National security wrap

The beat

Assassinations and arrests in the Philippines

Two Philippine mayors, Ferdinand Bote and Antonio Halili, were assassinated by snipers during separate incidents in just two days. Halili, who gained notoriety for parading drug suspects in public, had drawn ire from the public and human rights officials amid growing concern over the rising number of killings of drug suspects under President Rodrigo Duterte. Since Duterte took office in 2016, 12,000 have been killed in his anti-narcotics crackdown. The assassinations have been accompanied by further tough action under Duterte. The Philippine National Police jailed more than 11,000 ‘loiterers’ in the last three weeks alone.

Drone drug smuggling

The rise of drones continues unabated on both sides of law and order. Reports of drones along the US–Mexico border have spiked in recent months, as smugglers embrace this technology to spot and probe vulnerabilities along the national boundary. While most drones are believed to be used for surveillance by drug smugglers, in August one crossed the border carrying 13 pounds of methamphetamine. Struggling to cope with the rapid proliferation of drones, police and the Department of Homeland Security are pushing for regulation, or an air traffic control system for the drone era.

Lack of transparency in the NT

Northern Territory Police is facing criticism for concealing use-of-force guidelines from the public. The new General order for the use of force came into effect on 14 June, but NT Police has removed all explanations of when officers can use their weapons from the two-page document. Responding to the ABC, an NT Police spokesman said, ‘We do not provide Standard Operating Procedures for public dissemination.’ But previous use-of-force guidelines are publicly available online.

CT scan

Counterterror in the age of social media

Israel has won a battle with Twitter to block accounts linked to Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. The 35 accounts are still viewable outside of Israel, or with the use of a virtual private network spoofing an Israel-based user’s location. Twitter has been reluctant to cooperate with such Israeli government requests—unlike Facebook, which has readily complied since Israel passed the ‘Facebook Law’ in 2017 giving courts the power to order social media sites to take down inflammatory content.

British lawmakers are considering an amendment to the recently tabled Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill that would oblige various internet platforms to remove or block ‘illegal content’ within six hours of internal identification or within 24 hours of external complaint. Earlier this year Prime Minister Theresa May called on social media giants to do more to block terrorist content.

Pakistan on the grey list—again

The international Financial Action Task Force put Pakistan on a ‘grey list’ of state financers of terrorism, affecting the nation’s financial institutions’ access to global money. The decision comes four months after Pakistan was put on a terror-financing watch list, meant as a warning that it needed to do more to close financing loopholes to terrorist groups. This is the second time Pakistan has been put on the grey list.


Papua policing and border disputes

Tensions near the disputed border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are on the rise. The discovery of rich mineral deposits in the region has been accompanied by increased patrols by Indonesian troops less than 10 kilometres from the border, according to Asia Pacific Report. The increased military presence hasn’t been well received. The Indonesian army was accused by Amnesty International of 95 unlawful killings in the Papua region, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was denied entry to investigate conditions in Papua last month. On PNG’s side, only 78 police officers patrol the rugged region. To mitigate the lack of personnel, the PNG government has introduced a controversial national identification program. People living in the border region will need to register on a national database and provide a national ID card to cross into Indonesian Papua.

Egypt’s strategy for Rafah border-crossing closure

Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai after a three-day closure, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2013 coup d’état. The removal of Egypt’s first Islamist president in July 2013 energised jihadi elements in Sinai, and the anniversary stoked simmering tensions. The border closure hampered unrest in the Sinai in two ways: it facilitated a military operation that killed three militants and destroyed smuggling tunnels at Rafah, and it restricted Hamas’s destabilising reach in the Sinai. The group relies on cross-border flows to prop up its military authority and Gaza’s economy amid an 11-year blockade.

First responder

South Sudan ceasefire broken

The ceasefire between the South Sudanese government and rebel groups agreed upon just a week ago has been broken. In an attack in Maban in the Upper Nile State on 1 July, 25 civilians were allegedly killed and 40 wounded. The ceasefire was important to make humanitarian aid more accessible, according to the UN Mission in South Sudan. Only last month the UN reported that the five years of civil war had left 7.1 billion people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Threat of rising temperatures in South Asia

A new report by the World Bank, South Asia’s hotspots: the impact of temperature and precipitation changes on living standards, reveals that temperatures in South Asia have risen over the past 60 years and will continue to increase. Hotspots are areas in which changes in weather patterns, such as erratic rainfall and droughts, will negatively affect living standards and agriculture. The report says that identifying hotspots, and the communities that live in them, is important for designing targeted development policies that meet their specific conditions. Coastal regions and inland regions, for example, will face different risks.

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are one solution to reducing carbon emissions, yet their use comes with fresh risks. As a Tesla case demonstrated in May, if an electric vehicle crashes and catches fire, its charged battery can reignite even after the blaze has been extinguished. As this article highlights, this means that first responders will require training in how to put out an electric-battery fire.