National security wrap

The beat

Backflips over 3D-printed guns

Defense Distributed, a US-based online organisation, is selling blueprints for 3D-printed guns despite a court injunction banning their online distribution. In July, blueprints were removed from a State Department list of banned arms exports and the company was allowed to upload gun schematics, though 19 states and the District of Columbia have sought an injunction against the decision. Defense Distributed argues that blueprints should be accessible under the First and Second Amendments, but there are concerns about public safety.

Police to investigate UK Labour hate speech claims

London’s Metropolitan Police revealed it will investigate claims of hate speech within Britain’s Labour Party, after radio station LBC passed on a series of cases leaked from Labour’s disputes panel. The same day, the party’s national executive announced its code of conduct will feature all 11 definitions of anti-Semitism included in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, though a caveat to the code has come under fire. Background information on Labour’s anti-Semitism controversy can be found here.

Concerns over California plan to scrap cash bail

California is officially the first US state to abolish cash bail, but the new law is being challenged by a coalition of opponents. The California Money Reform Act will come into effect in October 2019. It gives judges more power to determine bail using pretrial risk assessments, but human rights groups are concerned about its impact. Analysis on the issue can be found here and here.

CT scan

Furore over Facebook’s definition of ‘terrorism’

Facebook has come under fire from UN expert Fionnuala Ni Aolain over its ‘overly broad’ definition of terrorism. She argues that the ‘imprecise’ definition could be used by repressive regimes to regulate access to and the use of Facebook to clamp down and silence opposition groups by branding their activities as ‘terrorism’.

Scaling back war on counterterrorism

The Pentagon is considering withdrawing American commando units from Niger, in reaction to last year’s attack in which four American soldiers died. The decision is awaiting approval from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. If approved, it will result in the closure of US military outposts in Tunisia, Cameroon, Libya and Kenya, and seven of the eight elite counterterrorism units based in Africa.

Ukraine and Turkey to work more closely

Ukraine and Turkey have signed a pact that would enable greater cooperation on counterterrorism. They have also agreeing to strengthen ties to fight people-trafficking, cybercrime, money laundering and transnational organised crime. The document was signed in Ankara by Ukranian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.


Trump’s ‘wall’ blocks Americans

The Trump administration is revoking passports of Americans who live along the Texas–Mexico border and denying new passport applications. Doctors and midwives allegedly falsified birth certificates for babies born in Mexico from the 1950s to 1990s. Passport denials began under George W. Bush. They lessened during Barack Obama’s presidency, but are now occurring at an unprecedented rate. Passport holders denied re-entry to the US are being held in Mexican detention centres. Those allowed into the US could face deportation proceedings.

Jordan rejects proposal for confederation with Palestinians

Jordan has rejected a proposal, purportedly put forward by US officials, to create a Jordanian–Palestinian confederation. Both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have reasserted support for a two-state solution, though Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly wants a ‘three-way confederation with Jordan and Israel’. The plan, a version of which was floated in the 1980s, would see Jordan take responsibility for the security of the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem and Gaza).

Ethiopia and South Sudan agree to work together

Ethiopia and South Sudan have agreed to form a joint security force to foster peace and stop illegal trade around their shared border. The agreement followed a two-day meeting last week that covered border security, peace, and cooperation on education and trade. The agreement also records Ethiopia’s request that South Sudan do more to locate and return the children still missing after the 2016 cross-border raid in Ethiopia’s Gambella region.

First responder

Worst typhoon in 25 years hits Japan

Typhoon Jebi, the worst in 25 years, has wreaked havoc in western Japan, killing at least eight people and injuring dozens. Thousands of people were stranded when rain and flooding caused the closure of Kansai international airport and led to the cancellation of over 700 flights. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled his trip to the Kyushu region to oversee rescue efforts. Japan has been hit by powerful typhoons in recent months, including one in July which left more than 220 people dead. Dramatic footage of Typhoon Jebi emerged online.

European support to an African crisis

A conference backed by the United Nations in Germany has raised US$2.17 billion to provide relief for the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region. Around 17 million people from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad have been affected in a crisis caused by poverty, violence and climate change—including the shrinking of Lake Chad by 90% in 50 years. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says his country wants to ensure the region doesn’t become a hotbed of terrorism, human trafficking and crime.

UN to the rescue

UN agencies are involved in relief efforts amid the civilian conflict in Libya after a fresh outbreak of violence in and around Tripoli. The World Health Organization has so far delivered trauma medicines for 200 critical cases and sent 10 mobile emergency trauma teams to the affected areas. The UNHCR has provided emergency items to families seeking protection at a local school. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya announced a provisional ceasefire on Wednesday.