By Farron Cousins
February 11th, 2013
One of the world’s top defense contractors, Raytheon Company, has been revealed to be the leading developer in software technology designed to track every move a user makes while online. The software, known as Rapid Information Overlay Technology or RIOT, is used to gather details about the lives of individuals by crawling their search history, social media profiles, and their friends and family. This information is then put into a handy graph form for whoever requests the information in a matter of minutes.
Raytheon claims that the RIOT technology has not yet been sold to any entities, but the possibilities of potential clients are endless. Everyone from governments to political money-men would be interested in this helpful tool that, although it is an egregious violation of our civil liberties, could provide a treasure trove of information about an adversary.
Raytheon has a very long history of being on the wrong side of both civil liberties (and the law in general), most recently with their involvement in the “drone wars.” Raytheon has been one of the largest suppliers of the missiles that are being delivered by drones across the globe, and the company is now working on very small, remote controlled missiles that can be fired and remotely controlled from a drone. These small, 2-foot-long missiles are designed to target an object with pinpoint precision.
But digging back even further into the company’s history reveals rampant criminal conduct that Raytheon would like us all to forget. During the late 80’s and early 90’s, Raytheon seemed to be directly in the crosshairs of the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a report by the Multinational Monitor in 1991:
In March 1990, Raytheon pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court in Virginia to one felony count of illegally obtaining secret Air Force budget and planning documents. U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan, Jr. imposed a $10,000 criminal fine for one felony count of “conveyance without authority” and $900,000 in civil penalties and damages.
The case may have barely touched the surface of Raytheon’s wrongful behavior. Although the plea only involved 1983 Air Force documents, U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson said Raytheon also illegally obtained a wide range of secret Pentagon documents from 1978 to 1985. The documents gave Raytheon an unfair edge against its competitors in bidding for defense contracts.
Raytheon has been embroiled in other defense-related litigation. Roland LeBlanc, a former government quality assurance specialist for the Defense Contract Administrative Service (DCAS), sued Raytheon, alleging the corporation defrauded the Pentagon. The suit was filed under the 1986 False Claims Act Amendments, a law that allows private citizens to file lawsuits against, and to share in the damages collected from, corporations which cheat or steal from the government.
In February 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that because LeBlanc allegedly uncovered fraud through the course of his employment with the government, it is the government that must file suit against Raytheon, not LeBlanc. But the government has resisted LeBlanc’s attempts to have it pursue the case; long before he filed the suit, LeBlanc confronted his superiors with the alleged fraud, and they took no action. LeBlanc has petitioned the Supreme Court to decide whether the 1986 False Claims Act Amendments preclude present or former employees from prosecuting corporations based on information gained through government employment.
The federal government did join an earlier suit against Raytheon initiated by a private citizen, however. In October 1987, the Justice Department signed on to a $36 million suit which alleged that Raytheon submitted false claims for work done on missiles. Originally filed by Karel Schwarzkopf, a former Raytheon employee, the suit alleged that, from 1979 to 1983, Raytheon overcharged the government, diverted materials and submitted bills for repair work never done. The Justice Department eventually closed the case, citing a lack of evidence. However, the real reason the government dropped the case, according to John Phillips, a Los Angeles attorney who represented Schwarzkopf until the government took over, was that it “decided basically that it was just too much effort [to prosecute Raytheon] for the dollars at stake.” Although he concedes that some of the allegations in the suit “turned out not to be accurate,” he says that the main problem was that the more promising allegations involved cost-accounting methods and became “extremely labor-intensive” to prosecute, requiring “a tremendous amount of review of time sheets” and other documents.
And when the company isn’t too busy defrauding the American government, they’ve been hard at work dumping toxic pollutants into our environment. In the late 1980’s alone, the corporation dumped nearly 3.5 million pounds of toxic waste into our environment, according to the EPA. In more recent years, the company has been sued time and time again over polluting groundwater, dumping toxic waste, and otherwise destroying our environment. In some areas, like Tampa, Florida, the company released such an enormous amount of toxic pollutants that they’ve estimated it will take them 78 years to finish the cleanup.
Looking at the company’s history, it comes as little surprise that they are working on a program that will mine every available piece of information about an individual. They’ve shown zero respect for people at home and abroad for at least the last 40 years, and its unlikely that their corporate mentality will change in the future.
Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine, a contributing writer for DeSmogBlog, and a producer for Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.