Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Security precautions for London 2012 include the construction of a 17.5 km, 5,000volt electric fence, topped with 900 daylight and night vision surveillance cameras spaced at 50 metre intervals. On first sight of the fence you could be forgiven for thinking you had slipped through a wormhole in the space-time continuum to find yourself on the perimeter of a Soviet era Gulag. Mike Wells investigates security for the Olympic games.
The Code of Practice for the operating CCTV at the London Olympics states that:
The threat of hostile individuals attempting to gain access through the perimeter is believed to justify the use of CCTV
As part of the Command Perimeter Security System, CCTV will be deployed.
Security Fence: The 17.5 km fence has 900 day and night vision cameras and is topped with many strands of 5,000 volt electrified wire. It gives the feeling of a prison rather than of a party venue. © Mike Wells
A new genre of military futurology has emerged which owes as much to apocalyptic Hollywood movies as it does to the cold war tradition of ‘scenario planning. Often outlandish and bizarre in its prophecies, and always dystopian, this new military futurism sees threats to the western way of life emanating not only from rogue states, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism but also from resurgent nationalism, conflicts over dwindling resources, migration, disease, organised crime, abrupt climate change and the emergence of failed cities where social disorder is rife.
Other security measures to be implemented for London 2012 will include facial and iris recognition, finger-print and hand recognition, guards with attack dogs and search dogs. New software is planned to integrate all of London's CCTV cameras, and will have the capability to follow you through the city. A scheme to search people and vehicles will include machines capable of looking through your clothing. The Air Force will deploy its Reaper pilot-less drone aircraft, which will carry laser-guided bombs and missiles including the Hellfire air-to-ground weapon. While on the Thames, the Royal Navy will deploy its new £1 billion Daring class Type 45 destroyer. These are also to be fitted with laser-guided missile systems able to shoot down a target the size of a cricket ball.
It is rumoured the London’s Met Police are planning to use remotely controlled mini aeroplanes with surveillance cameras (spy drones) at the Olympics. A company likely to supply the equipment is AirRobot UK Ltd. Air Robot UK’s website tells us that…
AirRobot UK was chosen as the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] system to cover aerial surveillance at the London Olympics 2012 Handover Ceremony during the late summer of 2008. The system was deployed at The Mall and Buckingham Palace to provide real time images to emergency services at the event. (2)
The Home Office website alleges that...
Ensuring the safety and security of the 2012 Games will be one of the largest, most complex security challenges the UK has ever faced.
The Home Office’s suggestion appears an overstatement. Securing Britain form Nazi Germany during the second world war, and preventing global nuclear destruction during the Cold War would fit their description, but as Matt Carr comments… In recent years, the military establishments of the US and the UK have produced a series of reports that attempt to ‘think the unthinkable in imagining future threats to the security of the West.
The Olympic Act, which sets out various laws relating to the Olympics, gives the right of forced entry into private property to remove unauthorised advertising or protest banners. Even more worrying is that the right of forced entry is extended outside the police force to staff contracted to the ODA.
According to The Times security measures for the London Olympics will include the nationwide use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, allowing police stop and search without suspicion. The London Olympics and its security does not exist in isolation but in a continuum of increasing state surveillance and security hysteria. Any extra powers gained by the state over the citizenry should ring alarm bells because of the danger they will become accepted and permanent.
A subcategory of Military Futurism known as Red Teaming is a way of assessing your own security from the point of view of those who would attack you, as though you are your own enemy. It is promoted as a way of thinking without preconceptions or boundaries. Red Team journal comments that …
[S]ome events also are so unlikely that their very randomness lowers all obstacles to them occurring. […] This poses a particular problem for red teaming and threat analysis. How can we plan for every conceivable scenario? Or, to take a different tack, should we? Being strong everywhere means being weak everywhere. One can easily drain organizational resources planning for “movie-plot” WMD terrorism only to be surprised by a group of men with machine guns. But protecting the national interest is a [sic] task that must be accomplished regardless of human weakness.(4)
The idea that we should “protect the national interest regardless of human weakness” sounds more like a line from a Hollywood B movie than something that should be taken seriously by government agencies, and yet looking at the development of the London Olympic Security one can imagine this is a way of thinking that has taken root.
Emergency services anti-terror exercise.: Simulation of a biochemical attack.
having analyzed past and planned Olympics and other mega events, from a variety of historical and international perspectives, we recognize:
* that recent Games have increasingly taken place in and contributed to a climate of fear, heightened security and surveillance; and * that this has often been to the detriment of democracy, transparency and human rights, with serious implications for international, national and local norms and laws.
These academics seem to have a point. Extrapolating further along the graph of surveillance and securitisation one would predict that the military/security/prison industrial complex will become increasingly embedded, effective and difficult to dislodge. What would satiate the appetite of this sector of the state apparatus would logically be a point at which dissent becomes impossible.
Military futurism’s predictions of a dysfunctional society full of threats could be a self-fulfilling prophesy, because as it attempts to do the impossible, in “protecting” from all “conceivable scenarios”, it must necessarily turn us all into suspects. Hence it has to reduce our trust in each other, and eventually in the state apparatus itself. London’s police force recently refused a Freedom of Information Request on their plans to use spy drones, saying that
this [their reply] should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.
In other words this is secret. AirRobot UK’s drone is small, silent and difficult to spot. It can also be landed (perched) in hidden locations such as rooftops in order carry out covert surveillance.
MI6 Building: Also known as the British Secret Intelligence Service Building at Albert Embankment in London
Enhanced by new technology Britain seems to be sleep walking towards a big-brother state, which is camouflaging itself as means of protecting ordinary “hard working families”. Yet life cannot exist without risk and in this case trying to eliminate risk carries the greater danger of dis-empowering and separating us from each other while at the same time leaving a window of opportunity for a small elite to monitor and control us.
Perhaps the cherry on the surveillance cake, and a technology that could eventually make dissent difficult, is Threat Assessment and Behavioral Analysis Software. This new innovation has the ability to monitor CCTV images and recognise patterns of behavior. It is reported to be under consideration for the London Olympics (3).
Text and photos © Mike Wells firstname.lastname@example.org
References Slouching Towards Dystopia: the new military futurism by Matt Carr in Journal of Race and Class. Jan 2010; 51: 13-32
(1)Olympic-park-site-CCTV-code-of-practice.pdf (2) http://www.airrobot-uk.com/air-robot-news.htm (3) http://www.reading.ac.uk/api/api-threat.aspx (4)http://redteamjournal.com/2009/03/military-futurism/
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Monday, 4 April 2011
Over the course of two months - Andrew Robertson and Philip Mortiboy conducted research for the over 50s campaign and support organisation Wise Owls to see if London Borough or English County Councils were being ageist in their recruitment and redundancy practices. Using the Freedom of Information to secure data from the councils, the findings made stark reading if your an older worker.
In October 2010, we contacted all the FOI teams of all the London Borough and English County Councils requesting the age diversity of their staff including the age spread of those recruited and made redundant in the last year. The age breakdown was under 25, 25-49, 50-64, 65+.
The data revealed that over 50s made up on average nearly 60% of all redundancies within the councils. This is over three times the average of the UK workforce nationally, which also shows over 50s redundancies across the UK to be at their worst rate for over a decade (ONS). These figures come at a time when massive cuts are still to take place throughout the public sector, leaving older workers on the fearful for their future.
This calculation is not simply a calculation of the percentage of all redundancies within the workforce that are over 50. It is calculated based on the existing over 50 workforce, so the age structure of the workforce is already taken into account
Further condemnation focussed on the recruitment practices of the councils after FOI data showed the over 50s are less than half as likely to be recruited than the under 50s. The proportion of new recruits to the councils in the last year who were over 50 accounted for as little as 18% of recruits for County councils just and 10% of recruits in London Boroughs. This is despite 35% of the councils’ workforce being made up of over 50s.
A further blow to the job security of older workers is the liklihood of over 50s finding reemployment. Analysis of the ONS data showed that since the recession began, the reemployment rate of over 50s has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. In the ‘boom’ years of 2004-2006, over 50s accounted for over 20% of all reemployment nationally. In the last year that figure fell to 16%.
It is clear that age is now the leading factor in making staff redundant and that it is the over 50s women and men from all backgrounds who will take the biggest hit from the Coalition’s cuts.
Chris Walsh the Director of Wise Owls, said: ‘There seems to be a complacency within government that by forcing staff aged 50+ to take redudancy it will be less painful than for younger workers.'
The research was carried out as part of Wise Owls wider ‘Age Equality’ campaign aimed at promoting age diversity in the workplace, demanding that the government carry out an Age Equality Impact Assessment to include an age audit of employees across the public sector.
Currently the government has failed to analyse the impact of the cuts on age, either in relation to the numbers being laid off or by those who suffer from the impact of the cuts in public services. There are no existing government baseline figures to show whether age equality in the workplace is improving or getting worse. The lack of interest in the matter was highlighted when the Shadow Solicitor General Catherine McKinnell asked the Chief Secretary Danny Alexander if " he will estimate the proportion of those made redundant in the public sector during the comprehensive spending review period who will be aged 50 or over at the time of being made redundant?" His response was brief. The Office for Budget Responsibility has not published forecasts for individual age groups. It will be for individual employers to determine the exact work force implications of their settlements."