Feeds

US gov demands Saudi-BAE documents

Should Blighty piss off the Saudis, or Uncle Sam?

New hybrid storage solutions

The US government has asked for full cooperation with its investigation into Saudi-BAE arms deals from the British Home Office, and Whitehall is considering its response. The US Department of Justice has asked officials to hand over all documents related to BAE's payments to Saudi royals.

BAE Systems is now under federal investigation after British SFO prosecutors - frustrated, no doubt, by their muzzling at the hands of the Blair government - recently leaked important Washington-related files on BAE bribery.

If the UK government complies fully with the US Department of Justice request, embarrassing revelations can be expected. Those familiar with the long-running saga of the al-Yamamah arms deals will be aware that, essentially, there is no doubt that huge payments have been made to the Saudi royal family. Substantial portions of the oil credits used ostensibly to pay for British equipment such as the Tornado F3 fighter were actually converted into cash in overseas bank accounts.

That doesn't actually mean that anything illegal occurred. In a country like Saudi Arabia, which is essentially the personal property of the al-Saud family, distinguishing between the royal family's personal bank accounts and the national treasury is a difficult thing to do.

Nonetheless, to Western eyes this kind of business resembles corruption on a colossal scale: and according to BAE the business was all sanctioned - and to a large extent carried out - by the British government, in particular by Ministry of Defence officials at the Defence Export Services Organisation, or DESO; a taxpayer-funded sales bureau for the UK arms trade. Funnily enough, it has been announced recently that the always rather malodorous DESO is to be closed down.

It has been strongly suggested in recent months that the British government's push to suppress the al-Yamamah stink is primarily driven by the Saudis' desire for privacy. For sure, the Saudi royals would probably prefer that the way they handle their country's oil revenue not be publicly explored. It was said at the time of the SFO probe being cancelled that valuable terror intel might be lost if the House al-Saud became miffed with Blighty, and that ongoing negotiations to sell them Eurofighters* might founder.

Even so, it could be that in fact the British government would be rather more embarrassed in this matter than the Saudis, who have never shown themselves very sensitive to international opinion. If the details of DESO's dealings with the Saudis become public, that will probably be annoying for the Saudis: but it would be excruciatingly embarrassing for Blair and Thatcher's administrations.

Still, turning down the Americans' request for information could be even worse - and tremendously difficult to justify, given the terror-spookery stance already adopted. Tony Blair said that the SFO had to be reined in because otherwise British citizens could die in terror attacks which Saudi intel might have forestalled. Blighty is far more dependent on American intelligence, however. Upsetting the Americans to save BAE business and MoD face would surely endanger a lot more UK lives than upsetting the Saudis. ®

Bootnote

*This last being a deal perhaps more open to criticism than al-Yamamah. It's one thing to rook the Muslim-extremist Saudi oligarchy out of billions in exchange for rubbish like the Tornado F3: it's quite another to give them apparently cutting-edge gear like Eurofighter.

More from the Guardian here.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.