National security wrap

The Beat

Documentary: gangster turned lawyer defending criminals in Spain

Vice has released a 45 minute documentary looking at one of Britain’s most notorious reformed criminals, Jason Coghlan, who was jailed in 1999 for armed robbery and served a 12-year sentence in Strangeways prison in Manchester. While incarcerated, he studied law and sued the prison service five times—winning five out of five cases. On his release in 2010, he relocated to Spain to open his own legal firm providing access to legal representation for foreign gangsters in Spain.

Remote warfare and the war on drugs: briefing report

The Remote Control Project and Sustainable Security have released a briefing paper examining the impact of increased reliance on advanced technologies in the ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America. The paper argues that new tactics using advanced technology merely perpetuates the existing shortfalls of militarised drug policies by weakening the rule of law and state legitimacy, and effectively rendering these new methods ineffective.

CT Scan

Why Belgium?

The horrific  terror attacks in Belgium earlier this week have led to a number of poignant questions about the nature of and reasons behind the disaster. So why Belgium? The Guardian offers a few thoughts on the topic, which include a poorly integrated Muslim minority with high levels of youth unemployment and under-resourced and complacent authorities such as police, transport and first aid responders. Belgium represents a unique problem for Europe, as argued over at The New York Times, for those reasons. Belgium’s Prime Minister, Charles Michel, called for ‘unity and solidarity’ and warned of the potential for further attacks in his official statement in response. For updates as the story unfolds see here.

Surveillance and intelligence gathering, expect the debate to heat-up

We’d recommend watching this video (or listening to the podcast!) of US General Michael Hayden discussing his recent book, American Intelligence in the Age of Terror. The book looks at intelligence decisions since 9/11, the CIA’s interrogation program and challenges facing international intelligence communities in the coming years, and is bound to be an interesting read in the wake of the Belgium attacks.

Terror financing among youth on the home-front

A 16 year old Sydney school girl and 20 year old man, Milad Atai, were arrested on 23 March for financing ISIS. Atai has been formally charged with financing terrorism and has been under investigation by the AFP since the beginning of Operation Appleby. The high school student was allegedly enlisted by Atai to facilitate a $5,000 transfer to his contact, Ahmed Merhi—an Australian Daesh fighter in Syria. The arrests are further evidence of a new Daesh tactic to involve young females in the group’s operations.


Are increases in airport security necessary?

In the aftermath of the attacks in Belgium this week, calls have been made for airports, like Brussels, to change their approach to security checks to require landside screening if they don’t already have those mechanisms in place. However, the Airports Council International argued on Tuesday that such a change ‘could be disruptive and actually create new security vulnerabilities’. Likewise, immigration policy and homeland security analysts Alex Nowrasteh and Patrick G. Eddington of the Cato Institute published an article earlier this month which suggests that the dramatic increase in border enforcement in the past 15 years has perhaps gone a step too far.

Border security on strike

This week throughout Australia, border force and airport security workers have been on rolling strikes, with a planned 24-hour mass stoppage at all airports on Thursday over poor work conditions. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged employees of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to resume work in wake of the Brussels attacks. Last month, The Australian revealed that ABF counterterrorism forces had assessed as many as 110,000 inbound and outbound passengers for their risk to national security, that resulted in 1,100 ‘outcomes’ that include referrals to security and intelligence agencies.

First Responder

Records broken in climate change reports

On Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) released its Status of the Global Climate in 2015, which details a number of climate and weather records that had been broken during the year. WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said the rate of climate change was ‘unprecedented’ and urged world leaders to sign and implement the Paris agreement on climate change. Last week, NASA released data showing that global surface temperatures in February were a staggering 1.35 degrees Celsius warmer than the average monthly temperature (between 1951–1980), the biggest margin ever recorded. In a similar vein, a paper released on 22 March in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, warns that ferocious super-storms could become more frequent over the next century if global temperatures continue to rise.

Water security on the agenda

The Obama administration hosted the first White House Water Summit on UN World Water Day on Tuesday. The summit aimed to raise awareness of water issues in the US, and saw more than 150 businesses and organisations commit US$4 billion to upgrade critical infrastructure. Water security has made headlines in the US of late, with a historic drought affecting nearly 40 million people living predominantly in the southwest.