Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Danske droner: TV til taliban?

Wired's eminente blog Danger Room har fulgt afsløringerne af hvordan den amerikanske hær opdagede at videosignalerne fra deres ubemandede fly (droner) blev hentet ned af irakiske oprørere. Opdagelsen blev gjort da hæren gennemsøgte huse og fandt bærbare computere fyldt med videooptagelser af oprørerne - vel at mærke lavet fra deres egne droner.

Een af de mest sårbare droner er typen "Raven". Det danske forsvar har denne type droner, som grundlæggende bare er en lille håndholdt, fjernstyret flyver. Ravnen, som den danske udgave hedder, sprøjter ubekymret radiosignaler i alle retninger og alle og enhver der kan fange dem, kan se dem - med mindre de altså er krypterede. De amerikanske Ravens var ikke og det bliver der nu arbejdet på højtryk med at rette. Men hvad med de danske? Efter fiaskoen med Tårnfalken er Ravnen den mest udbredte UAV i Forsvaret og den bliver brugt i Afghanistan.

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Danish political micromanagement in action

It now seems that the Danish military will get to keep one of two types of cluster bombs that it owns, after a debate in the Danish Parliament, Folketinget. Cluster bombs have been the symbol of careless militarism and indifference towards civilians, as they have a tendency to leave some of their submunitions unexploded, for kids and others in the war zone to pick up. Recently the pension funds in Denmark were revealed to invest in companies that make this still popular weapon that is used to destroy vehicles, small buildings - and other people of course. Most of them quickly relocated their money and made sure to publicly announce that move.

Now the Military gets to keep its munitions despite a Norwegian report that claims that 10% of even the best bombs leave unexploded submunitions.

But it comes at a price. A broad range of parties have agreed to vote for the deal, under the condition that the government informs them whenever the clusterbombs are to be used. Please replay that scenario on your inner screen.

With this piece of deal-making, the parties have tried to tackle a touchy, symbolic weapons system by submitting it to parliamentary oversight. And as Denmark allegedly never has used cluster bombs in live missions, it seems to be a safe symbolic action to take for all involved parties, showing themselves as concerned, yet responsible.

But deals like this introduces a strange, delusional relationship between military and politicians. In effect, politicians are put in charge of tactical decisions. This is not a new phenomenon. During the Vietnam War, President Johnson and his staff were picking out targets in the air raids of "Operations Rolling Thunder" against North Vietnam. They did this because they wanted to avoid greater political repercussions and because aerial photos made it seemingly easy to ring a building or two on the map.

However, politicians can't and shouldn't make tactical decisions like that, even though they might have political repercussions. For the Military's sake and for their own sake. If the Danish Parliament ever had to sanction the use of the bombs, they shouldbe faced with the detailed explanation and defence of the decision afterwards. This would give politicians a more visible symbolic hand in actual conflict. But I think it would be too easy to push the responsibility down the line blaming the commanders or the people pushing the button, and then the gesture of parliamentary oversight would be truly delusional.

The decision is made tomorrow in the Folketing

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Danish UAV lost - in East Africa

The 14th of March the Danish Admiral's Office sent out a brief press statement, telling that "Today the Navy chose to send home two persons from the Ocean Patrol Vessel THETIS after they against standing directives had flown an observation drone over land".

The drone crashed somewhere "10 kilometres northeast of Mombasa".

The THETIS participates in the UN programme running aid to Somalia. The site Danish Naval History had speculated why it had been sent off without its complementary Lynx helicopter that it usually carries on its normal tasks in the North Atlantic, but perhaps carrying the drones is a cheaper and more manageable solution so far from normal waters of patrol.

To me, this is a curious story of the Danish Defence's ongoing and troubled affair with UAV's. After having to scrap the entire Sperwer programme, the Raven was purchased on 11th September last year. I guess the reasoning would go: "We couldn't get the complicated stuff to work, lets buy something that is "plug-and-play", portable in a backpack".

It seems that this strategy has really worked. With my knowledge, the incident is probably just a sign of eagerness recklessness with an excited crew. But despite the Navy's tradition for being less formal than the Army, it is still a bit surprising that an expensive system (over 165.000 DKK total) like that is lost in a bout of afternoon fun. The operators must either have been very careless or lost control over the drone, as the stated range is just about 10 KMs. This also questions its usefulness on a naval ship at sea, I would hold, having a very limited range and flying-time.

Malignant persons would also point out the Diplomatic implications of Danish units conducting surveillance of Kenyan territory - but it doesn't seem that this side of the story has had any traction in public circulation so far.

Here's a map of the surroundings.

View Larger Map

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Sådan diskuterer man sikkerhedspolitik

En rapport fra DIMS, udgivet i sidste måned, har fundet vej til mit skrivebord nu. Og det ser overordentligt interessant ud. Grundlæggende prøver den at undersøge hvordan den nye aktivistiske sikkerhedspolitik bliver skabt i Folketinget - og påpeger hvor den praksis bliver fundet for let.

Den tilgang til emnet rammer lige ned i mit interessefelt mellem kommunikation og sikkerhedspolitik og konklusionerne ser i høj grad ud til at være i samklang med de ting jeg selv stødte på under interviews og research i den danske brug af InfoOps. Det ser ud som om debatten på Borgen halter bag efter de strategiske realiteter. Men på den anden side er dette den oplagte konklusion for enhver sikkerhedspolitiske observatør, der ikke selv har valgkredsen i klemme i dag-til-dag realpolitik.

Under alle omstændigheder er det rart at se, at DIMS'en bidrager til den forsvarspolitiske forskning på anderledes
"bløde" faconer.

Vibeke Schou Tjalve og Anders Henriksen: Vi diskuterer jo ikke politik på den måde: Regeringen, Folketinget og sikkerhedspolitikken

Fra abstract:
Den nye aktivistiske og brede danske sikkerhedspolitik stiller krav til den måde, hvorpå sikkerhedspolitikken koordineres og debatteres i det danske Folketing. Den nye sikkerhedspolitik fordrer, at man på en og samme tid gør det muligt både at centralisere og demokratisere den parlamentariske praksis. Og til det formål bør de danske politikere grundlæggende ændre deres parlamentariske kultur på Christiansborg.

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Fly-by to fame

Recently it was publicised that Denmark had had a brush in with the new aggressive Russian strategic bomber circus, touring the world at the time (See: "The Good Ol' War and the Bad New One").

But nobody picked up on the implications for Danish intelligence. If Russia resurges as a powerful player on the world-stage, our geographic location will once again provide us with an advantage. In the Cold War our bargaining chip was SIGINT and shipsightings and such. If we're lucky, Putin will play that back in our hands....

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