Another surveillance project funded by the EU’s FP7 project that crosses the line into the realm of the ridiculous, reported this week by the Daily Telegraph in the UK.

There’s not much that can be said about the aims of this project that hasn’t already been said by those cited in the article, which is reproduced in full below. Following the Telegraph article is a video report from theglopalreport.org.

Telegraph logo

David Millward, Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2010 (click here for original article)

Airline passengers could have their conversations and movements monitored under a European Union project aimed at tackling terrorism.

Brussels is funding research at Reading University aimed at detecting suspicious behaviour on board aircraft.

It uses a combination of cameras, microphones, explosives detectors and a sophisticated computer system which would give a pilot early warning of any danger.

But the work has alarmed civil liberties campaigners who fear the growth of the surveillance state.

At present intelligent CCTV systems which monitor and analyse passenger behaviour using computer software are used in a number of airports across the world, including at Hong Kong and Washington DC. They are designed to pick up unusual or suspicious behaviour, such as a bag being abandoned.

Currently security on airplanes is mainly limited to a CCTV camera located by the cockpit.

But under the new system microphones would be installed and passenger conversations listened to for the first time. Suspect words and phrases would alert a monitoring system.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said: “Audio airline surveillance is the line that must never be crossed in a high security environment. Passengers must already face intolerable intrusions and restrictions on their movements. The day the airlines install hidden microphones on planes is the day that all trust in the airlines is destroyed.”

But the research also alarmed Gus Hosein a lecturer at the London School of Economics. “This is getting out of control. An airplane is not a privacy free zone.”

The Reading team, headed by James Ferryman, have already conducted trials of the camera system on a British Aerospace plane and the computer system on a mock Airbus.

“What we are doing is extending technology which is already used at airports and railway stations and placing it on an aircraft,” Dr Ferryman said.

Cameras dotted around an aircraft would look out for the abnormal, such as several passengers entering a lavatory at the same time or individuals seeming agitated.

One option would be to allocate some seats to passengers whose behaviour has already raised concern at the airport, so they could be monitored on board.

Microphones would eavesdrop for anything which could suggest terrorist behaviour. Inside the lavatories explosives sniffers would detect if a bomb was being assembled.

All this information would be analysed by computer and if it spotted something untoward, the flight deck would be told instantly.
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Join Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, and the folks from Security & Defence Agenda to answer a question the EU and the Homeland Security industry have long been answering with a resounding “yes”.  The roundtable “Does Europe need Homeland Security?” takes place in Brussels on 12 May 2010.

Session I – 12:30-14:00- Prospects for cooperation in building a European Homeland Security policy

Terrorist attacks in Europe since 9/11 have prompted greater efforts in European homeland security. What concrete achievements can EU governments and institutions point to? Is there now a greater coherence of national security policies in the EU, and what political will exists to go further towards creating a genuine EU strategy? How has the Lisbon treaty and the Commission portfolio reshuffle affected such a fundamentally inter-pillar issue, and should Europe consider creating a European Homeland Security Agency? What lessons can the EU draw from the US Department of Homeland Security experience?

Solvay SDA Members’ Lunch – 14:00 15:00

Session II – 15:00-16:30 – Security & resilience: the case of Critical Infrastructure Protection

Protecting critical infrastructures is the cornerstone of homeland security. To what extent have EU member states now agreed on a common definition of critical infrastructures with the design of new tools such as the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) and the Critical Infrastructure Warning Information Network (CIWIN)? Can Europe build a common framework that guarantees a better matching of needs and solutions in critical infrastructure protection? What role for NATO in CIP? Are public-private partnerships a viable option, and is it only larger companies that own critical infrastructures? In sectors as diverse as telecommunications, water, energy, transport and power, what terrorist attacks scenarios are being studied?

Click here for full Programme.

European Voice, 18 March 2010


comment article in today’s European Voice by Ben Hayes.

The inclusion of Israel in the European Security Research Programme undermines the EU’s commitment to even-handedness in the Middle East.

Since the European Community began funding research in 1984, both the amount of funding available and the range of topics on offer have steadily increased (the latest framework programme, FP7, has a seven-year budget of €53 billion). So has the participation of researchers from outside the EU in collaborative projects.

In per capita terms, no non-EU country has received more from the EU’s largesse than Israel. Indeed, the European Commission says that the EU is now second only to the Israel Science Foundation in Jerusalem as a source of research funding for Israeli academics, corporations and state enterprises.

More and more of that funding is finding its way to Israel’s already buoyant security sector. Israeli revenues from the export of counter-terrorism-related products now top $1bn annually, according to the Israeli government.

Since incorporating Israel into the ‘European research area’, the Commission has signed off on dozens of lucrative EU research contracts to the likes of Israel Aerospace Industries (a state-owned manufacturer of drones), Motorola Israel (producer of ‘virtual fences’ around Israeli settlements) and Elbit Systems (one of Israel’s largest private military technology firms, responsible for segments around Jerusalem of, to use the United Nation’s term, the separation wall constructed between Jewish and Palestinian communities).

Some 58 EU ‘security research’ projects have now also been funded under the new €1.4bn ‘security research’ component of FP7. Israeli companies and institutions are participating in 12 of these, leading and co-ordinating five of them. Only the UK, Germany, France and Italy lead more projects.

Among this latest tranche of contracts is a €9.1 million project led by Verint Systems that will deliver “field-derived data” to “crisis managers” in “command-and-control centres”. (These contracts tend to avoid phrases such as ‘surveillance’ and ‘homeland security’, substituting less emotive terms.)

Verint describes itself as “a leader in enterprise workforce optimisation and security intelligence solutions, including video intelligence, public safety and communication intelligence and investigative solutions”. What it primarily provides is workplace surveillance, CCTV and wire-tapping facilities. Verint is now effectively being subsidised by the EU to develop surveillance and communication systems that may ultimately be sold back to the member states.

The raison d’être for establishing the EU security research programme was to enhance the ‘industrial competitiveness’ of the nascent European ‘homeland security’ industry. The Commission argues that funding for Israeli ‘homeland security’ is wholly consistent with this aim (insofar as it will enhance Europe’s “knowledge base”).

But should the Commission be giving more money to Israel’s flourishing security sector than to its counterparts in most of the EU states?

More importantly, should it be subsidising it at all? Israel’s control of what remains of the Palestinian territories now depends as much upon the hardware and software provided by its ‘homeland security’ industry as its traditional military supremacy.

The EU therefore risks complicity in the actions of a military that frequently shows too little regard for the lives and livelihoods of civilians. And the EU’s subsidies make it appear less than even-handed in the peace process.

In the eyes of many Palestinians, it is already fundamentally compromised. Last September, Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief for a decade, told an audience in Jerusalem: “Israel is, allow me to say, a member of the European Union without being a member of the institutions.”

“No country outside the continent has the type of relations Israel has with the European Union,” he said, adding that Israel’s “relation today with the European Union is stronger than the relation of Croatia” (which still hopes for membership in 2011).

Solana apparently did not mind whether the EU appeared even-handed or not, or how its research budget was being spent. But do European taxpayers want the EU’s administrators to allocate their money to an industry at the heart of one of the bloodiest, most protracted and most sensitive geopolitical issues of our time?

Ben Hayes is a project director of the civil liberties group Statewatch and runs a blog on the EU Security Research Programme.

DETECTER is a three-year, university-led project that aims to co-ordinate and contribute work on detection technologies, counter-terrorism, ethics and human rights. It is funded under the security research component of the Fp7 programme. Representatives of the project have been speaking to the BBC:

The DETECTER project is certainly a most welcome initiative. But in the face of scores of EU funded-projects that call into question the EU’s commitment to ethical research and human rights, what we’d also like to see is a the creation of a standing committee with a DETECTER-like mandate to evaluate each and every ‘security research’ proposal before EU funds are committed.

This would see crucial legal and ethical issues take centre stage of the EU security research programme, instead of being bolted on as an afterthought as they have been in FP7.

For more information on DETECTER see the project website and blog.

Two upcoming international conferences on the theme of border controls showcase the people, organisations and corporations building the state apparatuses of the future – but who is holding them to account?

Border Security 2010 is a commercial venture of the SMI Group on “land, air and maritime border security issues” that also has a counter-terrorism and public order focus. The event is sponsored by a host of defence and Homeland Security companies and takes place in Rome on 3-4 March 2010, following “sell out events in Istanbul in 2008, and Warsaw in 2009”.

Keynote speakers include Edgar Beugels (Head of Research and Development Unit, Frontex), Keith Best, (UK Immigration Advisory Service) and Thomas Tass (Executive Director, Borderpol). The conference also includes presentations on:

  • The EFFISEC project (an FP7 project on checkpoint security)
  • ‘Border Violence’ (brought to you by the European office of the Department of Homeland Security)
  • EADS National Security Programme for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Uses for unmanned aerial systems [drones etc.] in Border Security Operations
  • Security Planning and Technological Application in International Major Events: The Italian G8 Summit Experience
  • NATO’s International Border Security Agenda
  • Biometric Technologies for Border Processing (from the EU-funded European Biometrics Forum)
  • Analysis of the Mumbai Terror Attacks
  • UK National Security & UK Maritime Security
  • See full programme (pdf)

For its 2011 event SMI plans “a special focus on the use of border management technologies” with “special insights into how different surveillance technologies are being used to aid decision making and improve security at all levels”. Heralding a new era of government by robot, ‘Border Security 2011’ will consider “how far the human factor is being replaced and what your role will be in the 21st century environment”.

This theme is taken up by the second event. Towards E-Borders: The impact of new technologies on border controls in the EU takes place at the Academy of European law in Trier on 22-23 April 2010. The seminar will “take stock of the use and the impact of new technologies on EU borders” and the “role of Frontex and Europol”. Speakers include:

  • Erik Berglund (Director of Capacity Building Division, Frontex Agency, Warsaw)
  • Roland Genson (Director, Police and Customs Cooperation, Schengen Directorate, General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, Brussels)
  • Julie Gillis and Ian Neill (Director and deputy, e-Borders Programme, UK)
  • Jean-Dominique Nollet, Head of Analysis, Serious Crime Department, Europol)
  • Frank Paul (Head of Unit, Large-scale IT-systems and Biometrics, Directorate-General Justice, Freedom and Security, European Commission)

Dutch counter-terrorism game

On 22 December 2009 Stichting DubbelX-Alternative View in Amsterdam launched a new internet game about the EU’s Security and Defence Policy. It was developed with the support of the ‘Europe Fund’ of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It’s objective is “to reach people who don’t read books or articles about the subject but who may be tempted to learn something about the subject through playing a game”.

The game is available on www.benjij007.nl (are you 007?). You need to understand Dutch to play it (an English translation is apparently on its way). “In the game the EU Anti-Terrorism Coordinator sends you on a mission to prevent a terrorist attack with a dirty nuclear bomb on one of Europe’s cities. While chasing the terrorists around the world you are fed with information about the EU’s security and defence policy. The game ends with a report about your qualities as an agent, invites you to deepen your knowledge and gives some suggestions to do it”.

Useful educational and counter-terrorism tool or shameless piece of state-sponsored, fear-mongering propaganda?

If only I could speak Dutch…

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.

Statement from ACLU dated 4 January 2010

NEW YORK – The Obama administration announced Sunday it will subject the citizens of 14 nations who are flying to the United States to intensified screening at airports, including being subjected to full-body pat downs or body scanners. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the government should adhere to longstanding standards of individualized suspicion and enact security measures that are the least threatening to civil liberties and are proven to be effective. Racial profiling and untargeted body scanning do not meet those criteria.

“We should be focusing on evidence-based, targeted and narrowly tailored investigations based on individualized suspicion, which would be both more consistent with our values and more effective than diverting resources to a system of mass suspicion,” said Michael German, national security policy counsel with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office and a former FBI agent. “Overbroad policies such as racial profiling and invasive body scanning for all travelers not only violate our rights and values, they also waste valuable resources and divert attention from real threats.”

According to the ACLU, the government’s plan to subject citizens of certain countries to enhanced screenings is bad policy, because there is no way to predict the national origin of a terrorist and many terrorists have come from countries not on the list. For instance, the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid is a British citizen, as were four of the London subway bombers, and in 2005 a Belgian woman launched a suicide attack in Iraq.

“Singling out travelers from a few specified countries for enhanced screening is essentially a pretext for racial profiling, which is ineffective, unconstitutional and violates American values. Empirical studies of terrorists show there is no terrorist profile, and using a profile that doesn’t reflect this reality will only divert resources by having government agents target innocent people,” said German. “Profiling can also be counterproductive by undermining community support for government counterterrorism efforts and creating an injustice that terrorists can exploit to justify further acts of terrorism.”

In addition to racial profiling, some have called for the across-the-board implementation of full body scanners, which present serious threats to personal privacy and are of unclear effectiveness. According to a UK Independent report on Sunday, British officials have already tested the scanners and were not persuaded that they would be effective for stopping terrorist threats to planes. And according to security experts, the explosive device used in the attempted attack on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day would not have been detected by the body scanners.

“We shouldn’t complacently surrender our rights for a false sense of security, and we should be very leery of being sold a device presented as a cure-all, especially when the evidence shows just the opposite,” added German. “If scanners and other intrusive procedures are used, it should be with their limitations in mind and only when there is reason to believe that an individual poses an increased risk to flight safety, not as blanket measures applied to millions of innocent travelers.”

In November 2009, the International Society of Military Sciences held its first annual conference on the theme of “Security in 2020 in a Multi Polar World”. The Society was established “to further research and academic education in military arts and sciences in the broadest sense”.

Here’s some ‘highlights’ from the conference:

  • Painless war: An illusory pipe-dream or a practice-based development? [Col. (ret.) Dr. Jan van Angeren (Netherlands Defence Academy]: There is a lot of attention from western media for the enemy’s pain (collateral damage, civilian casualties). Therefore, military forces are less inclined to inflict “pain” and more careful how to inflict it (e.g. precision bombardments etc.). There is a need for force in war, not only to defeat the enemy but to hurt (punish) him and to threaten him with. Because of the need of force in war and our disinclination to use it, our credibility to engage in coercive strategies is undermined.
  • Developing Future Counterinsurgency Doctrine [Dr. James Corum (Baltic Defense College)]: As a military we love “rapid, decisive operations,” yet there are no quick fixes in COIN and irregular warfare. Lead document: FM 3-24 – Strategic and Operational Requirements for COIN
  • Hybrid Wars (Leadership in contemporary armed forces) [Prof. Eyal Ben –Ari (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)]: Face of war/paradigm shift is cumulative/incremental. Changed context: Casualty aversion, Military humanitarianism, Media wars, Global Surveillance; Internal changes: Loose and temporary coalitions, ‘Hyphenated’ roles, Amalgamated organization, Privatization; Changed frameworks: Gender, Technology, Education, (Sex-Orientation); Challenges: Leaders as Center of Gravity, Career path (different influences) instead of Career Ladder
  • Surveillance systems with Multi-modal Sensors [Dr. Ir. Zhenke Yang (Delft University)]: Dr. Yang gave an interesting presentation about his promotion subject, which he had just finished. He studied the detection of aggression in trains by using camera’s and microphones. The goal was to decrease the human watch keeping, which is very expensive. He created a software model, which was able to detect aggression by only using these two sensors. When aggression was detected a watch keeper was informed. This application, although context sensitive, could be useful in military surroundings.
  • Self-Location of Sensors in Networks of Randomly Distributed Sensors [Ir. R.R. Hordijk (Netherlands Defence Academy)]: Mr. Hordijk gave an enthusiastic technical, presentation about his research. These days, sensors are getting so small that they could be thrown as a ‘cloud of smart dust’ in any location to gather information about this location (i.e. a conflict zone or an unknown area to measure temperature, pressure etc.). The problem he solved was how to find out the location of each sensor (or node). He created a model, using the ‘Hop-count-method’, to find out the distance to any node in the field.
  • Role of tissue simulants and their physical properties in the evaluation of non-lethal weapons [Dr. L. Koene (Netherlands Defence Academy)]: Dr. Koene gave a technical presentation about his research concerning mechanical non-lethal weapons. In his research he used ballistic gelatin as a tissue simulant for the human body.
  • Distinguishing extremism from terrorism: implications for social policy and military strategy [Shahzad Shafqat (University of Cambridge – UK)]: Words carry meaning; There is no exact definition for extremism; There are all kinds of extremisms (all kinds of extreme behavior): for example extreme ironing (just Google it…); Experiment result: the given background information determines whether extremism is seen as terrorism. The give background information shapes our response more than the act itself. So context is important; Without “threat” extremism isn’t terrorism
  • Perfect soldiers of the future: on chemical enhancement of the American military [Dr. Lukasz Kamienski (University of Krakow)]: Five area’s for future transformation of soldiers: (1) drugs (2) genetic engineering (3) cyber war soldier (4) robots (5) nanotechnology; Drugs for enhancing stamina of injured soldiers, against fatigue, suppressing battle stress, overcoming limitations of body and sleep-action regulation; Doping which are designed for sports (and can’t be used) are used by soldiers; Amphetamines (go-pills) for endurance for missions longer than 8 hours; Danger of genetic engineering; Genetic engineering will lead to redesigning human nature and therefore change nature of war. We are entering post-human era; It will lead to virtualization of war. Redesigned warriors will  become deadly machines; These solutions benefit tactics, not strategic thinking; Discussion: is a drug really that different from using a tool of weapon? Is both enhances our abilities to work, function or fight; Conclusion: chemical solutions are only temporarily effective. Let us keep it that way.

Soldiers on drugs? Surely it’ll never catch on…

Read the full proceedings here (word doc).

A report published last week by the Institute of Race Relations finds that the government’s Prevent programme for tackling extremism fosters division, mistrust and alienation. The report suggests that the Prevent programme has been used to establish one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain.

A report published last week by the Institute of Race Relations finds that “the government’s Prevent programme for tackling extremism fosters division, mistrust and alienation”. The report also suggests that “the Prevent programme has been used to establish one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain”. See press release and full text of the IRR report: http://www.irr.org.uk/2009/october/ak000036.html.

The report’s key findings are that:

  • Prevent-funded voluntary sector organisations and workers in local authorities are becoming increasingly wary of the expectations on them to provide the police with information on young Muslims and their religious and political opinions.
  • The atmosphere promoted by Prevent is one in which to make radical criticisms of the government is to risk losing funding and facing isolation as an ‘extremist’, while those organisations which support the government are rewarded.
  • Local authorities have been pressured to accept Prevent funding in direct proportion to the numbers of Muslims in their area – in effect, constructing the Muslim population as a ‘suspect community’.
  • Prevent decision-making lacks transparency and local accountability.
  • Prevent has undermined progressive elements within the earlier community cohesion agenda and absorbed from it those parts which are most problematic.
  • The current emphasis of Prevent on depoliticising young people and restricting radical dissent is actually counter-productive because it strengthens the hands of those who say democracy is pointless.

Author of the report, Arun Kundnani, says that: ‘The stated aim of the government’s counter-terrorist strategy is to enable people to ‘go about their lives freely and with confidence’. The question we pose in this report is whether freedom and confidence for the majority can be enabled by imposing a lack of freedom and confidence on a minority – in this case, the Muslim population of Britain”.

The same question may be levelled at the EU, which adopted its own “radicalisation and recruitment” programme in 2005 in the wake of the Madrid and bombings. In its Communication on ‘terrorist recruitment’ (COM (2005) 313), the Commission suggested that the EU could address ‘incitement’ to terrorism in the media, on the internet, in schools (where ‘youngsters’ often ‘fall prey to violently radical ideas’) and in local communities (by promoting European ‘values’ through ‘inter-cultural dialogue’).

The implementation of these proposals should be subject to the same kind of radical interrogation as IRR’s treatment of the Prevent programme.