National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user Vodafone Medien

 The Beat

Police body cams: the problem of perspective

Police body cameras have become a hot topic since the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in the US. Australia has been caught in the wind too, with the technology introduced to NSW police late last year; the Perth police force started a six-month trial last February. The New York Times has a fascinating series of videos which show actors mocking a series of police tasks—such as a foot pursuit and traffic stop—from the perspective of a body camera and from a by-stander.

The largest data leak in history: the ‘Panama Papers’

The leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca—dubbed the ‘Panama Papers’—has revealed how the wealthy have exploited offshore tax regimes, and has named and shamed those involved. The documents were leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and were analysed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. For some interesting background information, see this piece at TIME. To find out about the over 800 Australians implicated, check out this piece at The Sydney Morning Herald and this piece at The Guardian. Also be sure to look at Süddeutsche Zeitung’s website dedicated to the leak which includes a 10-minute video on the ‘Panama Papers’. A few articles have already dived into the potential legal outcomes of the case—see here, here and here.

CT Scan

Counterterrorism cooperation: Saudi Arabia and India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on 3 April to discuss India’s inclusion in the Kingdom’s counterterror coalition, comprised of 24 Islamic countries. The two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation on intelligence sharing, the prevention of terrorist financing and defence cooperation. Read more here and here.

Islamist Radicals from Muslim countries are likely to have engineering qualifications

A new book, ‘Engineers of Jihad’, set to be launched by the London School of Economics this week has found that Islamist radicals born and educated in Muslim countries are 17 times more likely to have an engineering qualification than the general population in these countries. The finding comes from a study of over 800 members of violent Islamist groups, with the authors claiming the strong presence of graduates among radical groups is a result of the economic failures of those countries. Read more here.

RAND Corporation announces new counter-terrorism plan for cities in Europe

Bonus read: the RAND Corporation has released a new report, the ‘Tactical Approach to Counter Terrorists in Cities’ detailing a five-point plan designed to create a more effective counterterrorism system across Europe.


How best to bolster a border?

While debate about how to manage the Mexican border continues in US election campaigns, an article published last month by The Lexington Institute highlights the need to secure the 19,924 kilometre US–Mexico border. The report recommends staving off illegal immigration by bolstering support to the maritime industry. From a different angle, over the last three years photographer Andreas Rutkauskas has been capturing the isolated landscape in his series borderline, which has seen a surge in US patrol agents since 9/11.

Data sharing a priority for the EU in the wake of the Brussels attack

In the wake of the Brussels attacks, European justice and home affairs ministers have requested that the European Union Parliament speed up legislation on the ‘Passenger Name Record’ database, which would give security services access to 42 separate pieces of air-passenger information, including their names, addresses, seat numbers on the plane and plane menu selections. This isn’t the first time the Europe has struggled to implement broad security measures (PDF). For example, the 2005 Prüm Convention, which aimed at sharing DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data across borders, saw only four member states swapping DNA files five years after the agreement was signed and less than half the EU states in 2011 (PDF).

First Responder

Cultural heritage under threat

Communities across the US are risking damage to their cultural heritage and local economies by failing to take historic preservation into account when planning for natural disasters, new research from the University of Colorado Denver has found. The study reviewed the historic preservation and hazard mitigation strategies in each state and identified a number of historic sites located in hazardous areas. It also warned that human-induced climate change is likely to increase the severity of those threats in coming years through an increase in fires, flooding and storms.

Climate change to affect public health

The Obama Administration released a new report on Monday that’s been three years in the making, detailing the impacts of climate change on public health in the US. The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment warns that climate change could exacerbate existing health threats and create new public health challenges. In particular, it cautioned an escalation in air pollution and airborne allergens, an increased number of premature deaths due to extreme heat, earlier annual onset of Lyme disease cases, increased risk of water-related illnesses and exacerbated underlying medical conditions.