CT Scan
19 Feb 2015|

President Barack Obama works with Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, and Terry Szuplat, Senior Director for Speechwriting, on remarks prior to the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, in the Oval Office, Feb. 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)Welcome to CT Scan, a weekly wrap of developments and ideas in terrorism and counter-terrorism (CT) from Australia and abroad.

First, there have been some domestic developments resulting from the Sydney siege, with the joint inquiry into the incident triggering an announcement by the Australian government of ‘sweeping changes’ to national security. Tony Abbott flagged the tenor of the reforms in a video on Sunday:

There’s been the benefit of the doubt at our borders, the benefit of the doubt for residency, the benefit of the doubt for citizenship and the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink. And in the courts, there has been bail, when clearly there should have been jail.

Details of the new security measures are expected to be released next Monday. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop indicated that government is open to ‘all options’, including newly-appointed government whip Andrew Nikolic’s proposal for the suspension of citizenship for Australian nationals involved in terrorism and revocation for those with dual citizenship. That suggestion falls in line with measures adopted in Britain, France and Canada.

There’s been a focus on education in Australia’s CT agenda. In response to an increasing number of Victorian schools struggling to manage radicalisation of students and parents, the state’s Education Department has appointed a senior advisor to work with schools to promote social cohesion. Further, a pilot anti-radicalisation program, developed by a teacher of the Islamic Council of Victoria in direct response to Islamic State and events in Syria, will be trialled at Islamic schools in Victoria. The program will promote a ‘middle way’ and address issues including jihad, suicide bombing and fighting overseas. For a summary of the role that education should play in CT efforts, see ASPI’s Anthony Bergin’s recent article in The Australian here.

Islamic State’s rearing its ugly head in the Asia–Pacific. The Economist describes how the group’s recruitment of about 650 people from Southeast Asia has shaken the region’s governments into action. The publication also discusses how the direct attack against Japanese citizens and PM Shinzo Abe’s ‘unusually forceful’ response could challenge Japan’s constitutional limitations on warfare.

Over to Europe, the EU Foreign Affairs Council has released its conclusions on CT in the wake of recent terror acts including last week’s shooting in Copenhagen. The statement outlines new measures to be actioned in 2015:

Against this background [of recent attacks], the Council decides to step up, as a matter of urgency, its external action on countering terrorism in particular in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, including Yemen, and North Africa, in particular also Libya, and the Sahel. Counter-terrorism (CT) will be mainstreamed fully into EU foreign policy.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how the EU’s ‘external actions’ manifest over the coming months.

The UK Parliament’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act came into force in the last week. Notable changes include the introduction of police powers to disrupt foreign fighter suspects from traveling out of the UK, and a legal duty upon public bodies—including educational institutions and local authorities—to ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. This duty has been met with criticism from academics concerning its effect on freedom of speech in the academic sphere, with over 500 university professors signing an open letter in The Guardian.

Looking ahead to the international agenda. The Global Network for Rights and Development hosted the International Conference on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights earlier in the week in Geneva. Discussions centred around the drafting of the International Convention on Balancing Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights. Outcomes of this conference will be released soon.

Finally, the White House commenced a three-day Summit on Countering Violent Extremism this week that’ll address best practices for preventing extremism in the US and beyond. The US’ emphasis on drawing on a range of community services to counter violent extremism will be closely watched. However Nathaniel Myers cautions that the focus of the summit shouldn’t be on developing CT strategies—we already have plenty of those—rather, on practical mechanisms to implement those strategies.

Stephanie Huang is an intern at ASPI. Image courtesy of The White House.