National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user 401(K) 2012

The Beat

Documentary: counterfeiting US dollars in Peru

Vice has published a 20 minute documentary that examines the underground US dollar counterfeit business in Peru—the current world leader at producing fake US currency. The doco shows how counterfeit bills are made and how they’re smuggled into the US from underground Lima. Australia isn’t immune from fake notes either—in February it was reported that counterfeit $50 notes were being widely circulated by organised crime syndicates.

‘Narco submarine’ sunk in Pacific Ocean

US Customs and Border Protection agents disrupted the smuggling of around US$193 million worth of cocaine on board a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel discovered in the Eastern Pacific Ocean on 2 March. The so-called ‘narco submarine’ was intercepted and sunk shortly after interception. Semi-submersible boats are a popular choice for South American drug cartels and were first reported to be in use by drug cartels in the mid-1990s.

Gang members targeted in arrests across US

Over 1,100 people have been arrested in the US after a five-week operation targeting gangs that traffic guns, drugs and people. The operation—codenamed ‘Project Shadowfire’—was conducted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials as well as local and state law enforcement agencies. More than 900 of the people arrested were members or associates of gangs including MS-13, Sureños, Norteños and Bloods.

A stomach ache produced more than expected

In a move not dissimilar to a scene from Lucy, surgeons from the North Shore Medical Centre Salem Hospital in the US extracted 27 bags of heroin from a man’s body. 163 grams were removed from the man’s stomach and intestines after he fell ill after returning from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic continues to be a focus of the US government’s efforts to stem the drug trade—an issue that’s explored in greater depth by the US Department of State in their recently released 2016 International Narcotic Control Strategy Report.

CT Scan

FBI tipped off Dutch Police about the Bakraoui brothers

It’s been revealed Dutch police were aware that Belgian authorities were after the Bakraoui brothers a week before they conducted the terror attacks in Brussels on 22 March. Dutch interior minister Ard van der Steur confirmed Ibrahim Bakraoui was deported to the Netherlands from Turkey in July 2015 but wasn’t detained because he didn’t appear on any restricted lists. This development raises further questions on the failures of intelligence services which contributed to the attack.

Chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board unexpectedly resigns

David Medine, Chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), the US government agency responsible for determining the risk of counterterrorism programs against US civil liberties, has unexpectedly resigned. Medine became chairman of the PCLOB in 2013 leading the agency in its key investigation in to the NSA’s surveillance programs in response to Edward Snowden’s revelations. Medine is leaving to work with a development organisation that focuses on data privacy and consumer protection.


China seems to be fishing everywhere

On 19 March, Indonesian forces attempted to seize a Chinese fishing vessel which had ventured in to its EEZ. Indonesia’s deputy chief of navy, Vice Admiral Arie Henrycus Sembiring, said the number of patrols and vessels monitoring the southern edge of its waters would increase in response to the incident. Only a few days after this, the Malaysian government announced that as many as 100 Chinese fishing boats had enter its waters under the protection of two Chinese coast guard ships. Calls have been made by the Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein for stronger regional cooperation in protecting the borders of claimant states.


First Responder

US city prioritises disaster mitigation

Last Tuesday, Sandia National Laboratories released a report that analyses how cities can become resilient to the threat of sea level rise on coastal communities. In partnership with the City of Norfolk’s (Virginia, the US) Resilience Office and 100 Resilient Cities, Sandia assessed the risk to Norfolk itself in terms of damage to national assets and loss of activity if mitigation action wasn’t taken to address sea level rise. Sandia’s recommendations included critical infrastructure modelling, risk consequence assessments and systems analysis expertise.

Social media platforms key for emergency management

Social media channels the best source of information for emergency management agencies during an emergency or natural disaster, says American Red Cross national capital region CEO Geoff DeLizzio on 24 March. He stressed the importance of using social media instead of similar government-built apps based on their wider reach. For example, FEMA was underwhelmed with the launch of its Disaster Reporter App last year, and have begun monitoring social media outlets and collating information in real time emergency situations.