ASPI suggests
5 Jun 2015|

Phone surveillance

With the second G7 kicking off next Monday, and plenty of foreign and security policy issues set to be on the table, make sure you take a look at German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s op-ed in The Globe and Mail. Merkel stresses the need to cooperate intensively to find ‘joint solutions’ to the world’s troubles, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Islamic State and climate change all snagging a mention. With the G8 becoming the G7 in March last year to reflect the ‘shared values‘ of the remaining states, now’s a good time to read Foreign Policy‘s piece on how classical Russian literature can put Russian aggression into context better than any CIA reports, scholarly analysis or spy satellite imagery.

It’s been a big week for intel fans, as Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which has halted the NSA’s ability to bulk collect American phone records. Mattathias Schwartz over at The New Yorker gives a rundown on what the Freedom Act really changes—and what it doesn’t. David Cole at the New York Review of Books has also taken a look at the proposed impact of the Freedom Act, and makes an argument for more government transparency (in the wake of the Snowden leaks) in order to prevent Americans forfeiting their liberties.

Across the Pacific, Japan is looking at ramping up its counterterror efforts, the details of which are nicely summarised by Yuki Tatsumi at Foreign Policy.

Bringing in the research goods this week, ASPI’s Benjamin Schreer has authored a RSIS publication on the long-range conventional prompt strike capabilities program, and its implications for the Asia Pacific arena should the program materialise into an operational weapon system.

Over at CSIS, Gregory B. Poling thinks that Australia should be playing a more prominent role in the South China Sea after Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews discussed Australia joining the US’ ‘freedom of navigation’ operations. Poling argues that Canberra should be following in Tokyo’s footsteps, for instance, by helping to build The Philippines’ capacity ‘on everything from search and rescue to maritime domain awareness’. Take a look at Sam Bateman’s piece for The Strategist on Australia’s upcoming freedom of navigation exercise.

For an update on strategy in the Middle East, read Anthony H. Cordesman’s statement before the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he gave a realistic update on the US military campaign against ISIS. Cordesman says that increased transparency will prevent this conflict from joining ‘a history of failed strategies defended by exaggerated claims of success’.

Tech wonks: you’ll be pleased to hear that the US Air Force is planning to acquire hypersonic air vehicles by 2023 which will be able to travel at up to Mach 5. These vehicles will build upon the results of the hypersonic test flight that took place in May 2013, which reached speeds of Mach 5.1 before crashing.

And finally, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter joined Facebook last week after a visit to the company’s headquarters in California. Defense One has suggested some captions for his first images from the Shangri-La Dialogue. We wonder if he’ll be sending a friend request to the Chinese delegate Admiral Sun Jianguo…


Weren’t able to make it to Mark Thomson’s Defence Budget Brief for 2015-2016 last Thursday? Not to worry, his discussion and the Q&A has been uploaded to the ASPI YouTube channel. You can watch it here (1 hr).

The documentary ‘Obama at War‘ is now available on PBS (55 mins). The documentary takes a look at the Obama administration’s struggles to cope with the threat of ISIS and Syria’s civil war. Beginning with the 2011 Arab Spring, the ‘Obama at War’ is surprisingly frank about the US government’s inaction as things headed south in the Middle East.


In the theme of the USA Freedom Act, Blogs of War‘s Covert Contact podcast host John Little discusses encryption and mass surveillance with 30 year FBI veteran David Gomez, where they debate the collection of intelligence; how the model works, and why so many people believe it’s absolutely necessary for national security (30 mins).

This week, the CSIS’ CogitAsia podcast focuses on the progress and contradictions prevalent in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s economic reforms (20 mins).

What exactly will the UK’s Conservative majority government mean for its defence force and foreign policy initiatives? CIMSEC’s Alex Clarke discusses the recent election’s implications with panelists Paul Fisher and Chris Parry in this week’s Sea Control podcast (50 mins).


Melbournites; AIIA’s Melbourne chapter will be hosting a presentation by John Garnaut on Xi Jinping’s war on governmental corruption in China on 11 June. Also, if you’re around Brisbane on 9 June, drop into the AIIA’s Queensland chapter for a discussion by Andrew Phillips on the international community’s struggle to defeat ISIS.