Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Inextricable links: Dual-use technology and the US military


Written by: (Contributed) on 16 December 2021

A prominent feature of the US-led military-industrial complex is dual-use technology. Its industrial capacity is easily switched to military uses, if and when it is required. It is a topical issue: as the present US-led Cold War intensifies, greater and greater emphasis has been placed upon military advantage over China.

Sales and marketing publicity about a recent corporate start-up Australian company has provided important information and an inside view of an intelligence-type organisation with specialist services for both areas of the military-industrial complex.

In early December an Australian start-up company, Cocoon Data, announced it had secured a $5 million funding package for a secure data program in the aftermath of the AUKUS security alliance. (1) Typical of most organisations in the military industrial complex, Cocoon would appear to specialise in dual-use technology.

While lurking in the decidedly spooky and grey areas of intelligence-gathering, Cocoon also has provision for healthcare and other Australian government departments. It has offices in Canberra, Sydney, the US and Europe. The company already has over a hundred clients with over half being based in the US, many in the defence industries.

Specialising in secure data provision, it services military facilities and the corporate sector; clients who need to access sensitive information in the cloud and on mobile devices. Called Safeshare, Cocoon has provided an encryption file-sharing platform 'used by businesses and governments, which can share and access files across the internet complying with numerous military and government security protocols'. (2) A specialisation is 'military grade encryption'. (3) One might well question why Australian government departments for health-care require access and to share such information: or, perhaps, it is for future use, when real-war scenarios take place.

Cocoon would appear to have targeted Australia's growing defence industries and interoperability with US counterparts. A business statement concluded it had the function of addressing 'compliance … in fear … of losing US defence contracts'. (4) The company is also strongly US focused with the stated aim of ‘deepen(ing) the company's push into the US'; Cocoon sales and publicity information draw attention to its capacity for 'highly secure, encrypted file storage, file sharing and collaboration tool'. (5)

A quick study of the Cocoon advisory board has revealed some interesting connections, including Christopher Pyne, former Liberal M.P. for Sturt in South Australia 1993-2019, whose parliamentary career ended with a stint as Defence Minister. Other noted associates include Jack Gumtow, former CIO of the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Robert Rodriguez, former special agent of the US Presidential Secret Service. (6)

The involvement of a former head of the DIA is particularly relevant; the organisation was expanded a decade ago to include 1,600 intelligence collectors in sensitive positions and operating under cover as part of a program for espionage and covert operations. (7) Their role is intelligence-gathering for assessments of the prevailing balance of forces. Specific, and incriminating information, from inside political systems is regarded as essential for accurate assessments of targeted countries.

The inclusion of a former presidential agent will provide Cocoon with other high-level connections in both Washington and the Pentagon. Whether such people ever actually retire is a matter of conjecture; a faceless, shadowy figure in one area can easily adapt to another, for services rendered. (8) They are trained for clandestine missions and operations.

Other foreign policy considerations also include the involvement of Pyne with Cocoon which has, invariably, led to his Israeli connections; he remains a well-known and long-time supporter of Zionism. He has been particularly outspoken about his views on a number of occasions. (9)

As Defence Minister, Pyne made an official high-level diplomatic visit to Israel in 2018 'for the inaugural Australia-Israel Defence Industry Co-operation working group meeting in Tel Aviv … and it was formally noted … the new working group will strengthen ties between the Australia Defence Department and Israeli Ministry of Defence'; while in Israel Pyne also met representatives of the Israeli defence industries. (10)

Pyne is also an Australian-based lobbyist for Israel's largest privately owned weapons company, Elbit Systems. (11) Repressive technology would appear a speciality.

Pyne is also well-known in Australia-Israel business lobbies and it should be noted their
South Australian branch hosted a week-long talk-fest function last year at the Chamber of Commerce which included references to dual-use technology: agenda items included artificial intelligence, medical devices, cyber defence, space and innovation. (12)

Such dual-use technology leaves little to the imagination: it can easily be switched from industrial capacity to military considerations, with the systematic strengthening of class and state power for war preparations, and the function of intelligence-gathering for the control of subject populations when emergency provisions are implemented by government.

1.     Cocoon wraps up $5 m in funding, Australian, 9 December 2021.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Cocoon data lands $5 m., The Daily Telegraph, 8 December 2021.
4.     Cocoon, Australian, op.cit., 9 December 2021.
5.     Cocoon Data, Vault, 12 December 2021.
6.     Cocoon, Australian, op.cit., 9 December 2021.
7.     Pentagon plays the spy game, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 7 December 2012.
8.     See: From the Shadows, Robert Gates, (New York, 1996), pp. 15-23, which has provided a brief outline of basic intelligence training for US spooks and the methods of operation.
9.     Website: Christopher Pyne, Address to Israeli Business Lunch, 15 December 2015.
10.   Visit to Israel, Australian Government, Department of Defence, 6 July 2018.
11.   Christopher Pyne,  Australian, 28 May 2021.
12.   Website: Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, South Australia, 3-10 May 2020.

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