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 EU takes “cybercrime” very seriously. A three-day “High Tech Crime Experts Meeting” took place at EUROPOL HQ in the Hague (Netherlands) on 04 December 2009. “Subjects like cross-border operational info-exchange, cyber-crime case studies, new techniques in perpetrating digital attacks, new concepts in digital forensic analysis methods, future criminal trends, and training for law enforcement were all discussed during the event”.

The first day dealt with “strategic issues” and the establishment of the “‘European Cyber-Crime Platform” and EUROPOL’s efforts to tackle “criminal groups operating on the internet”. Day two concentrated on “the malicious use of internet technologies by criminal organisations and the action to be taken by EU law enforcement to tackle this phenomenon”. On the third day topics included the heinous crime of “illegal file sharing on the Internet”.

The Royal United Services Institute (a UK defence thinktank) is holding a conference on “Government and Industry Working Together to Improve Cyber Security”. It is striking to see how many defence contractors are now in the IT security business: Lockheed Martin, Control Risks, NATO, Raytheon and RAND Europe are among those taking on the threats and perpetrators of “cybercrime”.

See conference programme.

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