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Shining a light on Raytheon

SOLOMON HUGHES explores the growth of a new security-industrial complex and its unique mixture of the sinister and the incompetent

Last month the newspapers had a brief flurry about an immigration computer "shambles."

Labour's Yvette Cooper accused Home Secretary Theresa May of presiding over a "catalogue of chaos" because the "e-borders" system didn't work.

E-borders is supposed to check people in and out of the country and pass on electronic messages to crimebusting officers.

But Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine found that more than 649,000 alerts about potential drug and tobacco smuggling into Britain had been deleted from e-borders without being read.

This had a "significant impact" on officers' ability to arrest smugglers.

Vine said that "despite being in development for over a decade and costing over half-a-billion pounds, the e-borders programme has yet to deliver many of the anticipated benefits originally set out in 2007."

Everybody agreed this was a "shambles." Cooper tried blaming the Conservatives and the Daily Mail tried blaming Tony Blair's government, which launched the e-borders scheme.

But for all their hyperventilating, the Mail, the Star, the Express and the Telegraph said nothing about the firm at the centre of the cock-up - Raytheon.

For newspapers, rules about "human interest" and "colour" mean they will write about the most trivial aspects of a politician's life - May's shoes or Cooper's haircut. But anything about a multinational corporation gets shoved into the business pages, even if it is at the centre of the story.

Which means they miss the truth. They don't report the growth of a new security-industrial complex, ignoring its unique mixture of the sinister and the incompetent.

Raytheon was hired to run the e-borders system in 2007. But in 2010 it was sacked.

Then immigration minister Damian Green said: "The Home Secretary has no confidence in the prime supplier of the e-borders contract, Raytheon, which since July 2009 has been in breach of contract."

Some of us predicted its failure because when Raytheon was appointed it was already involved in US-Visit, a US equivalent of e-borders.

US-Visit experienced very similar problems. But Labour could not spot this forthcoming failure because the party had fallen in love with corporations. It was ready to be wooed by Raytheon, ignoring its murky past.

Raytheon became a big arms contractor in the age of defence electronics, building its business in missiles and aircraft. The Patriot missile is the most famous of its many products.

After September 11 2001 it worked hard to build more business in the "war on terror."

This always meant influence-peddling - Raytheon was one of new Labour's first corporate donors, giving the party £5,000 in 1999.

Raytheon has always hired key government officials. Raytheon's US board includes George W Bush's former national security adviser Stephen Clark, alongside two former members of the joint chiefs of staff - Admiral Vern Clark and General James E "Hoss" Cartwright.

Until he retired last year, Sir Robert Hayman-Joyce chaired Raytheon's British board. He was formerly Britain's deputy head of defence purchasing.

Raytheon's political links sometimes smell wrong. In 2000 a scandal erupted in South Korea when it was revealed that Defence Minister Lee Yang Ho sent love letters to a Raytheon lobbyist at the same time as awarding the firm a $210 million contract for equipment to spy on North Korea.

Raytheon's deal-maker, Korean-American Linda Kim, ended a letter to the minister with the words: "I love you."

In return, minister Lee wrote "to lovely Linda ... let me know as soon as you sign the contract."

He also wrote to Kim with a plea to "let us make joint efforts not to forget our pure and beautiful feelings," followed by a declaration of "love you always."

As well as having ministers fall in love with her, Kim bribed South Korean army top brass to ease the contract, gaining military secrets in the process.

She paid General Kwon Ki Dae $10,000. The general received a 10-month sentence for taking the cash.

Raytheon said it paid Kim the standard commission and had no knowledge of her dubious methods.

Some of the older scandals involving Raytheon were even more bizarre.

In 1995 Raytheon took over E-Systems, a firm that had its origins in Air America, the CIA-run airline which flew covert missions during the Vietnam war.

In 1995 an unnamed congressional aide told the Washington Post that E-Systems was "virtually indistinguishable" from the CIA.

In 1994, just before it became part of Raytheon, E-Systems paid out $4.3m to Texan Carlos Uribe.

He sued them because one of its employees, Truett Burney, accidentally killed Uribe's wife.

Burney was installing "secret listening devices" in a hotel room in El Paso when his gun went off, slaying the woman.

While Raytheon has sought the closest ties to the US government to build its business, the firm has been happy to break the rules to try to make extra money.

In 2004 Raytheon paid a $25m fine because it had been illegally trying to export high-tech microwave communication equipment to Pakistan's military.

The US bans export of these "super-radios" to foreign armies because of their special ability to communicate even in mountainous areas.

But Raytheon tried to get round this by using a Canadian subsidiary and selling to a group called the National Logistic Cell, which purported to be a "civilian disaster relief organisation" but was really a front for the Pakistan military.

Under the war on terror Raytheon has shifted from missiles to databases and even more bizarre equipment.

In 2010 Raytheon announced it had a non-lethal "pain ray" projecting agonising heat beams which could be used against US prisoners.

However, as the e-borders failure shows, its new systems are as prone to failure as its missiles.

All of which adds up to a story that is full of colour and weird details and has an important message about the role of corporations in our society.

But for most of our corporation-blind press, it is a story that is ignored in favour of politicians' hairdos and footwear.

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