CorpWatch

Did Slave Labor Produce Your Favorite Wine?

"Bitter Grapes—Slavery in the Vineyards," a new Danish television documentary, alleges that many South African wineries pay their workers less than the legal minimum wage, discourages them from unionizing and exposes them to toxic pesticides. The documentary singles out Robertson's Winery in the Western Cape region.

The film, which was made by journalist Tom Heinemann, claims that workers are often paid R105 ($7.76) for a 12-hour shift and that living conditions for workers are abysmal. "I saw very very depressing things. I saw housing that was literally falling apart, rain coming down the roofs," Heinemann told 702, a Danish radio station. "I saw people have to live off water from a drain ditch alongside a road. I saw toilets that were locked up, so they had to walk into the vineyards to do their toilet."

Keep reading... Show less

Meet 11 of the Private Defense Contractors That Are Raking It in from the Drone War

Hundreds of private sector intelligence analysts are being paid to review surveillance footage from U.S. military drones in Central Asia and the Middle East, according to a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Bureau reporters Crofton Black and Abigail Fielding-Smith name eleven companies that have won hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to plug a shortage in personnel needed to analyze the thousands of hours of streaming video gathered daily from the remotely piloted aircraft that hover over war zones around the world: Advanced Concepts Enterprises, BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics, Intrepid Solutions, L-3 Communications, MacAulay-Brown, SAIC, Transvoyant, Worldwide Language Resources and Zel Technologies. (see details below)

“Contractors are used to fill the gap to give enough manpower to provide flexibility necessary for military to do things like take leave,” one analyst who worked with the Air Force at Hurlburt Field airbase in Florida, told the Bureau.

Private companies have been providing support for military intelligence for many years. Ever since CACI’s role in supplying interrogators at Abu Ghraib came to light in 2004 (http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=10828), CorpWatch has regularly documented dozens of companies like BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, L-3 Communications and SAIC that have provided such services to the federal government ranging from surveillance equipment and weapons to propaganda experts and imagery analysts.

Today, these contractors are flocking to the drone business, which has become the linchpin of President Barack Obama’s military strategy, just as the ground war has wound down. Although the Central Intelligence Agency has garnered most of the media attention for targeted killing delivered by drones in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, the bulk of the so-called “War on Terror” is really conducted by U.S. Air Force pilots and support personnel who fly 65 round-the-clock “combat air patrols” of Global Hawk, Predator and Reaper drones around the world from faraway locations.

Each of these patrols, which involve three to four aircraft, require as many as 186 individuals who staff a complex and global system. Typically pilots and camera operators work out of bases like Creech in Nevada, while maintenance crews work in friendly countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Video analysts work out of military bases like California and Florida while military lawyers who are required to approve strike decisions are stationed at the Al-Udeid base in Qatar.

Imagery analysts who review video footage are among the lowest ranked among the personnel who work in the drone war hierarchy. Typically these are entry level “airmen” who only need a high school diploma and eleven months of military training. The drone pilots are officers with undergraduate degrees and more years of training.

Both airmen and officers become eligible to work as private contractors after they complete their military service, where they can be paid twice as much for the same work, and get the added bonus of picking their hours and work locations. (The Air Force Times estimates that drone maintenance pilots stationed overseas who work for companies like Raytheon can make as much as $225,000 a year) Since all the initial training and the security clearances are provided by the military, all the contractors are required to do is recruit Air Force veterans and then put them on their payrolls.

By all accounts, the private contractors do not take part in making decisions as to who to kill nor are they allowed to fire missiles.

But contractors do sometimes play a key role in military missions by the very nature of their analytical work. In 2010, Major General Timothy McHale identified an SAIC staffer who led a team of imagery analysts to track three vehicles in Daikundi province, Afghanistan. The information provided by these analysts led to some two dozen people being killed but later investigations would reveal that none of the people on board the vehicles were militants.

Keep reading... Show less

How the Toxic Tar Sands Industry Fuels the Ubiquitous Aluminum Can

Driving south from Vancouver, Canada, towards Seattle, the scenery is perfectly pastoral with rolling hills and grazing cows. But suddenly, dominating the horizon, the view is interrupted by a phalanx of refinery towers shooting white-gray plumes into the sky. These industrial spires of BP's Cherry Point refinery loom high over Whatcom county, a lush border region a little more than 100 kilometers north of Seattle.

Keep reading... Show less

Military Subcontracters Are Providing Shoddy Services to Troops In Iraq and Afghanistan

Najlaa International Catering Services won a $3 million five-year contract in February 2010 to prepare food for the U.S. Agency for International Development compound in Iraq. The deal was approved despite the fact that Bill Baisey, CEO of the Kuwaiti company, faces numerous complaints and court actions for non-payment of bills and alleged fraud in Kuwait and Iraq.

Keep reading... Show less

A Conservative Shadow Army Is Secretly Buying Off the Election for the GOP

The midterm elections are days away, but the winners are virtually certain: the corporations and conservative operatives like Karl Rove who have taken advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to establish a well-heeled “shadow party” of networked trade associations and G.O.P. front groups.

Keep reading... Show less

Pentagon Watchdog Misses Billion Dollar Audit

Military auditors failed to complete an audit of the business systems of an Ohio-based contractor even though it had billed for $1 billion worth of work over the last four years, largely done in Afghanistan. Immediately after this fact came to light at a public hearing of the bi-partisan Commission on Wartime Contracting, the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) scrambled to dispatch an extra 10 staff to catch up on the job.

Keep reading... Show less

How the Palm Oil Trade Causes a Food Chain of Destruction

ADM used to be known as the country’s corporate welfare king, and its top executives drew headlines as they perp-walked to prison. That was then, when the company ran elaborate price-fixing schemes in the lysine and other global commodity markets. This is now:  For the second year in a row, ADM topped Fortune magazine’s list of most admired food production companies.

Keep reading... Show less

Meeting of Global Titans Tainted by Tanking Economy

The CEOs of three-quarters of the world's 100 largest companies have just completed an uncomfortable weekend at the tiny Swiss ski resort of Davos, while their companies' share prices nosedived on global stock markets, amid concern that the U.S. economy was staggering towards recession.

The Alpine village, which is virtually inaccessible to anyone without a helicopter, is ringed with barbed wire and tight security arrangements for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in late January every year. This 37-year-old private gathering brings together dozens of heads of states, hundreds of government ministers and a smattering of activists and celebrities to join the chief executives for a series of discussions and workshops, as well as private parties thrown by companies such as Google with the help of the world's most famous disc jockeys.

The price of attendance isn't cheap: each CEO spends roughly $60,000 a year to attend. But once they have made it onto the invite list they can look forward to schmoozing with their peers in Davos and hobnobbing with celebrities. This year they had a chance to meet Tony Blair, the former British prime minister; Al Gore, the former US vice-president and Nobel Prize-winner; and Bono, the Irish rock star and debt campaigner. Past gatherings have also given CEOs the opportunity to play chess with Antoly Karpov, the former Soviet champion, and to take a twirl on the ice with Russian skating stars.

Some CEOs have occasionally delighted in doing the incongruous: Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire owner of News Corporation, did a stint as a waiter at one party this year.

Questioning Capitalism

But the 2008 gathering was fraught with irony for the CEOs and the bankers who have financed them. Wrote Bruce Nussbaum of Business Week: "Last year, an army of slick-haired, Wall Street private equity and hedge fund guys turned up to show the doubting Europeans the clever and kindly face of American market capitalism ... (t)o the Europeans who complained that private equity and hedge fund wheeling and dealing were distorting economic growth, they gently suggested that the Old Country was out of touch with the new reality of financial innovation."

This year the Wall Street whiz-kids had to eat humble pie. "Turns out the Europeans were right," wrote Nussbaum. "The subprime junk packaged and repackaged as top prime credit collapsed and is taking the rest of the U.S. economy (and perhaps the world economy) down with it ... (s)o if the slick-haired guys can still afford to hop their private jets to get to Davos this year, they're going to find a lot of really angry Euros armed with really strong euros."

Indeed, Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, suggests the Davos tradition of celebrating globalization has come to an uncomfortable halt: "In the past few years, globalization has enjoyed virtually unqualified applause from the power-players inside the Davos conference rooms, whatever the noisy protests outside in the snow-clad streets -- the triumphalism has disappeared, replaced by a pervasive uncertainty."

One of the world's best-known CEOs, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, admitted to fellow participants that he had become skeptical of the very notion of capitalism. He told the Wall Street Journal that he had seen the failings of capitalism first-hand on visits to places such as the South African slum of Soweto, and had discussed them with dozens of experts on disease and poverty.

At one of the most widely attended events of the week, Gates called for a "creative capitalism" that uses market forces to address poor-country needs that he feels are being ignored. "We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well," Gates said. "I'm an optimist, but I'm an impatient optimist. The world is not getting better fast enough, and it's not getting better for everyone."

And billionaire George Soros, who made his fortune speculating on global currency exchange rates, took the opportunity of the WEF to call for major new regulations and oversight over financial markets. Soros said that the failure to restrain the free market has caused "not a normal crisis but the end of an era."

Not all CEOs agreed. "People have to keep in mind, throughout history we have always had cycles, people shouldn't be surprised," JP Morgan CEO James Dimon, co-chair of the WEF, told the closing debate.

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris went further when he told Reuters: "What's going on now should not have a 'Chicken Little' atmosphere. The sky is not falling."

Public Eye on Davos

While the CEOs finally acknowledged that a rising tide might not lift all boats, and that capitalism could indeed have a downside, Swiss activists showed up outside the WEF to "name and shame" companies with particularly egregious records of violating environmental and human rights.

Oliver Classen, the spokesman of Berne Declaration, a non-governmental organization in Zurich, announced in a press release: "Our message is: Global players watch out. We're watching you. We are a threat to their reputations. They know that, and they should behave accordingly."

Together with Pro Natura, the Swiss branch of Friends of the Earth, Berne Declaration organizes an annual counter-event called the Public Eye on Davos where anyone can vote to rank companies with the worst reputations.

This year Public Eye voters singled out Areva, a French multinational that has mined uranium for 40 years in the African nation of Niger, a former French colony.

Areva subsidiaries Somair and Cominak were condemned by Almoustapha Alhacen, president of Aghirin'man, the organization representing affected workers. He reported numerous "suspicious deaths among the workers, caused by radioactive dust and contaminated groundwater" above internationally accepted safety levels.

Alhacen says that mine workers are given inadequate information about the health risks of open-air storage of radioactive materials. The activists allege that the company evades paying for workers' medical treatment. They claim the company hospital issues false diagnoses for sick workers, and signs death certificates blaming AIDS when workers die of cancer.

For The Love of Money

Yet despite the doom and gloom inside and accusations of abuse and hypocrisy from outside, the parties barely slowed in Davos.

Disc jockey Norman Jay (also known as the Minister of Sound) flew in from Australia to spin records at the biggest party of the weekend, thrown by Google. The invitation-only event was attended by Lauren Bush, niece of President Bush, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince of Bahrain, Jordan's Queen Rania and U.S. Congressman Tom Davis. A Wall Street Journal blogger announced that party-goers danced the night away to songs like "For The Love of Money" by the O'Jays.

Top Rumsfeld Aide Gets Cushy Contract From Spy Agency He Created

A Pentagon office that claims to monitor terrorist threats to U.S. military bases in North America -- and was once reprimanded by the U.S. Congress for on antiwar activists -- has just awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a company that employs one of Donald Rumsfeld's former aides. That aide, Stephen Cambone, helped create the very office that issued the contract.

On January 7, QinetiQ (pronounced "kinetic") North America (QNA), a major British-owned defense and intelligence contractor based in McLean, Virginia, announced that its Mission Solutions Group, formerly Analex Corporation, had just signed a five-year, $30 million contract to provide a range of unspecified "security services" to the Pentagon's Counter-Intelligence Field Activity office, known as CIFA.

According to Pentagon briefing documents, CIFA's Directorate of Field Activities "assists in preserving the most critical defense assets, disrupting adversaries and helping control the intelligence domain." Another CIFA directorate, the Counterintelligence and Law Enforcement Center, "identifies and assesses threats" to military personnel, operations and infrastructure from "insider threats, foreign intelligence services, terrorists, and other clandestine or covert entities," according to the Pentagon. A third CIFA directorate, Behavioral Sciences, has provided a "team of renowned forensic psychologists [who] are engaged in risk assessments of the Guantanamo Bay detainees."

The new CIFA contract with QinetiQ expands work that Analex has provided CIFA and its various directorates since 2003. Under its first contract, according to the QinetiQ website, Analex staffers were sifting through information "from traditional to non-traditional providers, ranging from unclassified through top secret classification using sophisticated information technologies and systems specifically designed by CIFA analysts."

The CIFA contract was awarded just two months after QinetiQ hired Stephen Cambone, the former undersecretary of defense for intelligence and a longtime Rumsfeld aide, as its vice president for strategy. Cambone is the most senior of a savvy group of former high-ranking Pentagon and intelligence officials hired by QinetiQ to manage its expansion in the U.S. market. (See boxes.)

While he was at the Pentagon, Cambone oversaw CIFA and was deeply involved in the Pentagon's most controversial intelligence programs. It was Cambone, for example, who reportedly issued orders to Major General Geoffrey Miller to soften up Iraqi prisoners for intelligence interrogators in Abu Ghraib in 2003. With Rumsfeld, he also set up a special unit within the Pentagon that alienated the CIA and the State Department by running its own covert actions without seeking input from other agencies.

The new CIFA contract comes on the heels of a series of QinetiQ deals inked with the Pentagon in the booming new business of "network centric warfare" -- the space-age, technology-driven intelligence and warfighting policies established by Rumsfeld and Cambone during their six-year tenures at the Pentagon. Other Cambone-pioneered programs that QinetiQ has won (before he went to work at their Crystal City offices that lie just two miles from the Pentagon) include military drones and robots, low-flying satellites and jamming technologies.

Cambone's appointment at QinetiQ reflects the "incestuous" relationships that exist between former officials and private intelligence contractors, said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists and a long-time observer of U.S. intelligence. "It's unseemly, and what's worse is that it has become normal," he told CorpWatch.

Aftergood pointed out the similarities between Cambone and the career trajectory of the current Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell. Following McConnell's tenure as director of the National Security Agency, "he went on to receive a seven-figure salary at Booz-Allen Hamilton, a major intelligence contractor," said Aftergood. "And now he's back at the helm of the intelligence community (IC). The problem is not so much a conflict of interest as it is a coincidence of interests -- the IC and the contractors are so tightly intertwined at the leadership level that their interests, practically speaking, are identical."

QinetiQ Evolution

QinetiQ was created in 2001 when the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) split up the Defense Evaluation Research Agency (DERA), its equivalent to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). One part of the company remained inside the MoD, but the other half was sold to the private sector and became QinetiQ.

For its first 18 months, QinetiQ was run by the MoD. But in February 2003, control slipped decisively out of government hands when 33 percent of its shares were acquired by the Carlyle Group, the powerful Washington-based private equity fund with close ties to the Bush administration. Carlyle invested $73 million in the company, and the MoD retained the other 66 percent. In an unusual arrangement, however, Carlyle was granted 51 percent of the voting shares, which meant that the investment fund and its appointed executives had effective control over the company. Carlyle sold off its remaining shares in February 2007, making a $470 million profit on its original investment.

Its initial expansion into the U.S. market was led by its first CEO, Graham Love. A ten-year veteran of DERA, where he rose to the position of finance director, Love had left DERA in the late 1990s by taking one of its divisions private. In 2003, he was brought back to head up QinetiQ's North American operations. With assistance from Carlyle's managers, Love went on the acquisition binge that made QinetiQ what it is today.

In November 2004, it bought Foster-Miller, which builds what it calls "mobile platforms" for the U.S. military, including the Talon robot, a battery-powered machine loaded with night-vision cameras and sensors that can fire both machine gun bullets and anti-tank weapons. Talons are also used on reconnaissance missions to detect mines and disarm roadside bombs in Iraq; more than 600 have been acquired by the Pentagon, according to Fortune magazine. The Foster-Miller website says Talon robots were initially developed with funds from DARPA and have been used in Special Operations missions in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.

In January 2007, QinetiQ acquired Analex Corporation, an information technology and engineering company that earns 70 percent of its revenue from the Pentagon (after the acquisition, Analex was renamed the QNA Mission Solutions Group). Analex, which has received extensive funding from DARPA for its technologies, also holds contracts with SPAWAR, the U.S. Navy intelligence research center in San Diego, and with the U.S. Army's First Information Operations Command. For the latter, according to Analex, it provides "subject matter experts" in psychological warfare, information security, electronic warfare and general tactics in the war on terror. With $1.5 billion in defense revenue in 2006, QNA is now the 11th largest U.S. intelligence contractor. The QinetiQ story must be told without speaking to the company, however: QinetiQ officials were not available for comment on Cambone's appointment or any other matter. As for the former undersecretary of defense, "Stephen Cambone is not interested in an interview at this time," Sophie Barrett, QNA's spokesperson, told CorpWatch on January 10.

Stephen Cambone

QinetiQ's main reason for hiring Stephen Cambone was the fact that he had held the unprecedented job of commanding the full spectrum of defense intelligence agencies controlled by the Pentagon, under the 2002 legislation that created his position as the nation's first undersecretary of defense for intelligence. For example he had direct line control over the three national intelligence collection agencies, the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

He also oversaw CIFA, which he helped set up in 2003 and transformed into one of the U.S. government's largest collectors of domestic intelligence. Despite occasional criticism from the U.S. Congress for spying on ordinary U.S. citizens, it has thrived at the Pentagon during the administrations of both Donald Rumsfeld as well as Robert Gates, the current secretary of defense.

Cambone was the chief architect of Rumsfeld's so-called "transformation" policies at the Pentagon, which fused data flowing from those agencies into the Pentagon's high-tech war machine. The decisions he made greatly reduced the Pentagon's acquisitions of large weapons systems like aircraft carriers and radically increased its purchases of space-age war technologies such as communications systems, sensors, robots, low-flying satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

It is precisely these technologies that QinetiQ produces. Its work for CIFA, the company said in the release announcing the deal, reflects QinetiQ's role "as a pioneer in planning and executing the protection of government personnel, critical infrastructure and sensitive defense programs." QinetiQ is the largest suppliers of UAVs and robots to the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community. It developed the Zephyr, the world's most advanced UAV, a solar-powered drone that can transmit data and pictures continuously for periods up to three months. QinetiQ also specializes in a jamming technology (called "interference protection") that protects satellite systems from outside activity. And the company is a major supplier of acoustic microsensors designed to track the movements of "insurgents" or "illegal immigrants."

For QinetiQ and Cambone, therefore, this is a match made in heaven. Cambone's insights into "national security affairs and priorities," said CEO Duane Andrews, will help shape QinetiQ's ability "to rapidly deliver solutions to the complex challenges that face our defense and intelligence customers." In other words, there was a natural fit between QinetiQ's products and Cambone's inside knowledge of the future plans and strategies behind the U.S. "intelligence enterprise."

Re-Inventing the Pentagon

Cambone's early career was shaped by his deep involvement with technologies associated with missile defense. His first job out of school was as a staffer for the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the defense and nuclear power research center in New Mexico. After that, he worked for SRS Technologies, a defense consultancy that worked closely on missile defense.

From 1990 to 1993, Cambone worked under Duane Andrews, his future boss at QinetiQ, as director for strategic defense policy in the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. There, he advocated for building a laser- and satellite-based missile defense system known derisively by its opponents as Star Wars, a cause he also took up during the Clinton administration as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

During the 1990s, Cambone joined the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), the core advocacy group for the cause of neoconservatism, a radical philosophy that views the U.S. as the political savior of humankind, supposedly through "exporting democracy," and advocates the use of force to expand U.S. power and influence around the world. There, he associated with many of the officials he would later serve with in the George W. Bush administration, including Rumsfeld (another Star Wars fan), Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005.

In 1998, Rumsfeld hired Cambone as staff director of a commission he chaired to study the foreign ballistic missile threat. The commission was created by the Republican-led U.S. Congress specifically as a counterpoint to the CIA, which had downplayed the foreign missile threat in a 1997 National Intelligence Estimate. Among the commission's members were Wolfowitz and former CIA director R. James Woolsey, a prominent necon with close ties to the defense intelligence industry. The final report, largely drafted by Cambone, flatly contradicted the CIA by warning of an imminent threat from North Korea and Iran, and became the centerpiece of the Bush administration's initial defense policies.

After Rumsfeld became defense secretary in 2001, he selected Cambone as his special assistant. Cambone quickly became his most trusted trouble-shooter. And in the initial months of the Bush administration, there was plenty of trouble.

Rumsfeld, with Cheney's support, set out from the beginning to "transform" the U.S. military into a high-tech, computerized fighting force designed specifically to shoot down missiles from "rogue states" and defeat counterinsurgencies and other "low intensive" threats to U.S. national security, primarily in the Middle East. None of this sat very well with the uniformed military and the defense industry, both of which were slow to embrace Rumsfeld's network centric policies and the accompanying cuts imposed on Cold War-era weapons such as aircraft carriers and artillery systems. But the grumbling stopped after September 11, which provided the opening for Rumsfeld and his allies in the administration to make intelligence the centerpiece of their new "war on terror."

In 2002, the U.S. Congress embraced a proposal backed by Cheney and Rumsfeld to create a new undersecretary slot at the Pentagon specifically for intelligence, and Cambone was given the job. The position provided enormous powers: under the law, he exercised the Secretary of Defense's "authority, direction and control" over all DoD intelligence, counterintelligence and security policy, plans and programs. That included the key national agencies, which Rumsfeld and Cambone tenaciously fought to keep within the Pentagon's command and control system (for more on this struggle, see Foreign Policy in Focus http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4795). By 2004, according to a profile in the New York Times, Cambone was presiding biweekly conference calls that included the three-star generals and an admiral who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the NGA, the NRO and the NSA. In theory, they also reported to Rumsfeld and Tenet. But Cambone, the newspaper noted, "has made himself their most active overseer."

With their newfound power, Rumsfeld and Cambone set about to give the Pentagon greater authority in the area of human intelligence, traditionally dominated by the CIA. In 2005, Rumsfeld created a new clandestine espionage branch called the Strategic Support Branch, run out of the DIA and under Cambone's control, to end what he called his "near total dependence" on the CIA. By 2005, under the command of Cambone's controversial deputy, Army Lieutenant General William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the support branch was deploying small, covert teams of case officers, interrogators and special operations forces to places like Somalia, Iran and the Philippines, sometimes without contacting the U.S. ambassador or the CIA station chief, to launch covert military operations and prepare for future U.S. action.

Those were heady days for Cambone: in May 2006, the New York Times would comment that Cambone's "low public profile masks his status as one of the most powerful intelligence officials in the United States." But other publications weren't so kind. Within days of the Times piece, C4ISR Journal, a military publication, described Cambone as a grim and determined ideologue. "'Unpleasant,' 'deeply unpleasant,' 'doesn't joke much' and 'Rumsfeld without the personality' are just some of the ways other reporters and analysts" describe Cambone, the Journal said.

In expanding the power and influence of the Pentagon's special forces, Cambone pushed for policies and technologies that would later make him so useful to QinetiQ, which by 2003 was beginning its expansion in the defense intelligence market. Throughout his tenure at the Pentagon, for example, Cambone pushed for increased spending on satellites, lasers and computer networks that would link the national collection agencies with soldiers and commanders on distant battlefields. In 2004, one year into the intensifying war in Iraq, Cambone proposed spending $30 billion -- one-third of the Pentagon budget for information technology -- on what he called a "transformational satellite system." This was a laser-based project run by the Air Force that would allow the national agencies and the military to share intelligence data and speed its delivery to bomber pilots and ground troops.

During this time, Cambone was also deeply involved in Pentagon planning for a multi-billion dollar "Space Radar" project, a constellation of satellites designed to detect moving and stationary objects from the skies in any weather condition and in darkness. The U.S. Congress only approved a portion of what Cambone wanted for the Air Force and Space Radar projects, however.

In 2006, Cambone presided over an intelligence community review of major intelligence and reconnaissance programs. It concluded that the Pentagon should increase its use of UAVs such as the Global Hawk, which operated at altitudes of 60,000 feet and could stay in the air for 24 hours and more. By this time, the Pentagon was also operating secret "stealth" UAVs as a substitute for satellites. (By 2008, the Associated Press reported in January, the military's reliance on UAVs "that can watch, hunt and sometimes kills insurgents" had soared to more than 500,000 hours in the air, mostly in Iraq. Between January and October 2007 alone, AP found, the Pentagon had more than doubled its monthly use of drones).

Revolving Door

When Cambone's tenure at the Pentagon drew to a close, shortly after the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld in late 2006, the future course of defense spending had already been set: the big money was going to UAVs and low-orbit satellites for the transmission and sharing of intelligence data. (These projects became more crucial in 2007, when the Space Radar was declared a failure and scrapped by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.) And, in response to the increasingly sophisticated tactics of the Iraqi insurgents, millions of dollars were plowed into robots and other technologies aimed at curbing the deadly effects of homemade roadside bombs, that the military has dubbed improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

By joining QinetiQ, less than a year after he resigned from the Pentagon, Cambone has been hired to implement the very policies he helped pioneer at the Pentagon, not as a public servant but as a private businessman benefiting from taxpayer dollars. And with Cambone in the driver's seat in northern Virginia, QinetiQ is set to build on its already thriving business to become one of the premier suppliers of technology to the "intelligence enterprise" that Cambone built.

Climate Change Fueling Boom in Corporate Greenwashing

On the Indonesian island of Bali, thousands of senior government officials are negotiating a plan to slow global warming. The meeting, which will focus on how to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, will run for the first two weeks of December and include 192 countries. This year's conclave is the 13th in a series launched by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that came into force in 1994.

The coal, gas and oil companies that are major producers of greenhouse gases are finally taking notice of these high-level political discussions, and many have mounted spirited public relations exercises to defend themselves, and even win endorsements of their products.

For example, the weekend before negotiations began, Neste Oil announced plans to build the world's largest bio-diesel facility a few hundred miles northeast of Bali, in the Tuas industrial zone on the island of Singapore. The Finnish company is betting that widespread concern, as well as mandatory limits on greenhouse gases generated by fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum, will increase demand for vegetable-based fuels.

Neste's proposed $800 million plant will use palm oil, which is readily available throughout the region. The company has pledged to buy palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and to use proprietary NExBTL technology that produces fuel with lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions 40 to 60 percent less than those of conventional diesel fuel.

"We have a very clear principle that we are aware of the source of all raw materials used in our biodiesel, including palm oil … and that it is produced by sustainable methods," Neste CEO Resto Rinne told reporters, explaining that he expected this market to expand substantially. "In Europe alone, [annual] production will be well over 10 million tons by the end of the decade, and our share of this production will be some 800,000 tons."

Some environmental groups charge that Neste's claims are "greenwash": misleading public relations masking unsustainable practices. Greenpeace, for example, explains that the new plant in Singapore is likely to cause more environmental problems, not fewer, by increasing demand for new palm oil plantations that displace environmentally sensitive forests or wetland areas. In addition to destroying endangered habitats, the scheme could exacerbate global warming.

"Certification does not stop the rainforests from disappearing, for there is no doubt that the increase in demand for palm oil will lead to further destruction of rainforest. There is absolutely no way to grow enough sustainable palm oil for all the producers," said Harri Lammi, the program director for Greenpeace Finland. The week before the climate meeting got underway in Bali, his group attempted to highlight Neste's environmental record by blockading its ships in waters off of Finland.

The clash between Neste and Greenpeace highlights one of the key ideological debates over climate change: Business and politicians believe that a "technological" fix such as alternative fuels can solve the problem and also generate profits; many environmental groups believe the real solution to global warming lies in reducing consumption.

Guaranteed Markets, But Are They Guaranteed Green?

The arguments of the alternative fuel lobby are finding significant political backing. Earlier this year the European Union agreed to binding targets: By 2020, ten percent of its transportation industry's annual 300 million ton fuel consumption must come from alternatives such as biodiesel. China has predicted that it can switch 15 percent of its transport fuel consumption to biofuels, and India has set an ambitious target of 20 percent by 2020.

Even U.S. President George Bush in his January 2007 State of the Union address pledged to "increase the supply of alternative fuels by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 -- and that is nearly five times the current target."

Palm oil is one of the three key biofuels that governments and corporations are promoting as alternatives to fossil fuels. (The others are soy and rapeseed.) An edible vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree, palm oil has been used as a popular cooking oil in West Africa for centuries. In recent years, it has become a key component of processed foods ranging from KitKat candy bars to Pringles potato chips to Oreo cookies.

The biggest producers of palm oil are Indonesia and Malaysia, where the crop has been grown on plantations established by British colonists in 1917. It was first exported for use as an industrial lubricant and as a base for Sunlight and Palmolive soaps.

The new green boom in biofuels has accelerated the demand for plantations, which in turn has led to widespread forest and peatland clearing. Indeed, a 2007 United Nations Environment Program report earlier this year, found that oil palm plantations are now the leading cause of forest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia. And more is to come: The Indonesian government wants to put 10 million hectares of land into oil palm cultivation by 2015, up from the current total of 6 million hectares. In Malaysia, palm oil producers are targeting the island province of Sarawak for major expansion.

Local groups have spoken out strongly against this new trend. Meena Raman, head of Friends of the Earth Malaysia, said "Agrofuels is a disaster in the making. Their production, development and trade largely stem from unsustainable energy demand in industrialized countries. We are strongly urging our government to reconsider its decision of turning Malaysia into a major agrofuel producing country, as it is leading to further destruction of our forests and violations of the customary rights of indigenous peoples."

A new Greenpeace report, "Cooking the Climate," points out that razing of forests to create the oil palm plantations is, in itself, a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental organization calculates that the burning and drying of carbon-rich peatlands on the Indonesian island of Riau releases about 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases a year. The removal of the forests also eliminates one of the planet's crucial air-filtration systems.

A British government report estimated that clearing land for agro-fuel cultivation creates two to nine times more greenhouse gases than the cleaner-burning fuel saves.

Fossil Fuels in Green Packaging

Another company ratcheting up the green rhetoric on climate change is General Electric (GE). Its television advertisement for "clean coal" technologies [which you can view in the upper right corner of this page] portrays scantily-clad models working in a coal mine, while an announcer sums up the message: "Thanks to emissions reducing technology from GE Energy, harnessing the power of coal is looking more beautiful every day."

The ad is part of GE's "ecomagination" campaign to promote "green" products such as lower-energy houses, wind turbines, solar power and water-purification systems, as well as a range of new coal technologies.

The company has joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of industry and environmental groups that claim to be concerned about global warming. "The time has come for constructive action that draws strength equally from business, government, and non-governmental stakeholders," said Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of Connecticut-based GE, in a statement timed for the day before George Bush's backing of alternative technologies.

While some of the technologies GE sells -- such as wind and solar power -- are indeed carbon neutral, others -- such as its "clean coal" integrated gasification combined-cycle coal power plants -- are questionable.

The term "clean coal" refers to a variety of new technologies under development: chemically washing the fossil fuel of minerals and impurities, burning it at higher pressure and temperature, and increasing efficiency by trapping and burning waste gases that would otherwise have escaped out the smokestack. Another "clean coal" technology is "carbon capture and sequestration," or CCS, which captures coal plant emissions before they enter the atmosphere, and stores them underground.

Many environmental activists note that these "clean coal" technologies are only marginally more efficient and far more expensive. Others, such as CCS, are still on the drawing board and may never work. (In fact, GE has yet to convince any of its clients to buy these new "clean coal" plants, according to California-based Rainforest Action Network, or RAN.)

"Why waste billions of dollars to research an uncertain technology when safer, cleaner energy solutions already exist?" asks Matt Leonard of RAN. "Even if we could capture coal's dangerous emissions, why create such massive waste streams in the first place? All fossil fuels, including coal, are running out. The longer we keep relying on them, the worse off our environment, climate, and society will be."

Immelt has admitted that the new promotion campaign was based on tapping public opinion and profits. "I can't lay claim to be a big environmentalist or nature lover here," the GE head told NBC television this May. "I know that when society changes its mind, you'd better be in front of it, and not behind it. And this is an issue on which society has changed its mind. I came to the conclusion that technology that my company makes can help make it [the climate situation] better, and I can make money doing it, and I can do something good."

Do Nothing, Collect Praise

Other companies have managed to win environmental praise for effectively doing nothing. A case in point is the much heralded $45 billion purchase of Texas state utility TXU by private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts and Texas Pacific Corporation. The buyers won backing from Washington DC-based environmental groups Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council in exchange for scrapping plans to build eight of 11 proposed coal plants.

Not everybody is convinced. RAN executive director Michael Brune is skeptical of the scheme, pointing out that TXU could easily shelve its concessions in the future. "The commitments by TXU's new owners should be binding, not voluntary, and the three Texas coal plants TXU still intends to build are three plants too many," he said.

Warning: Greenwash Ahead

The cases of TXU's non-binding concessions in Texas, GE's amorphous "clean coal" promises, and Neste's palm oil strategy in South Asia illustrate a widening trend: As the climate change issue becomes mainstream, more and more companies are jumping on the public relations bandwagon. If these examples serve as models, they will try to win endorsements for agreeing to do nothing, promise things that they cannot guarantee, and take advantage of the debate to profit from environmentally unfriendly technologies.

Activists attending the Bali gathering say that the real answer to climate change will not be generated by profit-motivated corporations, but by the concrete commitments of political leaders backed by the force of law. Raman of Friends of the Earth International, puts it simply: "We need Northern countries to develop stringent policies to reduce their energy consumption and attempt to find solutions to their energy needs locally."

BRAND NEW STORIES

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.