National security wrap

The beat

At what point does law enforcement breach privacy?

The Carpenter case in the US Supreme Court has reignited debate about to what extent law enforcement agencies should have access to information on mobile devices. In Carpenter v United States, the Supreme Court decided that authorities will need a warrant to access an individual’s location data on their mobile. As US law currently stands, law enforcement authorities are allowed to ask third-party companies to hand over data from an individual’s device. The Guardian argues that technology is outpacing the law and that the criminal justice system needs to be forward-thinking about how technology will transform legal evidence.

Afghanistan crackdown

Afghanistan’s Counter Narcotics Justice Center arrested 230 people and seized 32 tons of drugs, more than 47 kilograms of illicit chemicals and over 47,000 litres of alcohol in the first three months of this year. Among those arrested, 179 people received sentences of between one and 20 years in prison. Poppy cultivation reached a record high of 328,000 hectares in 2017, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Fighting school shootings

In the wake of multiple mass shootings, schools across the United States are looking at ways to protect their students. In Wisconsin, schools are turning to gunshot-detecting sensors designed to alert police within seconds of shots being fired in a classroom. In Virginia, the Washington County sheriff’s office, board of supervisors and school board intend to have police officers stationed in schools as a deterrent.

CT scan

Closing in on Islamic State

Iraq’s military said that it killed about 45 Islamic State members with an air attack on a gathering of IS leaders last Friday. Those killed included the deputy war minister and a ‘media emir’. The air strike happened in Hajin province, the most populated region still under IS control. The strike comes as the US, Russia and Iran race to close in on IS, whose last remaining members are taking advantage of the gaps between the three powers’ spheres of control.

A formal strategy for combating terror in Africa?

US Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul put forward a bill to formally establish the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership as a State Department program. Though the program has existed for years, the bill calls for a whole-of-government strategy to combat terror in Africa. Meanwhile, Vox released a video showing how Islamist militant groups have steadily gained strength across the African continent.

New report: Hezbollah and Israel in Syria

The Center for Strategic and International Studies published a policy brief on the escalating conflict with Hezbollah in Syria. The authors analyse the political and military objectives of Hezbollah, Iran and Israel in Syria, and map the positions of their relevant militias, military bases and airstrikes. The brief ultimately argues that it’s critical for the US to act to help prevent further escalation in Syria.


Austria’s anti-migrant exercises

Austria launched large-scale patrol training exercises on its border with Slovenia on Tuesday. Five military helicopters, 500 police officers and over 200 soldiers responded to the mock arrival of hundreds of migrants. The training comes after Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany), backed by the Austrian government, gave Merkel a provocative ultimatum to broker an immigration deal, threatening to act unilaterally to turn migrants away from the German border. Given that very few refugees have attempted to cross the Slovenian border in recent months, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar claimed that the exercise was ‘not needed’ and ‘provocative’.

The environmental cost of the India–China border dispute

This piece in The Conversation claims that China and India’s border dispute is contributing to environmental catastrophe. The rapid development of Chinese and Indian infrastructure, such as roads, hydroelectric dams and mines, to stake out turf in the border region has caused deforestation, landslides and even glacial retreat. Flow-on effects from environmental degradation in the Himalayan plateau is estimated to affect the future livelihoods of almost half the world’s population.

UNODC World Drug Report released

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has released its annual World Drug Report. According to the report, global opium production increased by 65% in the past year, while cocaine production was at the highest level ever recorded. Afghanistan and Colombia accounted for the bulk of production.

First responder

Best practices in disaster management from Japan

The probability of an earthquake in Japan is likely to increase over the next 30 years according to the Japanese government. Given the prevalence of earthquakes and tsunamis, Japan is a useful case study on good governance for disaster resilience. Japan has three key policy and strategy documents.

First is the Basic Act for National Resilience Contributing to Preventing and Mitigating Disasters for Developing Resilience in the Lives of the Citizenry. It highlights the importance of disaster prevention and mitigation, the role of local governments, the function of vulnerability assessments, and cooperation between government and business. Notably, it emphasises that disaster support must meet the needs of different groups of people, including women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly. Japan also has an action plan for national resilience and an Office for Resilience Promotion that produces publications on best practices and lessons learned from past disasters.

Agriculture in Africa

Agriculture plays an important role in many African countries’ economy, employment and health. Yet the sector faces numerous threats, including climate change and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. The UK government is investing in the development of ‘super crops’ in Zambia, to create crops that are more resistant to diseases and better able to withstand natural disasters. Zuneid Yousuf, chairman of MBI Group, says that the agriculture sector in Africa needs innovative practices to ensure that Africa’s arable and fertile land remains productive in the face of such challenges.

Our security is in safe paws

These little pups are the latest graduates of the Australian biosecurity detector dogs training course. Good to know our security is in safe paws!