Humint Events Online: Perfecting the Police State in China

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Perfecting the Police State in China

An excellent article from Naomi Klein, describing how the model security city of Shenzhen has become completely loaded with security cameras, integrated to watch everything. Part of this whole system is to allow the Chinese government to nip in the bud any protests by the increasingly disgruntled Chinese worker class.

The info about "L-1 Identity Solutions" is also quite interesting. L-1 is "a major U.S. defense contractor that produces passports and biometric security systems for the U.S. government."

Based in Connecticut, L-1 was created two years ago out of the mergers and buyouts of half a dozen major players in the biometrics field, all of which specialized in the science of identifying people through distinct physical traits: fingerprints, irises, face geometry. The mergers made L-1 a one-stop shop for biometrics. Thanks to board members like former CIA director George Tenet, the company rapidly became a homeland-security heavy hitter. L-1 projects its annual revenues will hit $1 billion by 2011, much of it from U.S. government contracts.
If Yao impresses the Ministry of Public Security with the company's ability to identify criminals, L-1 will have cracked the largest potential market for biometrics in the world. But here's the catch: As proud as Yao is to be L-1's Chinese licensee, L-1 appears to be distinctly less proud of its association with Yao. On its Website and in its reports to investors, L-1 boasts of contracts and negotiations with governments from Panama and Saudi Arabia to Mexico and Turkey. China, however, is conspicuously absent. And though CEO Bob LaPenta makes reference to "some large international opportunities," not once does he mention Pixel Solutions in Guangzhou.

After leaving a message with the company inquiring about L-1's involvement in China's homeland-security market, I get a call back from Doni Fordyce, vice president of corporate communications. She has consulted Joseph Atick, the company's head of research. "We have nothing in China," she tells me. "Nothing, absolutely nothing. We are uninvolved. We really don't have any relationships at all."

I tell Fordyce about Yao, the 10-million test, the money he paid for the software license. She'll call me right back. When she does, 20 minutes later, it is with this news: "Absolutely, we've sold testing SDKs [software development kits] to Pixel Solutions and to others [in China] that may be entering a test." Yao's use of the technology, she said, is "within his license" purchased from L-1.

The company's reticence to publicize its activities in China could have something to do with the fact that the relationship between Yao and L-1 may well be illegal under U.S. law.


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