reveal actionable intelligence”.

Ian King, chief executive of BAE Systems, said: “Countering financial crime is a priority for governments and financial institutions. There is a compelling logic to the combination of Detica’s NetReveal product and the complementary capabilities and customer reach of Norkom.”

See BAE press release, 14 January 2011.

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.

The Safran Group is buying L-1 Identity Solutions‘ biometric, identity and recruitment operations for around 1 billion. According to DefenceNews, the move will make the French aerospace and defence group the world’s biggest biometric identification company, “ahead of NEC of Japan and Cogent of the United States” (see also Safran’s press release).

Meanwhile, BAE Systems is buying L-1′s Intelligence Services Group for $296 million. “Their capabilities will enhance BAE Systems’ existing knowledge and expertise and will better position us to offer our government customers the security and intelligence support they need to complete their missions, now and in the future,” said Linda Hudson, president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc.

BAE’s press release adds that “The acquisition of L-1′s Intelligence Services Group reflects BAE Systems’ global strategy to enhance and grow its business in the area of customer support and services, which includes cyber and security as well as readiness and sustainment activities. For the six months to 30 June 2010, this area of the business generated 49% of BAE Systems revenues.”

As The Times (20.9.10) observes: “as defence spending in traditional areas of procurement, such as warships and armoured vehicles, comes under pressure, BAE has increased its exposure to the well-funded security market.”



The FP7 programme is supposed to be about implementing the ‘Lisbon strategy’ and making the EU the “most dynamic competitive knowledge-based economy in the world”. According to the Commission: “The ‘knowledge triangle’ – research, education and innovation – is a core factor in European efforts to meet the ambitious Lisbon goals. Numerous programmes, initiatives and support measures are carried out at EU level in support of knowledge”.

This includes the European Security Research Programme, which has just awarded Selex (a Finmeccanica company) a €10 million ‘research’ contract to develop an EU sea border surveillance system (the total project cost is €15.5 million, the EC contribution is €9.8 million).

The “SEABILLA” consortium, which includes a host of arms companies and defence contractors (BAE Systems, EADS, Thales, Sagem, Eurocopter, Telespazio, Alenia, TNO and others) promises to:

1) define the architecture for cost-effective European Sea Border Surveillance systems, integrating space, land, sea and air assets, including legacy systems;

2) apply advanced technological solutions to increase performances of surveillance functions;

3) develop and demonstrate significant improvements in detection, tracking, identification and automated behaviour analysis of all vessels, including hard to detect vessels, in open waters as well as close to coast.

According to the project synopsis, these surveillance systems will be used for:

a) fighting drug trafficking in the English Channel;

b) addressing illegal immigration in the South Mediterranean;

c) struggling [sic] illicit activities in open-sea in the Atlantic waters from Canary Islands to the Azores; in coherence with the EU Integrated Maritime Policy, EUROSUR and Integrated Border Management, and in compliance with Member States sovereign prerogatives.

In 2009, Finmeccanica revenues were somewhere in the region of €18 billion, of which 12% (approx €2.16 billion) was reinvested into Research and Development. Finmeccanica’s annual R&D budget is thus more than 10 times the annual budget of the entire European Security Research Programme.

Finmeccanica has already established itself as a global, market-leading provider of Homeland Security and maritime surveillance systems, as demonstrated by recent contracts with Libya and Panama (among others), each worth hundreds of millions of Euros.

This begs the obvious question of whether EU R&D subsidies for the likes of Finmeccanica are really warranted, and whether this kind of contract is strictly in accordance with FP7′s ‘knowledge triangle’ of research, education and innovation.

In reality the SEABILLA project has very little to do with innovation and everything to do with procurement. The EU is already committed to developing the kind of high-tech surveillance systems that only the defence sector can deliver [on maritime surveillance, see pages 36-40 of the NeoConOpticon report] but it lacks the mandate, budget and office to procure the requisite expertise, software and hardware.

Of course, were the EU to attempt to fulfil its ambitions by establishing a European Department of Homeland Security, there would be fierce resistance among the member states, not to mention civil society groups and a reluctant public.

What we have instead is an unaccountable EU procurement strategy – masquerading as research – committing hundreds of millions of taxpayer Euros in ‘seed money’ to security apparatuses that pre-empt both the political and legal authority needed to put them into practice.

It’s certainly innovative, but is it the kind of innovation that the architects of the FP7 programme had in mind?

The EU is providing yet more R&D subsidies for the Israeli security-industrial complex, this time for a €15 million project entitled “Total Airport Security System” (the EC contribution is €9 million).

The Verint-led consortium promises to deliver  “multisource labyrinth fusion logic enabling situational and security awareness of the airport anytime and anywhere” (or, in other words, “total surveillance”).

According to the project synopsis:

“TASS is a multi-segment, multi-level intelligence and surveillance system, aimed at creating an entire airport security monitoring solution providing real-time accurate situational awareness to airport authorities.

The TASS concept is based on integrating different types of selected real time sensors & sub-systems for data collection in a variety of modes, including fixed and mobile, all suitable for operation under any environmental conditions. TASS divides the airport security into six security control segments (environmental, cargo, people, airplanes, vehicle-fleet & facilities) each of them being monitored by various technologies that are fused together, creating a multisource labyrinth fusion logic enabling situational and security awareness of the airport anytime and anywhere. These fused control segments will be accessed through the TASS WEB-based portal by running a suite of applications making the airport security control centralized to all airport authorities. Information will be shared and synchronized between all of them in order to generate a comprehensive, real time, security overview for the airport C2, providing all the necessary features to assure a total no breach security environment. The integration will include the use of in-place technologies that will result in a cost-effective solution.

The TASS consortium consists of 3 main end users representing 16 airports and 16 technological partners, which bring together European SME s, industrial and academic partners, ranging from sensor design and electronic communications through to civil airport protection. The technologies will be tested at 3 airports including the hub airport Heathrow, an Israeli domestic airport and Athens airport, in order to cover a wide range of needs at different levels of airport protection. The main test at Heathrow airport will involve scenarios including 2 connected to the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London ultimately resulting in a high & smooth passengers flow”.

In addition to Verint, the TASS consortium includes Elbit Systems Israel, the Israel Airports Authority and Ernst & Young Israel. Other consortium particpants include BAE systems, BAA (the British Airport’s Authority) and technology providers Rapiscan, Alcatel and Skysoft.

However, not everyone is happy about the amount of funds that the EU is providing to Israel for “security research” purposes (see “Should the EU subsidise Israeli security?” and “EU must end funding of Israeli military research“).

And as anyone who has ever passed through an Israeli airport on their way to the Occupied Territories might well ask, should we really be looking to Israel as a model for European security?

A month after a senior UN official condemned the CIA drone strike programme as creating a “PlayStation mentality” that could spread to other countries, Janes has reported that UK unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations in Afghanistan have reached a new high.

In the six months to May 2010, the British Army’s Elbit Systems Hermes 450 and Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk 3 flew “nearly 9,000 hours combined in just over 4,500 sorties”. UK forces have also reportedly launched attacks using armed drones over 80 times since May 2008, yet all requests for information on their use and resulting civilian casualty figures have so far been refused.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council published on 3 June 2010, Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings accused the US of inventing a “law of 9/11″ to issue the CIA with a “licence to kill” that, if copied by other countries, could lead to “chaos”.

The secretive programme has already killed hundreds of people, many in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Alston also criticised those “intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters” and “have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries”.

Combat UAV unveiled

Regardless, as the Financial Times reported, “Robot wars came a step closer after BAE Systems unveiled the UK’s first unmanned aircraft that can pilot itself and strike targets as far away as Afghanistan”.

A Taranis drone robot
BAE’s “Taranis” UAV is named after the Celtic god of thunder

Taranis is equipped to attack ground targets and can be controlled from anywhere in the world via satellite communications. Costing £142.5 million, it was developed by an industry team made up of BAE, Rolls-Royce, Qinetiq and GE Aviation, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence.

Taranis “is a prelude to the next generation of fighting capability”, said Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programmes and support at BAE. “If we are not on top of that, there will be no future for UK aircraft capability.”

Air Chief Marshal Simon Bryant, commander-in-chief of the Royal Air Force’s Air Command organisation, said the primary aim of Taranis was “to inform decisions of our future”. It provides an insight into “the art of the possible”. A future unmanned combat aerial vehicle could meet the key operating needs of the three services, covering control of the air, attack and intelligence and situational awareness, he suggested.

Surveillance goes green

BAE has also unveiled its “Phantom Eye” hydrogen-powered spy plane, which can fly non-stop for up to four days. Boeing says the aircraft could eventually carry out “persistent intelligence and surveillance”.


BAE’s “Phantom Eye” hydrogen-powered spy plane

The “Phantom Eye” was somewhat overshadowed, however, by Qinetic’s “Zephyr” solar-powered plane, which smashed the endurance record for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Project manager Jon Saltmarsh told BBC News that “Zephyr is basically the first ‘eternal aircraft”.


Zephyr: a solar-powered high-altitude long-endurance (Hale) UAV

And if all that isn’t enough, check-out some of the “microdrones” on show at this “Special Operations Forces Industry Conference” in the States.

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