National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user Omar Bárcena.

The Beat

UN and INTERPOL forge ties

This week the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for strengthened cooperation between the UN and INTERPOL. The resolution focuses on collaboration to tackle terrorism, preventing foreign fighter terrorist travel and combating all forms of transnational crime by enabling exchange of police information and assisting countries to use INTERPOL policing capabilities through their INTERPOL National Central Bureaus. On Tuesday, INTERPOL urged countries to obtain biometric data from terrorist fighters to assist in efforts of identifying them when returning home. INTERPOL currently has biometric data for only 10% of the 9,000 foreign terrorist fighters listed in their database.

The costs of identity crime

The Australian Attorney-General’s Department last week released its report on Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia 2016. The report pulls data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Criminology to estimate that identity crimes cost the Australian economy an alarming $2.2 billion dollars each year. Even more concerning is the fact that identity crime—one of the most common crimes in Australia—often acts as a foundation of serious and organised crime which is said to cost Australia around $15 billion annually. The report fed into Australia’s National Identity Security Strategy, which was launched back in 2007.


Not alright(s)

The UN Special Rapporteur on Migrant Rights Francois Crepeau has been in Australia for the past three weeks to examine treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Crepeau applauded some aspects of Australia’s immigration policy including the humanitarian intake and integration programs; others, he concluded ‘are regressive and fall behind international standards’. (Read his full statement here). Crepeau also criticised the Australian Government for what he called it permissive approach to ‘xenophobic ways’. On Monday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton sparked outrage by suggesting that the Fraser government erred in allowing Lebanese Muslims to migrate to Australia in the 1970s. While some have defended Dutton’s remarks, many others have condemned the comments as racist, unfair and likely to vilify Australia’s Muslim community.

Phalanx final flight? this week reported the closure of Operation Phalanx, the US aerial surveillance program that targets drug smuggling and illegal crossings on the country’s Southwest border. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rejected the report as ‘inaccurate’, and US Customs and Border Protection has said that the relationship with DHS would continue in 2017. Nevertheless the report triggered a vociferous backlash from conservatives who believe the Obama administration is quietly winding back the program, as no requests have been made for Operation Phalanx flights in 2017. In Laredo alone, the program carried out 10,559 apprehensions and 4,007 turn-backs, and seized 5,819kgs of narcotics between 2012 and 2015.

CT Scan

Terror network resurfaces in France

French authorities arrested seven men in Strasbourg and Marseille for planning a terrorist attack. The men, five of whom were previously unknown to authorities, are reportedly part of the same terror network that planned attacks during the Euro 2016 football tournament in June. While the exact targets of the plot are unknown, French officials have said that they thwarted a ‘co-ordinated attack aiming to target several sites simultaneously.’ The arrests were the culmination of an eight-month long investigation by France’s domestic intelligence agency DGSI, and one of the men was reportedly brought to the attention of the French authorities by Portugal.

Daesh attack hits Afghanistan

While Daesh appears to be on the ropes in Iraq, the terror group maintains its hold on parts of Afghanistan. A suicide bombing claimed by Daesh killed at least 30 people who had gathered at a mosque to commemorate the Shia observance of Arbaeen this past week. It’s just the latest in a string of Daesh attacks against Afghanistan’s Shia minority—another suicide attack in July against a protest march killed 80 people. Afghan and NATO troops have been attempting to root out Daesh from their stronghold in eastern Afghanistan for months now with some success.

First Responder

A path to clean power

The United Nations COP22 climate talks finished this week in Marrakech, Morocco. The talks sought to detail how to implement action agreed upon at COP21 Paris agreement last year. All parties to the COP21 agreement signed on to establish a rulebook to implement the Paris agreement by December 2018. The most progress came from the 48 most economically disadvantaged countries that compose the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which pledged to go with 100% renewable energy by 2050. The spectre of Donald Trump’s election loomed large over the conference, given his 2012 claim that global warming is a Chinese conspiracy and his recent appointment of a renowned climate sceptic to lead the transition of the US’s Environmental Protection Agency. In Morocco, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the president-elect to ‘really work for humanity’.

From quake to wave

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck 35km off the coast of the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan on Monday. Subsequent aftershocks up to 5.3 magnitudes have continued to be felt as far away as Tokyo. Japanese officials responded quickly issuing tsunami warnings, evacuating civilians to higher ground and moving ships out to sea. The Prefecture’s tidal barriers held strong against tsunamis, which were smaller than forecast. None of the area’s nuclear reactors (closed since the 2011 Tohoku triple disaster) were damaged. The cooling system for a spent nuclear fuel pool at the Fukushima Daini reactor briefly halted during the quake but restarted soon after.