Securing everything

Counter-Terror Expo protest banner

Counter-Terror Expo protest banner (source: Demotix)

Demotix reports that a small group of protesters gathered outside Kensington Olympia yesterday to speak out against the Counter Terror Expo 2010 in London. There was a strong police presence inside and outside the event and one protester was arrested for writing “No more death for profit” and “Capitalism sucks” on the ground in front of the entrance.

The exhibition is sponsored by arms company Thales and organised by Clarion Events [responsible for Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi), the world’s largest arms fair and a long-standing target of anti-arms trade campaigners] and officially supported by a host of military, police and private security organisations. It features over 250 exhibitors, including leading arms companies such as BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, and is formally endorsed by the likes of the MoD and NATO.

You can read more about the goings on at the Counter-Terror Expo 2010 in SchNEWS and on Open Democracy, where Clare Sambrook has taken a close look at New Labour’s cosy relationship with the surveillance and detention industry.

The Breaking of Nations
Caroline Ashton, Robert Cooper and his book

Another decent article from Dave Cronin, this time for the Samosa, looking at the career path of Baroness Catherine Ashton, once the treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and now the EU’s first ‘foreign minister’ (or High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to use her official title).

Among Ashton’s new team is Robert Cooper, Director-General for External and Politico-Military Affairs in the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. Prior to taking up his post in the EU, Cooper was Tony Blair’s chief confidant on foreign policy.

According to the Samosa:

After helping pave the way for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (though Cooper was no longer in London when the latter war was declared, he assisted Blair during its preparatory stages), he explained his worldview in the equally erudite and accessible book The Breaking of Nations.

It suggested that a new ethos of imperialism, which emphasises voluntary action over coercion, should be developed for the 21st century. Cooper cited the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as institutions that provide “a limited form of voluntary empire”, without expressing any concern about the misery they have inflicted on the world’s poor by insisting that governments serve the interests of the markets, rather than those of their own citizens.

Cooper has close contacts with some of the more hawkish US representatives in Europe. In 2008, he wrote a pamphlet with Ronald Asmus, Brussels director with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and an inveterate defender of Israeli aggression. Cooper’s contribution to that pamphlet displayed how he is in awe of American hegemony. “What is the point of the Belgian army today?” he asked. “It is not to defend Belgium, since no one is going to attack it. Rather it is to demonstrate a sufficient commitment to ‘the West’ that friends and allies, above all the USA, will be there if ever Belgium should need help.”

The EU can in some respects be likened to an empire; it is a structure that sets standards of internal governance but in return offers its members a share in the decision-making, a place in the commonwealth. Across central Europe, countries have rewritten constitutions and changed laws to conform to European standards. This is a kind of regime change, but it is chosen, legitimate. This represents the spread of civilisation and good governance in lasting form.

With no prospect of regime change in the EU institutions, we can look forward to the spread of neoconservative Eurocentricism for years to come.

The Civil Contingencies 2010 conference was held in London earlier this week. It featured “20 expert speakers” and “numerous carefully selected suppliers” in the business of preparing for “major disruptions”. The discussion ranged from “the current flu pandemic to severe weather, widespread flooding, the risks posed by a changing climate and malicious threats”.

The event promised “a crucial opportunity for delegates to connect with speakers, policy setters and key drivers of the government agenda”, with the exhibition area offering “unrivalled opportunities to network with over 25 suppliers, service providers and stakeholders”.

Civil Contingencies 2010 - Tackling tomorrow's threats


The Guardian reports today that “Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan” as part of a “national strategy developed by arms manufacturer BAE Systems” and “a consortium of government agencies”. You can read the full article here.

The “national strategy” to which the Guardian refers is actually the ASTRAEA project, a £32 million ‘public-private’ partnership that has been funded as part of the UK’s National Aerospace Technology Strategy. ‘NATS’, as the strategy is known, is an industry-led government initiative adopted in 2004. By the end of 2008, the initiative had attracted some £464 million in collaborative R&D funding for 70 individual programmes.

So while none of this exactly ‘news’, credit to the Guardian for its freedom of information request and provocative reporting. The comments on its article certainly show the strength of feeling against the use of drones/UAVs in the UK.

By way of clarification, there are actually two types of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs): (i) the armed and unarmed ‘drone’ planes’ to which the Guardian report refers, and (ii) much smaller miniature spy planes. The latter are basically remote-controlled aircraft fitted with cameras and are already in use in the UK and other countries.

Annotated image labeling components of police drone

The military drones the Guardian is reporting on are currently prohibited from flying in European airspace because of well-founded concerns about potential collisions with traditional aircraft. The air traffic control community is particularly suspicious, and demands that UAVs adhere to the same safety standards as their manned counterparts, which some argue render UAV systems too expensive to implement. I’d be very surprised if the “sense and avoid” systems for these kind of drones will be licensed in time for the 2012 Olympics, but governments and the aerospace industry are certainly throwing money at the problem and can be relied upon to lobby hard when the technology is in place.

One of the reasons for setting-up this blog is to show how the arms industry is trying to cash-in on all things “security”. This includes everything from pandemics to paramedics. DITSEF is a new three year, €2.8 million EU funded project on “Digital and innovative technologies for security and efficiency of first responders operation” (Project Reference: 225404).

The DITSEF consortium claims that “The main problem of First Responders (FR) (fire fighters, police, etc…) in case of crisis at critical infrastructures are the loss of communication and location and the lack of information about the environment (temperature, hazardous gases, etc.)”.

The DITSEF project is led by Sagem Défense Sécurité and includes European arms giants Finmeccanica and EADS, as well as TNO, the Dutch defence research institute. The consortium does not include any “first responders”.

The recently released synopsis for the EU contract for the 3.3 million Euro ARGUS 3D project, led by SELEX Sistemi Integrati (a Finmeccanica company), is so badly written that it is difficult to ascertain exactly what the project is about:

Objective: The project aims to improve the detection of manned and unmanned platforms by exploiting the treatment of more accurate information of cooperative as well as non-cooperative flying objects, in order to identify potentially threats. The scope will be reached by managing the 3D position data in region including extended border lines and large areas, 24 hours a day and in all weather conditions, derived from enhanced existing Primary Surveillance Radar (PSR), together whit conventional data and information coming via various passive radar technique in order to extend the airspace coverage and to enhance the target recognition capability of the surveillance systems. Thus, the security could be enhanced in large areas, at sustainable costs, by improving the recognition of non-cooperative target through more accurate information on it s characteristics and/or more accurate positioning.

The project clearly concerns the development of some kind of radar system. Perhaps they mean the protection of manned and unmanned platforms, in which case it has something to do with oil rigs and such like? Or maybe it’s something to do with the detection of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) that pose some kind of threat? Whatever this project is about, it smells a whole lot like military research, in which case it clearly should not have been funded under the ESRP. Here’s a Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems press release that may or may not be about the same kind of technology? Any information as to what this is actually all about gratefully received…

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.


During their campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, the Irish government, the European Commission and the EU Council went to great pains to stress that “the Treaty of Lisbon does not provide for the creation of a European army” (see for example EU Council Conclusions of 29 June 2009).

The Lisbon Treaty does, however, provide for an EU military command, EU military operations and EU military procurement. Lisbon also integrates the nascent EU military apparatus into a new integrated foreign policy framework covering external and diplomatic relations as well as military and non-military EU crisis management operations.

According to Defence News, the European Defence Agency has just launched a joint investment program in “unmanned underwater systems” (robotic submarine vessels) worth about 60 million euros over the next three years. A ‘European Air Transport Fleet’ is also on the EU’s shopping list. Fourteen of the EU’s 27 defence ministers have signed a letter of intent to establish a European Air Transport Fleet “based on the A400M military transport plane and other aircraft such as the C130”. Initially the idea is to make existing aircraft available through the EU to those countries that do not own them themselves. In the longer-term, France and Germany would like to develop a 32- to 35-ton “future transport helicopter” for EU forces.

As the EU continues to take gradual steps toward outright militarisation, so the calls for the EU to use its military muscle grow louder and more frequent. The Royal Institute for International Affairs of Belgium, for instance, argues that now the EU has agreed on the ‘means’ of security and defence, it needs to start defining the ‘ends’.

“[The EU] won’t have an influence on a global level, nor will it be independent, be a reference for stability or a key factor for peace, unless [it] is able to secure its own defence by its own means in an autonomous and sufficient way”, is another familiar argument.

The European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) also argues that a “More Assertive Europe Is Needed” or it risks “irrelevance on the global stage”.  According to the ECFR, the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States has had its day and Washington is now looking instead to Brussels. Feeling confident enough to speak for the Obama administration, the report claims that “Washington is disappointed with Europe and sees EU member states as infantile: responsibility shirking and attention seeking.” What is needed, argue the authors of the ECFR report, is “a shift in European behavioral psychology… Europe needs to develop habits of discussing big strategic issues as Europeans in the European Union”.

See “Towards a post-American Europe: A power audit of EU-US relations” (dated 2 Nov. 2009) for the full ECFR report.

Despite a waning of the initial hysteria and expert studies suggesting that the H1N1 pandemic may not be as bad as feared, security consultants like SRA continue to argue that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. Here’s a taste of their latest warning (dated November 2009):

– An estimated 25 percent of businesses never reopen in the wake of a major disaster, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety.

– The H1N1 virus poses a serious risk to the United Kingdom’s economy and it could reduce the Gross Domestic Product of the U.K. by as much as 3 percent

– estimates indicate that up to 15 percent of European workers will be absent from the workplace at the pandemic’s peak. These estimates may be conservative

As SRA explains: “Public health professionals look at pandemic flu and see a public health emergency. Critical infrastructure protection professionals look at pandemic flu and see the potential for economic calamity”. To which we might add: security consultants and pharmaceutical companies see the opportunity for a big profit. While we’re very glad that health professionals have taken the outbreak seriously, is anyone else uncomfortable about the EU Centre for Disease Prevention and Control‘s embrace of Donald Rumsfeldesque rhetoric in its May 2009 report “Influenza Pandemics: Known Facts and Known Unknowns“?

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