Ryeview – March 2011

John Clark writes…

First published: March 2011

For over 200 years the census has been a useful process. It provides an immense amount of social and economic information about citizens in each area of the country. Government can then use this general information to fund the needs of each area. Funding to local councils is based on the census information. Another useful benefit is that a hundred years later we are able to look back at society and get an accurate picture. People use the 100year plus censuses to trace their ancestors.

All these benefits have now gained a very sinister cloud. The census has been privatised for £150million. The government has awarded the contract to the Lockheed Martin Corporation. This American company has a strange pedigree for collecting census information. It is the world’s second largest arms manufacturer; not just small arms but also cluster bombs, fighter aircraft and Trident nuclear weapons and co-manager of the Aldermaston nuclear weapons factory. Another string to their murky bow is that they are involved in the surveillance and intelligence gathering world.

A senior vice-president of Lockheed Martin (Lorraine Martin) has said “We want to know what is going on anytime, anyplace on the planet”. Their ambition is to carry out censuses throughout the world.

The questionable track record continues. It has been awarded contracts for privatized prison services and interrogation services. These have included those at Guantanamo Bay. Lockheed Martin is listed as No.1 on the USA ‘’Federal Contractor Misconduct Database’. It has 57 alleged cases of fraud, bribery, corruption, discrimination and environmental damage.

There are two obvious questions:

  • Why would a company with this dubious history want to be involved in collecting census information?
  • Why would the British Government trust a company like this?

The Office of National Statistics has evaded many of the Freedom of Information questions put to it. It insists that our information will be perfectly secure. There is one major flaw in their case – the US Patriot Act. This Act states that all information gathered by American companies must be handed over to the USA Government on demand. The Office of National Statistics says this cannot happen. Do they expect us to believe that if the CIA wants some information they won’t obtain it? Has not the Wiki Leaks experience showed that all these databases are liable to be hacked? So Lockheed Martin would be able to plead ‘we must have been hacked’.

The census has, as a result, moved from the world of useful social and economic information into the world of intelligence and surveillance. Why would any of us want to:

  • Put money into the hands of a company like Lockheed Martin?
  • Put all our private information into the hands of the CIA or worse?

I do not intend to fill in the census form until there are answers. The only satisfactory answer is for this to be examined openly in the courts. So I will be returning their form and asking these questions, and await their reply.

This is the last Ryeview. Thank you to those of you who have read them. I hope you have enjoyed an ‘alternative view’ over the last 10 years. I’ve appreciated your interest and comments. So for now, ‘Goodbye’.

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