National security wrap

The beat

Millions of New Zealanders flagged in police database

An investigation by the Otago Daily Times has revealed that 40% of New Zealand’s population has been flagged in a police database—that’s nearly 2 million people. The database is known as the ‘National Intelligence Application’ and allows police to flag individuals for a wide range of interactions, including cancelled drivers’ licences, previous firearms ownership or health issues. Concerns have been raised over privacy as well as the police’s ability to manage and filter the sheer volume of data.

Brazil turns to Japanese police boxes

Brazil and Japan have collaborated on a new police initiative implementing the Japanese kōban policing system in Brazilian cities. The system establishes kōban police boxes, which can be used as a friendly point of contact between locals and officers, and allows police to respond more quickly to incidents. Brazil and Japan have a long history of collaboration to improve community-based policing in the South American country.

Nigeria sets up joint military–police squad

In Nigeria, the military and police force will create a special joint squad to deal with security issues and instability across the country, particularly in northern parts which remain hotly contested by bandits and jihadists alike. Police have used community-based programs in an attempt to combat violence and instability but say they can’t defeat the armed gangs without military support.


Former Norwegian border guard convicted of espionage

A court in Russia has sentenced a retired Norwegian border guard to 14 years in prison after it was alleged that he gathered data on Russian nuclear submarines. Frode Berg was arrested in Moscow in December 2017 and Russian state media claims that he acted under orders from Norwegian intelligence to gather secret data which harmed ‘the defensive capabilities of the Russian Federation’. He was tried behind closed doors. Berg won’t appeal the verdict and plans to request a presidential pardon from Vladimir Putin.

Cuban doctors evacuated from Kenya–Somalia border

Kenyan officials have evacuated Cuban doctors from along the border with Somalia after two were kidnapped last week. The abducted Cubans were stationed in the eastern Mandera County. Somalia’s al-Shabaab rebels are suspected of kidnapping them in retaliation for Kenyan military deployments within Somalia.

Fish smuggler hooked

A man has been arrested after trying to smuggle a live fish into Australia. The Australian Border Force said the Vietnamese man was stopped at Adelaide Airport last Tuesday while allegedly trying to bring a rare and expensive red Asian arowana into Australia in a bag hanging around his neck.

CT scan

New Zealand nurse captured by IS may still be alive

The International Committee of the Red Cross has released the name of a New Zealand nurse captured by Islamic State almost six years ago, saying it believes she may still be alive. The ICRC is calling for anyone with information that may assist in Louisa Akavi’s rescue to come forward. Sightings of Akavi treating patients at a medical clinic in Sousa, one of the last villages held by IS, were reported in December. New Zealand has criticised the ICRC’s move, saying it has put Akavi at greater risk.

Bahrain jails 139 in mass terror trial

Defendants in a mass trial in Bahrain have been convicted of building a terrorist cell called ‘Bahraini Hezbollah’, with links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. All but one have had been stripped of their citizenship and 69 of the men have been sentenced to life in prison. Amnesty International has called the trials ‘a mockery of justice’ and rights groups have said they are being used mostly to crack down on peaceful political activists. Since 2012, 990 Bahrainis have had their citizenship revoked.

Sikh reference removed from Canada’s terrorism threat report

Canada has removed a reference to Sikh extremism from its 2018 terrorism threat report. The section relating to Sikh terror threats now refers to ‘extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India’. The government says that was done to avoid maligning any groups. References to ‘Sunni Islamist extremism’, ‘right-wing extremism’, ‘Shia extremism’ and ‘Canadian extremist travelers’ remain in the report. The move has been heavily criticised in India.

First responder

US Congress stalls on aid funding for Americans

Congress has failed to reach a deal on disaster relief legislation for millions of Americans because disagreements persist on the amount of funding Puerto Rico should receive. Two years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, President Donald Trump continues to accuse Puerto Rican officials of misusing government funds, falsely claiming that the island has received $91 billion since 2017. Fact-checkers quote the Federal Emergency Management Agency as saying that Puerto Rico had received about $11.2 billion in disaster relief payments by the end of last year. The stalemate means other states will also have to wait for federal government funding.

Quebec announces disaster-relief program

The government of the Canadian province of Quebec has released a 24-point disaster-relief plan aimed at persuading people to move out of flood-prone areas. The government will set a hard cap on the amount of compensation people will receive if their homes are damaged by flooding. It is also offering economic inducements for people to move into safer suburbs. It’s unclear how the plan will work as it’s unlikely people will be able to find buyers for their homes. And two years after unprecedented floods, 1,800 compensation claims have yet to be settled.

Dog has its day off Thai coast

A dog has made headlines in Thailand after being rescued by oil rig workers 220 kilometres off Songkhla province. It’s unclear how the dog found itself so far from land, but it’s thought it could have fallen off a local fishing trawler. The dog was discovered clinging onto a pole under a Chevron oil platform. One of the oil rig workers says he’ll adopt the dog when he returns to the mainland later this month.