National security wrap

The beat

Militarising police doesn’t sit well

A new study has found that the deployment of heavily armed SWAT teams in the US reduces public support for police but doesn’t reduce crime or increase safety. The research found that seeing militarised police in news reports may have a negative effect on people’s opinions of law enforcement. Police departments get some of their equipment—like rifles, armoured trucks and night-vision sniper scopes—through a recycling program for surplus military gear. Limits placed on the scheme in 2015 after the anti-police demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, were lifted by President Donald Trump last year.

Twelve killed in Brazil drug raids

Anti-drug operations in Rio de Janeiro have resulted in 12 deaths in two separate incidents. The operations, involving 4,200 soldiers and 70 police officers, come six months after President Michel Temer authorised an emergency measure giving the army control over the police. The measure has been associated with an increased level of violence and criticised for disproportionately affecting poorer neighbourhoods.

Canada accepts first ever Australian refugee

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board has approved Australian Steven Utah’s asylum claim. The board ruled that there was a serious threat to his life and insufficient state protection should he return. Utah was an informant for the Australian Crime Commission (now the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission) on the Bandidos bikie gang. He fled Australia in 2006 after authorities revealed his informant status and removed protective custody. It’s thought to be the first time an Australian has been granted refugee status overseas.

CT scan

Cloud over the death of senior al-Qaeda member

Doubts have been raised about whether an al-Qaeda explosives expert reportedly killed in 2017 is really dead. Ibrahim al-Asiri—who is widely believed to have led al-Qaeda’s aviation plots and been involved in the failed bombing of a US passenger plane on Christmas Day in 2009—was supposedly killed in a US airstrike last year. However, some counterterrorism experts are questioning the reports, as al-Qaeda often confirms the death of senior officials, praising their martyrdom.

Countering violent extremism: there’s an app for that

A new desktop and smartphone app has been developed that monitors, measures and evaluates the effectiveness of programs for preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). The app is intended for use by P/CVE practitioners and aims to improve implementation of P/CVE programs, inform policy and generate greater empirical knowledge about the many challenges of working in P/CVE. The app’s developers have produced an instructive video that explains how it works.

Lindt Café heroes receive bravery awards

Victim Katrina Dawson and survivor Jarrod Morton-Hoffman have been formally recognised for their bravery during the Lindt Café siege in Sydney in December 2014. Dawson and Morton-Hoffman played instrumental roles in negotiating with hostage-taker Man Haron Monis and prevented the loss of more lives. The national bravery awards recognise those who go above and beyond in risking their lives to save others.


Cross-border shootings: why is Texas different from Arizona?

Two US appeals courts have come to different conclusions about two fatal shootings of unarmed teenagers in Mexico by US border agents. In March, the Fifth Circuit ruled that Sergio Guereca’s family couldn’t sue the agent who killed the 15-year-old from the US side of the Texas–Mexico border. However, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the family of Jose Antonio—a 16-year-old Mexican national—can sue the agent responsible, who fired his shot from Arizona. A federal judge from California is now pushing the Supreme Court to resolve the inconsistent rulings.

Drug bust of a ‘drug bus’

A bus crash in Ecuador that left 23 dead has exposed an innovation in transnational drug trafficking. A Colombian criminal organisation, Los Mercaderes de la Frontera, offered a free bus tour to Ecuador and Chile. Ecuadorian police inspected the bus after the crash and found 80 kilograms of cocaine and more than 600 kilograms of cannabis. Colombian forces arrested six alleged members of the organisation, including two principal suppliers.

China attempts to improve relations with India

China’s defence minister, Wei Fenghe, is in India on a mission to improve relations after the 2017 Doklam border dispute, which saw Chinese and Indian troops face off on the border they share with Bhutan. While the Wuhan summit between Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi in April was seen as a step forward, deeper tensions continue to permeate the military and political engagements between the two nuclear powers.

First responder

India insists on disaster self-reliance

The Indian government is unlikely to accept foreign assistance for relief operations in Kerala, which has suffered its worst floods in a century. The death toll is expected to reach 400 and more than a million people are stuck in relief camps. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the Maldives and the UN have so far offered to help. India’s central and state governments have chipped in with substantial financial help, and reports suggest that the Kerala government has demanded a US$372 million special relief package from New Delhi. The Indian navy and army have been lauded for their efforts over the past two weeks, including the rescue of a heavily pregnant woman who was airlifted to safety from a submerged house. Footage of the daring rescue was later posted online.

Earthquake compounds panic in Venezuela

An 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit off Venezuela’s coast this week, causing people in the capital Caracas to evacuate buildings and disrupting a pro-government rally campaigning for controversial economic changes. Authorities reported limited damage due to the quake’s considerable depth, though people suffered minor injuries in the central business district and neighbouring areas. Experts warn that the cash-strapped Venezuelan government is ill-equipped and inadequately resourced to deal with a natural disaster.