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High-tech War on Terror

  • October 18th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

images.jpgThe push for high-tech answers to the threat of terrorism has had another boost with EU15-million (A$25) in new funding.

Projects conducted by a mix of private and public consortia, from all 25 countries of the European Union, will include work on improved detection of explosives, in solid, vapour and liquid form.

That reminder of the recent disruption of traffic at London Heath Row Airport, on the threat of liquid explosives smuggled onto planes, is being complemented with scientific projects on sensing and decontamination to protect drinking water supplies; better germ warfare devices for detecting biologically harmful substances released into the air, or for identifying somebody in a crowd carrying dangerous material; and a system for testing the biometric components of new electronic passports.

Other new projects, out of a total of fifteen, will develop advanced information technology, for coordinating Europe’s border controls, and to improve the management of crisis situations by emergency services.

A further project to take on money laundering and terrorist financing, will go beyond the use of transaction data from banks, to include “use of demographics, social networks, lifestyle or cultural behaviours.”

The new funding forms part of a security allocation in the European Union’s forthcoming research and technology program, totaling appx. EU 1.35-billion (A$2.6-billion), for 2007-13. So security equals a good slice of the research pie.

It follows a security research initiative in 2004, where the European partners decided to target “organised crime, terrorism, state failure, regional conflicts and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, more or less on a war footing.

The project sets out to integrate all kinds of resources: the state security and legal services, economic and financial instruments, and technology. It mandates the inclusion of ethical provisions, demanding that projects be consistent with EU doctrine on human rights.

Security being now a high-expense industry, the bottom line is not overlooked. The governing European Security Research Advisory Board has instructions emanating from the European Commission, to consider both the needs of society, and the “global competitiveness of the European technology supply chain.”

Already-established projects in the Security Research program include work on a “robust” IT platform to protect banking and internet systems, described as an outcome that will be “open and originate from Europe – which will establish an alternative to proprietary US solutions expected to appear soon”.

Concerns about falling behind – behind the criminal threat, and behind the competition – are reflected in much of the language supporting this research.

Notes on building protection measures against chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear threats are candid: “Current European capabilities to detect and respond to the types of CBRN threats are very modest”.

Other work in the portfolio: a project on transport safety directly linked to the bomb attacks at Madrid and London, drawing together studies of railways infrastructure, surveillance, detection of explosives inside carriages, communication or protection systems, and architecture design; more on handprints screening and the like, under bio-testing; and new observation devices for allowing police to follow the movement of human beings hidden behind walls.

For reference:

Meeting the challenge: the European Security Research Agenda; a report from the European Security Research Advisory Board, September 2006; Luxembourg, European Communities, 2006. ISBN 92-79-01709-8

Preparatory Action for Security Research; PASR 2004, PASR 2005, synopsis of projects; European Commission, DR Enterprise and Industry, 2006.

(Picture: NASA)