Friday, July 21, 2006

Armed for education

A short item in the Times Education Supplement today points out that the new 'Vericool' biometric school registration system is provided by a subsidiary of the US company accused of training interrogators at Gitmo:

A military company connected to the US interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay camp is behind a finger-printing system used in British schools. VeriCool, which runs fingerprint registration and cashless school lunch systems in 22 UK schools, is part of Anteon, an American company which provides training and technology for the US military.

Anteon has the contract to run specialist courses on topics including interrogation and counter-intelligence at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, headquarters of the US Army Intelligence Center. The company, recently bought by a larger defence business, General Dynamics Information Technology, has been accused of training interrogators who worked at the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay.

It's by no means the only example of connections between defence contractors and education services. Serco, amongst other things, maintains the UK's stockpile of
nuclear warheads whilst running Bradford and Walsall education authorities. Vosper Thornycroft shows its softer side by delivering the Government's Connexions service for 13-19s.

Several years ago, we asked the Government whether alternatives were available for young people and/or parents with ethical objections to having services delivered by companies with links to defence services and the arms trade. We also wrote to various journalists and organisations that might, as we thought, offer support to the people who complained to us. We never did receive any replies - maybe it's just too much to take on.

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