January 2010

Critical Infrastructure at Counter Terror Expo

Counter Terror Expo 2010 takes place in London on 14-15 April 2010. It includes a conference, workshops and an exhibition of products “from over 250 dedicated solution providers”. The event is sponsored by Thales, one of the world’s top ten arms producers by revenue.

According to the organisers, more than “4,000 qualified personnel from government, military, law enforcement, intelligence and private sector organisations from the UK and Overseas” attended last year’s event.

It’s free to visit the exhibition and workshops, the conference you’ll have to pay for. Register here, bearing in mind that admission is restricted to professional and business visitors.


Fraunhofer, the German research institute, has been awarded two new FP7 security research contracts.  The first project, which has the acronym RAPTOR, is entitled “Rapid deployable, gas generator assisted inflatable mobile security kits for ballistic protection of European civilians against crime and terrorist attacks”.  According to the information provided by the European Commission:

Depending on the scope, (e.g. the prevention of, or the response to, security scenarios by European security forces, such as protection of special persons or general security of events) tailored solutions are to be developed, including inflatable ballistic structures for the protection of:
– individuals, or of two to five persons, (carried in back-pack, brief case, trolley, or suitcase based mobile security kits)
– general security of events, (transported in car boot, or pick-up truck based, inflatable ballistic tents, curtains, fences, or even red carpet” tunnels).

The EU has provided two million Euros to the four year project. Partners in the RAPTOR project include the Czech firm Explosia a.s. (a “production and trading company operating primarily in the field of production of explosives and services associated with application of energetic materials for commercial as well as military use”) and the German Bundeskriminalamt (Federal police).

The second project, EMILI ( Emergency Management in Large Infrastructures ), concerns “a new generation of data management and control systems for large Infrastructures” such as “power grids and telecommunication systems, airports and railway systems, oil and gas pipelines”. EMILI is a three year project with a budget of 3.13 million Euros.

Great article from David Cronin for Inter Press Service published last month (16.12.2009) and reproduced in full here. Love the quote from the EU’s Institute for Strategic Studies at the end of the text. It’s fast becoming a rule that when the EU does something controversial it blames the member states, and when the member states are asked to account for such actions they blame the EU…

Warplanes similar to those used to bomb civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be flying in Europe’s skies within the next few years, under a scheme being prepared by Brussels officials.

Pilotless drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are regarded as so lethal when armed that some top military personnel have advocated that they be withdrawn from the battlefield. David Kilcullen, an Australian general who has advised U.S. forces in Iraq, said during the summer that while drones had killed 14 Al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan since 2006, they had also killed about 700 innocent people in that country.

The European Defence Agency – an EU body tasked with boosting arms spending in the Union – is now embracing UAVs. Alexander Weis, the EDA’s chief executive, has told the European Parliament that he hopes to have drones flying on a test basis in Europe’s civilian airspace by 2012. Although UAVs are not now equipped to spot what is flying around them, Weis hopes that this problem can be overcome through the development of “sense and avoid” technology.

An EDA source said that the UAVs in question will not be armed and are intended primarily for surveillance purposes and for rescue missions.

But research undertaken at the EU’s behest indicates that no neat distinction can be made between drones intended for military and civilian purposes. A 2006 study requested by the European Commission from the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan concluded that the growing number of UAVs in Europe are being bought for military reasons but that they could be adapted to monitor public gatherings or for maritime patrol. Italy subsequently used UAVs as part of the security operation surrounding the summit for the Group of Eight (G8) top industrialised countries in L’Aquila last year.

Brussels sources say that the Pentagon is taking keen interest in the European Union’s work on drones. The U.S. is hoping that the EDA will pave the way for global standards allowing drones to be used in all airspace, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Following the Sep. 11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld, then U.S. defence secretary, authorised the use of UAVs for targeted assassinations. While many defence analysts have praised the “accuracy” of UAVs in hitting their targets in a way that minimises civilian casualties, there have been numerous incidents where they have killed non-combatants. In August, a Predator drone killed Baitullah Mehsud, a prominent Taliban figure, in Pakistan. But it also killed 11 others, including his wife and both her parents.

Frank Slijper from the Dutch Campaign Against the Arms Trade told IPS that the use of drones by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan has “lowered the barrier” inhibiting other countries from acquiring these warplanes. “UAVs are the kind of stuff that are developing in a way that is at first controversial but then can be tried in another way.”

As Israel is a leading manufacturer of UAVs, it is expected that technology tested in attacks on the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon will be used by the EDA programme. Although drones were first used by the U.S. in south China and Vietnam in the 1960s, Israel was the first country to make regular and widespread use of them, particularly during the 1982 bombardment of Lebanon. In a report published in June this year, Human Rights Watch detailed how Israeli drones bombed several family homes, businesses and a United Nations school in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

Such carnage has not stopped some EU countries from buying Israeli-made UAVs. In March, the Dutch ministry of defence signed a contract worth 53 million dollars for drones from the Israeli firm Aeronautics. The weapons are meant for Dutch troops fighting in Afghanistan.

The EDA’s work follows a project on the development of drones being financed from the EU’s scientific research budget. Among the projects financed by that budget – worth 53 billion euros (77 billion dollars) between 2007 and 2013 – is one designed to devise a blueprint for flying UAVs in civilian airspace by 2015.

Ben Hayes from the civil liberties organisation Statewatch said that it is “extremely worrying” that the EU’s scientific research funds are being used to support the arms industry.

Daniel Keoghan from the European Union Institute for Strategic Studies in Paris told IPS that promoting UAVs is “probably the most important” work being undertaken by the European Defence Agency in terms of developing new technology.

Keoghan said he could understand why the deployment of drones for surveillance would be a cause of concern for many citizens, but argued that the EDA is merely carrying out tasks assigned to it by EU governments. “If I was a civil libertarian, I would very much be focused on what governments are doing and why they think we need this technology,” he said. “The EDA is just a servant.”

cover of Surveillance and Democracy

Edited by Kevin D. Haggerty and Minas Samatas. Includes a chapter on the NeoConOpticon. Publisher’s summary:

This collection represents the first sustained attempt to grapple with the complex and often paradoxical relationships between surveillance and democracy. Is surveillance a barrier to democratic processes, or might it be a necessary component of democracy? How has the legacy of post 9/11 surveillance developments shaped democratic processes? As surveillance measures are increasingly justified in terms of national security, is there the prospect that a shadow “security state” will emerge? How might new surveillance measures alter the conceptions of citizens and citizenship which are at the heart of democracy? How might new communication and surveillance systems extend (or limit) the prospects for meaningful public activism?

Surveillance has become central to human organizational and epistemological endeavours and is a cornerstone of governmental practices in assorted institutional realms. This social transformation towards expanded, intensified and integrated surveillance has produced many consequences. It has also given rise to an increased anxiety about the implications of surveillance for democratic processes; thus raising a series of questions – about what surveillance means, and might mean, for civil liberties, political processes, public discourse, state coercion and public consent – that the leading surveillance scholars gathered here address.

Click here for full contents and publication details.

Walls alone  won't seal US borders (Image: KPA/Zuma/Rex Features)

From New Scientist, 6 January 2010, by Paul Mark

A MIGRANT makes a furtive dash across an unwalled rural section of a national border, only to be confronted by a tracked robot that looks like a tiny combat tank – with a gimballed camera for an eye. As he passes the bug-eyed droid, it follows him and a border guard’s voice booms from its loudspeaker. He has illegally entered the country, he is warned, and if he does not turn back he will be filmed and followed by the robot, or by an airborne drone, until guards apprehend him.

Welcome to the European border of the not-too-distant future. Amid the ever-present angst over illegal immigration, cross-border terrorism and contraband smuggling, some nations are turning to novel border-surveillance technologies, potentially backed up by robots, a conference on state security in Leeds, UK, heard in November. The idea is to scatter arrays of sensors in a border area in ways that give guards or robots plenty of time to respond before their targets make good an escape.

The need to secure borders is evident across the globe, from India – which is constructing a 3400-kilometre, 3-metre-high barbed-wire and concrete border wall to close itself off from Bangladesh – to Libya, where foot patrols are being augmented with new people-sensing technologies.

Libya has an agreement with the European Union to try to limit the flow of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa traversing its borders before crossing the Mediterranean and entering Italy. To help it enforce this deal, Libya is spending €300 million on technology for what it calls a “large border security and control system”, made by Selex Sistemi Integrati, part of Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica. Selex says its command, control and communication technology will include all the computers and software necessary to make sense of the data gathered by a raft of different sensors on the Libyan border. Project details remain under wraps, but Selex already makes acoustic, infrared and remote-imaging sensors, which could find uses in border control.

Elsewhere, the US Department of Homeland Security, along with Boeing Intelligence and Security Systems, is fielding sensors on the border with Mexico, in an $8 billion project called the Secure Border Initiative network.

SBInet will eventually comprise some 400 25-metre-high towers similar to cellphone masts and containing an array of remote-controlled optical and infrared cameras. The towers will also carry a primary sensor designed to detect humans. This sensor is a 10-gigahertz, or “X-band”, ground surveillance radar made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in Tel Aviv. The towers will be dotted along the US’s 3000-kilometre triple-layered border fence.

The radar will supplement acoustic and vibration sensors strewn around the border zone that pick up voices and footfalls, and will provide patrols with early warning of activity in the border area – as far as 10 kilometres from the fence. So says Mark Borkowski, who directs the SBInet project for the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency in Washington DC.

The idea is that robotic cameras will zoom in automatically on any activity detected by radar or sensors. “Then we classify the event to gauge our response: is it just a stray cow? A person? If so, are they carrying weapons or maybe drugs?” says Borkowski. “We’re not foolish enough to think a fence alone will work: we know people can build ramps and cut through it.”

A prototype SBInet system, based on nine temporary towers, has been tested on a 45-kilometre stretch of the US-Mexico border near Sasabe, Arizona, for the past three years. Called Project 28, it had problems: the X-band radar produced too much signal clutter from the ground, making it tough to detect human activity. And the satellite links it used took too long to send sensor data to base – so people had often disappeared by the time an alert was raised.

The radar has been modified and satellite links abandoned in favour of fast ground-based microwave links, says Tim Peters, Boeing’s SBInet project chief. The project moves to its deployment phase in mid-2010, when 17 permanent towers near Tucson will be turned on. Magnetic sensors will be added to detect vehicle movements and weapons, too. CBP is also trialling Predator drones on the border to feed surveillance pictures into SBInet.

IAI is a partner in the EU’s Transportable Autonomous Patrol for Land Border Surveillance (TALOS) programme, which eschews static ground sensors and border walls in favour of the aforementioned bug-eyed robots – replete with human-sensing radar – and aerial drones.

TALOS is needed because the expanded 27-nation EU has a porous eastern border that it cannot afford to monitor conventionally, says Agnieszka Spronska of the Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements (PIAP), based in Warsaw, Poland. PIAP is leading the 10-nation TALOS consortium, which is spending €20 million on developing the architecture for a mobile network of ground robots, drones and the command centres from which they are run.

“TALOS will be very scalable depending on the terrain – you can use as much of it as you need without static elements,” says Spronska. More than one ground robot will approach people, she says, as groups often split up.

More than one of the ground-based robots will approach people, as groups often split up

But where does this deep-probing 24/7 surveillance technology leave residents who are living near borders, in terms of privacy? “We protect the camera and sensor systems from any kind of illegal or unauthorised use,” says Borkowski. “But it is indeed a balancing act. People are right to be asking such questions.”

Issue 2742 of New Scientist magazine

From: Real News Network, November 2009

Dr. Dalit Baum teaches gender and the global economy at the Haifa University and Beit Berl college in Israel. A feminist anti-occupation activist, she has been a co-founder of Black Laundry, the Community School for Women and the Coalition of Women for Peace. Presently, she is the project coordinator of “Who Profits from the Occupation”, an activists’ research initiative of the Coalition of Women for Peace.

Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include international aid to the Palestinians and Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of the economy of the Israeli occupation.

Israel is the main foreign partner for the EU’s “framework programme” for scientific research, which has been allocated €53 billion between 2007 and 2013. The EU is the second only to the Israel Science Foundation in Jerusalem as a source of research funding for Israel…

Using the pretext of fighting terrorism, the EU has decided in recent years that arms companies are eligible to receive funding for “security research”. Ten of the 45 initial projects described by the EU as “security research” have involved Israeli companies, academic or state institutions…

See factsheet (pdf) produced for the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign by Dave Cronin, an Irish journalist living in Brussels. Dave’s book “Europe’s Unholy Alliance with Israel” will be published by Pluto Press during 2010.

ESRIF Final Report

The final report of the European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF) was published in December 2009. At 324 pages it’s going to take us some time to digest. A 3 page Executive Summary is also available. Expect many similarities with the volumes below.

The European Organisation for Security (EOS) – a lobby group created entirely on the back of the “public-private” partnership that is the European Security Research Programme – has issued a Position Paper on Priorities for a Future European Security Framework.

The position paper contains “common messages” and proposals for the “consistent development” and harmonization of the EU security market to be “suggested” to the EU Institutions and Member States. “The suggested priority actions, in particular the establishment of sector specific EU Security Programmes, will now be proposed for discussion to the new Commissioners and the European Parliament”.

The Position paper is based on a series of EOS white papers:

The positions of the European Commission and ESRP are in any case so close to those of EOS that many of its suggestions are already EU policy. In other words: as lobbying efforts go, much of what appears above is already a done deal.


“No matter where you are in the world the Security Jam is open to you. Whether you are in your office, at home, deployed in the field or travelling; this five day event is accessible anywhere through the internet. The Jam could, for instance, enable the commander of an EU naval vessel operating off the Horn of Africa to brainstorm with NGOs on the ground in Somalia, while also talking to UN development experts or government officials in Brussels, Washington or Djibouti”.

Concerned that the EU’s security policies and research agenda may be undemocratic? Well worry no more, at least you can “have your say” by participating in next month’s online “security jam”.

The event is supported by the EC, NATO, IBM, Thales and SDA. According to SDA, “Some 10-15,000 representatives and experts from around the world are due to take part in this ambitious online debate, with the aim of providing input into the strategy reviews and re-thinks being undertaken today”.

Click Here to Register your voice for the 2010 Security Jam“.

Then read the terms and conditions, which state that “it is not possible to register using a private email address (i.e. @yahoo.com, @hotmail.com or @gmail.com)”. Instead, “The Security Jam requires you to register using your professional email address in order to verify your organisational accreditation (e.g. EU, NATO, NGO, Think Tank, Government, Military, Industry, Academic Institution)”. So, no matter where you are in the world, it turns out that unless you are a pre-approved “security professional”, the security jam is probably closed to you.

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