One of the world’s largest military contractors. Supplies equipment for military checkpoints in occupied Palestine and for surveillance of the US-Mexico border and immigrant communities in the US.
L3Harris Technologies is a U.S.-based military contractor that manufacturers surveillance equipment and electronic warfare technology for military and law enforcement applications. The company formed in 2019 as the merger of L3 Technologies (formerly L-3 Communications) and Harris Corporation. At the time of the merger, it was the largest ever in the defense industry and made the combined company the 7th largest military contractor in the world. The combined firm has customers in over 100 countries globally and reported a combined revenue of $16 billion in 2018.
US Border Militarization and Surveillance of Immigrants
Since the early 2000s, both L3 and Harris have been consistently contracted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide surveillance and monitoring technologies to track refugees and immigrants.
Harris Corporation has been contracted for CBP’s Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border. Hovering 10,000 feet above ground, TARS are large, blimp-like unmanned aircraft equipped with surveillance systems for long range intelligence gathering. TARS units are installed in eight sites along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The system is operated by the Air and Marine Operations division of CBP. Harris’ subsidiary Exelis was chosen as the prime contractor for the system in 2014. The balloons were manufactured by ILC Dover, with system integrator TCOM.
In 2013, Harris announced a $45 million contract with ICE to support the agency’s “tactical communication networks,” which allow ICE agents to coordinate raids, across the continental U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In June 2018, Harris was awarded two contracts totaling $26 million to upgrade CBP’s radio communication systems.
Harris Corporation is also the manufacturer of cell site simulators, which it sells to military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies around the world. The ACLU defines cell site simulators as devices that track and locate cell phones by mimicking real cell towers and forcing phones in the area to provide location tracking information. In the process, they ensnare all cell phones in that area.
Harris-made Stingray and Hailstorm cell site simulators have been sold to various U.S.intelligence, military and local law enforcement agencies. ICE published a solicitation to purchase a Stingray as early as 2008. In 2011, Harris received a $1.5 million contract to provide ICE with Stingray equipment. A 2016 House Oversight Committee report revealed that ICE and CBP have a combined total of more than 90 cell site simulators. In 2017, it was revealed that ICE is using this technology to locate undocumented migrants slated for deportation. Before 2015, the use of such devices by federal agencies did not require a warrant and was kept secret by law enforcement agencies, including ICE, leaving the technology’s historical utilization unclear. However, there are known cases of it being utilized to monitor communities of Color and surveil protestors.
Between 2005 and 2019, L3 has been the prime contractor of the Predator/Reaper Mission Aircrew Training System (PMATS), which trains CBP agents to operate the Predator and Reaper drones. Originally designed for the U.S. military, these military vehicles and weapons have been adopted by CBP to monitor and surveil the U.S.-Mexico border. This program is also responsible for training U.S. drone pilots who have carried out operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. L3 has received over $260 million for the PMATS’ contracts.
From 2003 to 2018, L3 was one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest suppliers. The largest contract during this period, worth $636 million, was with L3’s subsidiary Vertex Aerospace to provide maintenance and logistical support to CBP’s fleet of Lockheed Martin P-3 surveillance aircraft that assist in tracking and detaining migrants. However as part of the merger with Harris, L3 has sold Vertex to private equity firm American Industrial Partners for $540 million.
In 2006, L3 was subcontracted by Boeing for a $2.1 billion contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to implement the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBINet), an electronic border surveillance system along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The contract was terminated in 2011.
Technology Used in Checkpoints in Occupied Palestine
L3 has supplied Israel with screening technologies used at several checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territory. These checkpoints are part of the system of severe travel restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians. The company’s SafeView body scanner machines have been installed in the Qalandia, Bethlehem, and Sha’ar Efraim (Irtach) checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. In addition, L3 SafeView and ProVision scanner machines have been installed in the Erez checkpoint in the Gaza Strip.
Weapon Components Used in Attacks on Civilians and War Crimes
L3-made technologies are integrated into multiple weapon systems used by the Israeli military, including Israel’s main battle tanks, warships, and air-to-ground bombs. These weapons have been used repeatedly in attacks on densely populated civilian areas, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties in Lebanon and Gaza, in what amounts to human rights violations, collective punishment, and at times war crimes.
L3 manufactures the engine of Israel’s main battle tank, the Merkava IV, which has been systematically been used against civilians. The diesel engine was produced between 2002-2006 by L3 Combat Propulsion Systems (formerly a division of General Dynamics) together with German company MTU, a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce. In 2011, L3 received a multi-year contract from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to supply diesel engines for ground combat vehicles, including the Merkava tanks and armored personnel carriers. Israel used Merkava armored personnel carriers in its 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which killed 1,183 people, of whom approximately one third were children, and severely damaged civilian infrastructure, in violation of international humanitarian law. Israel used Merkava IV tanks during its 2012 assault on Gaza (“Operation Pillar of Defense”), which killed 174 Palestinians, of whom 101 were civilians and 33 were children, and damaged civilian infrastructure in violation of international humanitarian law. Israel used Merkava IV tanks again in its 2014 assault on Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”), which killed 2,251 Palestinians, of whom 1,462 were civilians and 551 were children. Defense for Children International documented that artillery and tank shelling killed at least 81 children during Operation Protective Edge. Israeli soldiers reported using tanks to purposefully destroy Palestinian agricultural lands.
L3 also makes parts for the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) guidance kit, which converts unguided air-to-ground bombs into guided, or “smart” bombs. In 2012, L3 subsidiary KDI Precision Products participated in a $647 million contract to sell at least 11,500 precision bomb fuses for JDAM kits to the Israeli Air Force through the U.S. foreign military sales program. During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, the Israeli military targeted civilian homes and other targets with one-ton bombs equipped with the JDAM systems. JDAM-guided bombs killed at least 166 people, including 89 children, and were specifically highlighted in the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as a potential war crime.
In addition, L3 manufactured the integrated platform management systems of the Northrop Grumman Sa’ar 5 and 6 warships that the Israeli Navy uses to enforce the illegal naval siege of the Gaza Strip. Israel limits Gaza fishermen to an area no wider than 3 to 6 miles off the coast, severely limiting their access to fishing. The restriction is in contravention of the Oslo Agreements which state that Gazans should have a clearance of 20 nautical miles off the coast. Even when within the 3 and 6 mile boundaries, Gaza fishermen risk being attacked by Israeli naval vessels, which have killed and injured fishermen and damaged or confiscated their boats. The siege of the Gaza Strip is a form of collective punishment in violation of international law. In 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon condemned the blockade and called for accountability. A Sa’ar ship also participated in the Israeli attack on the unarmed Free Gaza Flotilla in 2010, resulting in the killing of ten humanitarian activists. In November 2017, the International Criminal Court reaffirmed that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed” during the attack. The Israeli Navy also used Sa’ar ships to enforce a naval blockade on Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon war.
Besides L3, Harris has also manufactured components for military fighter jets that Israeli uses to target civilians, including the F-16, F-35, and F-18, as well as navy vessels. One of its specialities is electronic warfare systems for military aircraft. Harris subsidiary Exelis also used to provide the Israeli military with night vision systems and the Israeli navy with sonars.
Beyond selling weapon components to Israel, both L3 and Harris have ongoing collaborations with the Israeli arms industry. In May 2018, L3’s Canadian subsidiary L3 MAS announced that it had partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a major state-owned Israeli defense company, to offer the Artemis Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Artemis UAS is based on IAI’s flagship drone, the Heron TP (also known as the Eitan).
Similarly, in 2009, L3 MAS collaborated with Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapon manufacturer, to offer the Hermes 900 drone to the Canadian Joint Airborne ISR Capability (JAIC) program. The Israeli military has used the Hermes 900 during its 2014 assault on Gaza to conduct airstrikes and provide intelligence. Israeli drone strikes killed 840 people in 2014, and Defense for Children International documented that drones were responsible for the deaths of at least 164 children during the operation itself.
Historically, L3 has been the subject of numerous controversies, investigations, and lawsuits. In 2014, the company reportedly overstated sales on a Defense Department contract and faced accusations of violating federal securities laws. In 2015, the company agreed to pay $4.63 million in response to allegations that it had knowingly overstated labor hours charged to the government under contracts with the U.S. Air Force. Later that same year, the U.S. government filed and settled a civil fraud lawsuit against the company and its subsidiary EOTech, for knowingly and repeatedly selling defective weapon sights that malfunctioned in extreme weather conditions to the U.S. military. The company admitted to wrongdoing and paid over $25 million.
In 2004, 256 Iraqis sued CACI International and Titan Corporation, which was bought by L3, for “directing and participating in torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, sexual assault, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at Abu Ghraib prison." Plaintiffs alleged they were raped, repeatedly beaten, detained in isolation, urinated on, prevented from praying, and forced to watch family members being tortured. The U.S. Government had hired CACI and Titan to provide interrogation and translation services at military prisons in Iraq. In November 2007, a district judge granted summary judgment stating that Titan/L3 employees performed their duties under the direct command and exclusive operational control of the military. Although the court did not deny the company’s direction of and participation in torture and war crimes, the companies were cleared of responsibility because they were following the government’s orders through government contractor immunity.
- On April 26, 2017, University of Wisconsin-Madison students passed a resolution calling the university to divest from private prisons and corporations that build border walls, including L-3 Communications.
- On February 22, 2016, the Students’ Society of Mcgill University general assembly voted to divest from companies “profiting from violations of Palestinian human rights,” including L-3 Communications. It was later voted against and nullified in an online ratification.