BAE chief exec, director detained at US airports

Subpoenas issued - laptop drives copied?


The CEO of BAE Systems plc, the controversial UK-headquartered arms giant, was detained by the US authorities after landing at Houston airport last week. A fellow company boardmember was also taken aside on arrival at Newark.

The Financial Times reports that Mike Turner and non-executive director Sir Nigel Rudd had their documents and personal electronic equipment "examined". US Department of Justice officials also served subpoenas on the men before allowing them to proceed with their journeys. Mr Turner is now understood to have returned to the UK.

Justice feds have been investigating BAE since last year, when it was revealed that allegedly corrupt payments in the order of $1bn had passed from the company to American bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar of the Saudi royal house, who was serving at the time as ambassador to Washington. It has long been alleged that BAE made unethical payments to Saudi officials and/or royalty in order to secure the long-running al-Yamamah deal, in which weapons and services have been supplied to Saudi Arabia since the 1980s.

The company has always said that it has obeyed the law at every stage, and that all its dealings were sanctioned by the British government. Indeed, some of the Bandar payments were said to have moved via a UK Ministry of Defence account. (However, this was apparently an account belonging to the former Defence Export Services Organisation, an MoD arms-sales bureau controlled and partly staffed by seconded arms-industry executives rather than civil servants or uniformed officers.)

For his part, Prince Bandar does not deny the payments. He contends rather that they were entirely legitimate and consistent with his role as a member of the Saudi government.

The original media revelations which started off the US Justice probe came about as a result of leaks from the files of the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The leaks were made in the wake of the decision by the British government to close down the SFO's own long-running investigation into BAE's Saudi dealings.

This decision has lately been subject to a judicial review, which established that the Blair government had "abjectly surrendered" to threats made in person by Prince Bandar during a visit to Downing Street late in 2006.

None of this has prevented BAE from successfully acquiring major US defence contractor Armor Holdings last year, using money raised by selling off its British airliner wing factories. The UK government has also, thus far, stood firm in its refusal to allow the Justice feds full access to the SFO's voluminous BAE files. However, the stop-and-search at Houston indicates that the massive arms firm - while still, apparently, firmly in the saddle in London - may not be having things all its own way across the Atlantic.

There were a lot of ways the Justice agents could have issued subpoenas to BAE or its executives, after all. But not many of those more civilised ways would have given them a chance to examine Mike Turner's laptop; and they wouldn't have sent quite such a strong message, either. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021