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[] The Fear Factor: European Security Research Programme: The business side to the war on terror,

The Fear Factor

John Horvath   26.08.2004 

European Security Research Programme: The business side to the war on 

In the beginning of August, the Department of Homeland Security in the 
US raised its terror alert from yellow (elevated) to orange (high), 
meaning there is a high risk of a terror attack. As a result, armed 
police with machine guns stood at barricades in front of designated 
buildings in places like New York and Washington. 

Not only are many Americans confused by the alert system established in 
the wake of 9/11 -- namely the various colour schemes and what they 
entail -- but many have also grown weary of the repeated warnings. 
Indeed, the reaction to the August alert was one of skepticism, in that 
it was widely suspected that the Bush administration used the terror 
alert for political advantage. Such skepticism subsequently gained a 
measure of credibility as it later emerged that much of the 
intelligence that the terror alert was based on was dated -- up to 
three years old. Tom Ridge, the head of Homeland Security, simply 
responded by saying that although the intelligence may have been dated, 
his department only recently received it. 

A new mega-industry of fear is emerging 

While this latest political fiasco in the US can be said to be 
symptomatic of the Bush administration, it goes without saying that 
politicians the world over have been, in one way or another, also 
taking advantage of the recent wave of fear generated by the war on 
terror (as opposed to the terror itself). In many ways, it's a 
replication of the Cold War, the only exception being that the "enemy" 
isn't a recognised state power. This, in turn, makes this second Cold 
War ambiguous and one with potentially no end in sight. 

While many are aware of the political implications to the war on 
terror, few realise how governments and big business have been turning 
paranoia into profits. A new mega-industry has emerged, and many 
governments are now turning their attention -- and money -- to it. 

Because threats are supposedly very fluid and unpredictable in today's 
world, security is regarded as not purely a military matter, but one 
which requires the pooling of resources -- intelligence, police, 
judicial, economic, financial, scientific, and diplomatic -- all under 
the umbrella of modern technology. Consequently, with the increasing 
flexibility and complexity of modern technology, many new discoveries 
inevitably span both civilian and military fields. In other words, a 
device originally developed for security purposes could have commercial 
spin-offs. It's this potential for developing dual-purpose killer-apps 
which have governments and big business ploughing funds into the fear 

European security research 

As a result, in Europe a coherent strategy has been developed to 
coordinate all military and civilian research across the European Union 
(EU). This includes a billion-euro boost in research spending for 
security-related projects. Accordingly, EU member states will have 
their their security systems harmonised to create a single EU-wide 
security structure. This means networks to exchange information and run 
EU-wide crisis-management operations will be set up in addition to the 
coordination of all military, security, and civilian research. If all 
goes according to plan, a fully-fledged European Security Research 
Programme (ESRP) should be up and running in the EU by 2007. 

Unlike other research programmes adopted by the EU, this one would see 
governments more financially involved. The rationale for this is that 
since some of this research must be geared to government requirements 
and cannot be adapted for commercial use, up to 100% government funding 
may be needed. Moreover, in order not to be left behind, the ESRP's 
budget should match that of the Department of Homeland Security in the 
US. This would necessitate giving security research in the EU a boost 
of 1 billion euro per year. 

As with the defense industry, the fear industry is generally seen by 
pundits as good for industrial growth and the economy. Not only this, 
it's one of the few avenues of corporate welfare still left open to big 
business. What is more, with the increased sense of insecurity being 
peddled by politicians, it looks set to grow even further as technology 
is relied upon to detect and "neutralise" an increasing array of 
potential security threats. For the European Commission (EC) in 
particular, it's hoped that with its research experience and expertise 
in other fields such pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and 
telecommunications, Europe will be able to soon develop a top-class 
security system that it can then sell to governments elsewhere. 

In order to get things moving for this new security programme, the EU 
General Affairs Council already agreed back in November 2003 to create 
an agency to promote research for future defense needs. Its remit was 
to set up rules and procedures and build networks between sponsors, 
companies, research centers, and "customers" in the run-up to the 
launch of the ESRP. The ultimate aim is to nurture technologies that 
could have both civilian and military uses. 

Consequently, at the end of June this year a preparatory action was 
launched by the EC, resulting in a submission of around 175 proposals. 
Just over 70% of the proposals relate to technical mission-related 
research projects, addressing a wide range of security topics such as 
situation awareness, protection of networked systems, protecting 
against terrorism, crisis management, and interoperability. The 
remaining proposals relate to supporting activities such as studies on 
security research road maps, identification of critical areas and 
understanding human factors, as well as technical feasibility studies, 
awareness, and best practice activities. 

The proposals were submitted from a variety of sources. It should come 
as no surprise that large industry was well represented (including the 
aeronautics, information and communications technology, system 
integrators, and defense sectors). Most proposals originated from the 
EU-15, but the EC also points to "important participation" from the new 
member states of Central and Eastern Europe. 

Security technology produces new problems and binds resources 

Although the EC considers the preparatory action a relative success, if 
the EU wishes to eventually fund the full version of the ESRP, many 
existing research programmes will have to pay in terms of decreased 
support and slashed budgets; others may have to be abandoned 
altogether. In order to justify such a drastic move, the EC's response 
is simple: current research planning fails to promote dual purpose 
technologies, thereby missing out on some of the potential industrial 
innovations that could bring benefits across the board. 

Despite the promises of more security, on the one hand, and economic 
growth, on the other, what is missing in the overall equation are the 
people in the middle -- the citizenry -- who are supposed to gain an 
increased sense of security. Unfortunately, much of what is proposed is 
actually quite controversial as there are unresolved issues of privacy 
and confidentiality which must be dealt with first. 

Take, for instance, the notion of "information fusion". Information 
fusion basically means the collection and collation of data from many 
sources in order to yield intelligence. Examples include gathering 
information from sources such as telephone calls, hotel registrations, 
and airline bookings to identify individuals who may pose a terrorist 
threat, or analysing hospital admissions and sales of pharmaceuticals 
to warn of an unfolding biological attack. The problem here is that the 
distinction between "work as prescribed" and "work as practised" is 
frequently overlooked. 

Another concern is that this massive security programme is being 
developed not so much as to guard against terrorist attack, but to 
suppress domestic opposition, such as the anti-globalisation movement. 
For many heads of government, there is little distinction between 
terrorism and protest. Indeed, some have even gone so far as to 
categorise protesters as terrorists. 

Rather than concentrating on the symptoms of terror using 
state-of-the-art security systems -- which in a few years will be 
redundant anyway as those bent on wreaking havoc will use either new 
technology or the innovative application of so-called "primitive" 
methods -- more effort and resources should be put into dealing with 
its underlying causes. International terrorism, organised crime, and 
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are the three greatest 
fears Europeans have, this according to a recent EU poll. In 
particular, the set of threats governments the world over face are 
energy insecurity, nuclear proliferation, poverty, drought, and failed 

Given this, it's quite apparent that the problems facing the world 
today have more to do with the politics of colonialism and imperialism 
than with the need for a more robust security apparatus.

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