National security wrap

The beat

Private security service supplements police

Residents of Glastonbury in the UK are considering hiring a private security company to help combat rising crime and anti-social behaviour. Equipped with handcuffs and body-worn cameras, security guards would patrol, gather evidence and transfer offenders to police. Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cullen said that as part of their mandate the police will help, but ‘if a local community choose to pay for additional eyes and ears, clearly that’s their choice.’ Martock, a nearby Somerset town, has employed Atlas UK Security Services to conduct night patrols since April to positive effect, according to the local council. The rising demand for private security services in local communities may stem partly from cuts in police numbers.

Fake reviews

A man has been jailed for nine months and fined €8,000 by an Italian court for selling fake TripAdvisor reviews. A court in Lecce found that the reviewer was ‘guilty of criminal conduct on the grounds of using a fake identity to commit fraud’. An overview of the investigations conducted by TripAdvisor and Italian authorities can be found here. It’s believed to be the first time someone has been jailed for a fake review.

Search and seizure

Brazilian police at Viracopos airport in the state of São Paulo seized over US$16 million in cash and luxury watches from an Equatorial Guinea delegation accompanying Teoderin Nguema Obiang, vice president and son of the current president. The delegation was on a private visit to Brazil. Equatorial Guinea’s embassy in Brazil issued a statement accusing Brazilian authorities of ‘a gross violation of international diplomatic practice’ in searching the delegation’s baggage. Last year a French court handed Obiang a three-year suspended sentence for corruption and ordered the seizure of his assets in France.

CT scan

Aid program inadvertently fuelling extremism

A report by the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor has claimed that US counterterrorism aid is inadvertently ‘fueling corruption and funding terrorist group activities and recruitment’. Despite stringent criteria that prevent diversion of US weapons and security aid, gaps continue to exist in assessing, monitoring and evaluating counterterrorism aid. Colby Goodman, one of the authors of the report, says that, in some cases, ‘widespread corruption in military aid programs actually strengthens terrorist organisations by fueling anti-government sentiment, undermining the morale of front-line military personnel, and diverting US-supplied equipment to groups like ISIS, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’.

Shifting counterterrorism strategy

The United States Institute of Peace has recommended that US counterterrorism efforts shift towards the long-term goal of strengthening fragile states to prevent extremism from taking root. A new report from the institute’s taskforce on extremism in fragile states emphasises the need to ensure stability in countries where extremist groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State can establish a foothold. The report recommends that the US ‘build productive national and local partnerships in fragile states for strengthening the resilience of their societies, including through humanitarian assistance’.

New counterterrorism strategy

Victoria’s new counterterrorism strategy will allow police to use drone technology to monitor crowds at major events such as football finals and festivals and introduce online training for police officers to identify those at risk of being radicalised. Victorian police will also consider recruiting academic experts in data analytics to assist with counterterrorism investigations.


Fertiliser addiction perpetuating border dispute

The Morocco – Western Sahara dispute, which we’ve reported on before, has a new front. A Moroccan delegation visited Wellington, New Zealand, last week to discuss the controversial export trade in superphosphate fertiliser. Morocco’s mining of phosphate in the Western Sahara is considered illegal by the Polisario Front and two NZ cooperatives, Balance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown, are the only international entities still buying phosphate from Western Sahara. Saharawi refugees—who regularly appeal to international law and corporate responsibility—and NZ soil scientists are now calling on PM Jacinda Ardern (who has visited the refugee camps) to end the trade, opting for environmentally friendly alternatives such as Algerian reactive phosphate rock.

Borders of the future

An Indian project to install ‘smart fencing’ along Assam state’s border with Bangladesh has been delayed. The technology, which is also being trialled on the border with Pakistan in Kashmir and Jammu, creates an ‘invisible electronic barrier on land, water, air and underground’. The system is designed to work in areas where soldiers can’t patrol and barriers can’t be erected. The Assam project, which was due to launch next week, has been postponed until November over technical difficulties caused by changing riverbeds and ambient noise. Once it’s up and running, the high-tech fence is expected to reduce attacks on India’s Border Security Force and better detect terrorist threats and illegal trade.

First responder

Earthquake-struck Lombok now battles malaria
The Indonesian island of West Lombok, which was hit by successive earthquakes last month, has now declared a health emergency after a deadly outbreak of malaria. The quakes left thousands of residents homeless and forced them to seek shelter in open fields. The local government is seeking A$315,500 from Jakarta and the regional government for relief measures including the distribution of mosquito nets and malaria test kits.

Tuberculosis on WHO’s radar
A UN World Health Organization report has warned that countries aren’t doing enough to terminate tuberculosis, which has been ranked as the world’s deadliest infectious disease for the fourth year in a row. Scientists have proposed introducing new drugs, awareness measures and better living conditions to tackle the disease. The UN is set to hold its first General Assembly–level meeting to discuss anti-TB measures next week, with hopes that TB may receive more serious global attention.

Preparations for rat exodus in Tokyo
Authorities in Tokyo’s upmarket Ginza district are preparing for an exodus of tens of thousands of rats when the iconic Tsukiji fish market closes next month. Rat exterminators are blocking pipes and sewer exits and closing off holes in fences but are hoping to catch most of the rodents inside a 3-metre high steel wall that will be installed before the market is demolished. The local business association created an anti-rat taskforce last year and restaurant owners have even recruited local cats to their fight against the expected influx of rats.