From 2010 until January this year, Republican Scott Brown represented the people of Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. Now, in his post-government career, Brown is working with a company that has sold weapons to Bahrain, a country where the regime has been engaged in a brutal crackdown against its citizens for more than two years.
On Sept. 9, Florida-based Global Digital Solutions, Inc. announced Brown would be joining its “advisory board” where he would “provide advice and guidance to the GDSI executive leadership team” about “the company’s overall global strategy” as well as a planned merger with a firm called Airtronic USA, Inc. That merger, which will be the focus of Brown’s work, took GDSI from a company that, as of May, billed itself as “specializing in wireless data communications” into the world of international arms dealing.
In August 2012, GDSI announced its plan to merge with Airtronic, which had filed for bankruptcy. The planned merger of the two companies requires approval from a federal bankruptcy court, which has scheduled an Oct. 2 confirmation hearing. According to the GDSI web page, the acquisition of Airtronic will be the centerpiece of a “new military mission” for the company.
“Global Digital Solutions is refocusing its business strategy on positioning itself as a leader in providing small arms manufacturing, complementary security and technology solutions and knowledge-based, culturally attuned social consulting in unsettled areas,” the site said. “Pursuant to the new focus, GDSI announced the planned acquisition of Airtronic USA, Inc., a small arms manufacturer headquartered in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.”
A list of Airtronic clients on the GDSI website includes Bahrain, a country where the ruling monarchy has been accused of engaging in a brutal two-year crackdown against its political opponents in the country. The Airtronic product catalog notes its international military clients include the “armed forces” and “law enforcement agencies” of Bahrain and at least 13 other countries.
Multiple international human rights groups have condemned the Bahraini government for attacking civilians since widespread and regular anti-government protests broke out in the country in early 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. In a report released in August 2012, Physicians for Human Rights dubbed the Bahraini government the “tear gas regime” and accused it of unleashing an unprecedented “torrent” of tear gas on crowds and even in homes, a tactic the group said amounted to “chemical warfare” and violated international law. In that report, the human rights group concluded tear gas was used by authorities in the majority of neighborhoods in Bahrain “at least once per week” from February 2011 through August 2012.
According to Human Rights Watch, protesters, including children, have been seriously injured when struck by tear gas canisters. Human Rights Watch has also accused the Bahraini government of “routinely detain(ing) children without cause and subject(ing) them to ill-treatment” and “brutally torturing activists” with electro-shocks, beatings, and waterboarding. A U.S. State Department report issued last year said the Bahraini regime was responsible for “significant human rights problems,” though the U.S. itself has engaged in arms deals since the crackdown began. Critics both inside and outside the government have accused the Obama administration of not taking a hard enough line on Bahrain, which is a key strategic ally and serves as the headquarters of the United States Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf.
GDSI and Brown did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story, so it’s unclear which weapons were sold to Bahrain and whether the company continues to do business there. The Airtronic “weapons product line” includes machine guns, rocket launchers, and grenade launchers that can be used for lethal ammunition or non-lethal rounds.
See the full Airtronic product catalog below: