National security wrap

The beat

LAPD seeks transparency in releasing arrest footage

The Los Angeles Police Department has voluntarily released body-camera video showing the arrest of a suspect who later died in custody. Still haunted by footage of the Rodney King beating over 20 years ago, the LAPD has adopted one of the nation’s most liberal policies for making body-camera recordings public. Department policy requires video from ‘critical incidents’ such as shootings, in-custody deaths, and police use of force that result in death to be released within 45 days. It’s the first time the third-largest police force in the US has voluntarily released body-camera footage to the media in an effort to increase transparency.

Police forces trial replacements for Australian-made cars

With the end of local automotive production, police around Australia are being forced to turn to foreign manufacturers. South Australian police have begun trialling the ZB model of the Holden Commodore, despite the fact that it’s built in Germany. NSW police have chosen BMW 530d and Chrysler 300 sedans to replace the Holden and Ford pursuit vehicles on the state highway patrol fleet. In the years before the final Australian-built Commodores rolled off Holden’s South Australian assembly line in late 2017, Holden had exported nearly 4,000 police vehicles a year to the United States.

WA follows NSW in rifling up police

Western Australian police are to be armed with semi-automatic AR-15 rifles to enhance the frontline response to terror or ‘active-shooter’ attacks. It follows a decision by the NSW Police Force to arm its riot squad with similar weapons in December last year as part of a plan to protect New Year’s Eve crowds from the threat of terrorism.

CT scan

Free speech, or plain criminal? The UK’s counterterror bill

Following on from our reporting last week, the UK’s proposed Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill has drawn more criticism. The country’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said it ‘struck the wrong balance between security and liberty’. Some of the most controversial parts of the bill concern criminalising repeated streaming of online terrorist material, which could have a chilling effect on journalists and academics, and criminalising expressions of belief—like supporting Islamic State. The committee’s findings come just as UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson warned that Islamic State must be eradicated in Syria to stop its ‘poisonous ideology’ from fuelling future insurgencies.

Small but pernicious: jihadists in Tunisia

Katiba Uqba ibn Nafi (KUIN), a Tunisian branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for an ambush on Tunisian police officers that killed six. The attack was the worst in Tunisia since 2015, and highlights the small but pernicious threat to Tunisia from this jihadist group. Writing for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace only a week earlier, Matt Herbert noted that KUIN and the Islamic State–linked group Jund al-Khilafah have locked up security forces in a conflict in Tunisia’s northwest for seven years now. Though the jihadists have so far failed to undermine the Tunisian state, they continue to fight and have quadrupled their numbers.


At least 12 dead in DRC–Uganda lake clash

Congolese and Ugandan forces have exchanged fire in a territorial dispute over Lake Edward. The violence started after Congolese naval forces were sent to investigate reports of the Ugandan navy apprehending Congolese fishermen. At least 12 fishermen have been killed in the dispute, and many others are missing. Ugandan authorities have complained that the DRC hasn’t done enough to address criminal activity near the border. Increasing violent crime in Uganda has provoked riots and threatened the legitimacy of President Yoweri Museveni’s 32-year rule.

Peace and promises

Ethiopia and Eritrea have formally restored relations, ending a 20-year border dispute. Direct international telephone connections are to be resumed and embassies and ports reopened. Despite the peace deal, Slate argues that diplomatic ties aren’t sufficient to forge lasting peace: the heavily fortified border region needs to be demilitarised and Eritrea must end its draconian surveillance of border communities.

Why close Gaza’s commercial border now?

Israel has sealed off the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing with the Gaza Strip following the launching of a wave of incendiary devices from Gaza. However, the closure may be more than a punitive measure. The squeeze of aid supplies through the crossing may force Hamas to accept the humanitarian aid that Israel offered on 30 June in return for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza in 2014. Up to this point, Hamas has refused to consider the return of Israeli citizens as part of any deal without a mass release of Palestinian prisoners.

First responder

Abandoning ship in Yemen’s port

Al Hudaydah port is one of the most strategically important locations in Yemen. Approximately 80% of the country’s international humanitarian aid enters through the port, which is currently controlled by the Houthis. UAE-led coalition forces have been attempting to take back control of the port, and now the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have withdrawn their staff from Al Hudaydah over fears of future air strikes. According to UN figures, more than 121,000 people have fled the port city.

Humanitarian crisis in South Sudan

The head of the ICRC’s operations in South Sudan says suffering will only increase after the apparent collapse of a ceasefire. Francois Stamm told Devex that continued fighting among a growing number of armed groups has increased the challenge of delivering aid in the conflict-affected country. South Sudan is experiencing the largest refugee crisis in Africa and the third largest in the world. Stamm said the ICRC and other aid groups face other challenges that make aid delivery more difficult, including poor infrastructure, limited communications, violations of international humanitarian law by fighting parties, and a high-risk security environment.

What role will AI play in emergency responses?

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Canada’s national security research office are partnering to test how emergency services can make use of innovative technologies. AI technology may be able to help collect critical information in an emergency situation and feed it to devices and equipment used by firefighters, paramedics and police. DHS has a dedicated science and technology initiative called the Next Generation First Responder Apex Program, which works with first responders on safety and standards of new technologies.