Tag Archives: protest

Science and The Arms Trade

Over at Idiolect Tom’s been having a running battle with Elsevier Science, the major science and medical publishers who also run the DSEi arms fair beginning in London next week. (Disarm DSEi, Campaign Against the Arms Trade ).

The Guardian reports that this week the world-leading medical journal The Lancet has just run an editorial criticising its own publishers for their involvement in the arms trade. It also published a letter by a number of leading academics, and a response from Elsevier.

I particularly like this line from the editorial board: “The arms industry draws vital investment away from the health budgets of low income nations.” because it sounds like the gearing up of inter-elite argument. There is no doubt that major health policy makers and major medical suppliers are among the readership; giving them some ammo against the arms lobby is really vital.

And, of course, the scarcely veiled threat in this line is exciting too: “We cannot believe that Reed Elsevier wishes to jeopardise that commitment by its presence in a business that so self-evidently damages its reputation as a healthscience publisher.”

And in Elsevier’s reply you can’t help thinking that the first draft went like this: “take real pride in the contribution they make to the important industries which we serve, of which science, medicine, and education are directed to the advancement of human wellbeing. In the interests of balance, it is essential, therefore, that we are heavily involved in an industry that acts precisely to the contrary of human welbeing.”

In terms of further campaigning, I suggest that every academic who comes across this page takes copies of the Lancet Editorial, the letter and reply to every senior academic they can find. Write to any journal you read and point out the Lancet story – the more journals that make some sort of statement, either publicly or in private letters to Elsevier, the shakier their board of governers are going to look.

Well done Tom!

In Case there was Any Doubt…

…that the police do, in fact, infiltrate small activist groups, here’s a selection of quotations from a well-informed paper from Studies in Conflict and Terrorism

“The security concerns [about infiltration] were openly discussed [by activists] and many critical analyses were offered locally and via the Internet. A particular effort was made to learn techniques for identifying law enforcement officers working in undercover capacities. This posed a serious concern for undercover officers, especially given the level of hatred many anarchists express toward the police.”


“Many law enforcement professionals view modern anarchists simply as a protest group. As long as the activity at large-scale protests is relatively contained and the protests do not devolve into riots, law enforcement may be tempted to ignore the movement. Violent revolutionary actions—including guerilla warfare—however, pose a threat to the communities and people that law enforcement officers are sworn to protect. To monitor that activity seems prudent”

And even…

“Infiltration into large affinity group meetings is relatively simple. However, infiltration into radical revolutionary ‘cells’ is not. The very nature of the movement’s suspicion and operational security enhancements makes infiltration difficult and time consuming. Few agencies are able to commit to operations that require years of up-front work just getting into a ‘cell’ especially given shrinking budgets and increased demands for attention to other issues. Infiltration is made more difficult by the communal nature of the lifestyle (under constant observation and scrutiny) and the extensive knowledge held by many anarchists, which require a considerable amount of study and time to acquire. Other strategies for infiltration have been explored, but so far have not been successful. Discussion of these theories in an open paper is not advisable.”

Notice, “few agencies are able … years of up-front work”. The implication of course, being that some are. Years of work? To infiltrate some anarchist commune with no telly or vacuum cleaner? Spend the days gardening and the nights getting drunk on homebrew and talking about revolution. Wonder how many go native?

Source: R. Borum & C. Tilby, 2005, “Anarchist Direct Actions: A Challenge for Law Enforcement” in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28:201–223, Routledge, London.

Nice one to Another Blog is Possible for putting the reference on Infoshop.

G8 Comes to Sheffield

So its not had the publicity attached to the big G8 event in Gleneagles, Scotland, next month, but it is now just two weeks until the justice and home affairs ministers of the G8 countries gather in Sheffield to swap notes and make plans.

I had heard that it would be just the G7 ministers (i.e. excluding Russia) coming along. If true this might let Russia off the hook, given today’s news that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a trenchent critic of Putin and the Kremlin, has been jailed for nine years. (Independent, Mosnews Interview) With minimal knowledge of the case I can’t help feeling deeply ambivalent. I’m all for billionaire oil tycoons who are convicted of fraud and tax evasion being locked up. I’d like to see more of it. Though the concern on everybody’s minds is, of course, that it was his funding of opposition political parties that really got him in trouble.

So, what’s on the agenda? The public information suggests that on the agenda for the Sheffield meeting is work on transnational organised crime and counter-terror measures. A sceptical glance at the thin details available publicly are as follows.

First up is counter-narcotics work in Afghanistan. The UK is supposed to be the lead nation here, but only last week was the subject of criticism by both the US and Hamid Karzai that it simply wasn’t doing its job properly.(Guardian)

Next, the curbing of immigration crime, focussing particularly on documentation. I can’t help suspecting that a focus on documentation is either a red herring, to stop us worrying about the 1,800 people currently locked up without trial or time limit in detention centres in the UK (with plans in progress for another 4,000 places). (Barbed Wire Britain) The alternative is, of course, that what they’ll actually be talking about is making everybody’s documentation less forgable, which suggests biometric data for all.

The final note is a mixed bag, “international law enforcement co-operation, focussing on child protection, the expanded use of DNA and the international illegal trade in firearms”. As I’m in skeptical mood I’ll just ask, why only firearms? The illegal trade in all grades of weapons continues apace, with London as the international centre for arms trading. (Noted in passing in today’s Independent, much more in relation to DSEIDisarm DSEI!.)

What’s not on the agenda? Well perhaps the major thing that’s missing is what plans the G8 ‘justice’ ministers have for the burgeoning network of torture centres they are maintaining in countries with less ‘respectable’ records on human rights. Are they going to talk about it? Work out who’s footing the bills? Who’s providing the soldiers? Worry about the reliability of the ‘evidence’ they are disclosing?

As I said, a skeptical look, and it is quite possible that they’ll come up with some valuable initiatives. However, with the quality of information publicly available, what they’ll actually be discussing is anybody’s guess. A couple of catchphrases and bureaucratic buzzwords is all we’re offered. The main criticism aimed at the actions of the G8 is currently a complete lack of transparency. And as yet, despite a smooth looking website and a charming picture of the PM, the UK presidency of the G8 does not look likely to open it up to any significant degree.

Further Information on the G8 in Sheffield

Some relevant national organisations