National security wrap

The beat

Australian intelligence and law enforcement agencies under scrutiny

Revelations about the Australian Federal Police’s activity—such as the accessing of a journalist’s metadata nearly 60 times—have called into question the extent of intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ powers as well as the effectiveness of oversight mechanisms. It’s also been revealed that the Department of Home Affairs is yet to submit an annual report for 2017–18 financial year—as it’s required to do by law—detailing requests by security agencies for access to metadata and the types of warrants sought.

Tensions rise over Mexico’s new national guard

Earlier this year, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador created a new national guard, blending both civil and military forces to tackle crime across Mexico. Now, only months later, Mexican police have rejected the reforms and blocked access to roads around the nation’s capital. There have been significant tensions between the new security force and the federal police. Police are worried about loss of pay and conditions as the government plans to transition thousands of federal officers into the national guard.

Thousands protest shooting by Israeli police

Thousands have again taken to the streets in Israel after new revelations about the shooting death of 18-year-old Ethiopian–Israeli Solomon Tekah came to light. An internal investigation found the bullet which killed Tekah ricocheted off the ground, absolving the policeman who fired it of criminal liability. There has been significant violence during the protests—110 police officers were injured and 136 protesters were arrested on a single day earlier this month following Tekah’s funeral.


ABF apprehends Indonesian fishermen

The Australian Border Force has confirmed that it intercepted an Indonesian vessel illegally fishing off the north-west of Western Australia. The vessel was first detected on 22 June by the ABF aerial surveillance 27 nautical miles south of Browse Island and was apprehended by HMAS Maitland three days later. A search of the 10-metre boat found approximately 50 kilograms of fish meat and ten shark fins. The crew was detained and the vessel later sunk as it was judged to be unseaworthy.

European Union and Turkey clash over drilling rights in Cyprus

The Cypriot government in Nicosia has protested against the presence of a Turkish ship that has anchored in its exclusive economic zone to drill for oil and gas. The Yavuz is the second drilling ship to arrive in Cyprus’s EEZ in the last two months, with the Fatih currently anchored 69 kilometres off Cyprus’s west coast. European Union leaders warned Turkey last month to either end its drilling in waters around Cyprus or face action from member states.

Slippery smugglers in eelegal scheme

High demand has continued to drive the trafficking of European eels from Europe to Asia. The Sustainable Eel Group has estimated the trade to be worth A$5.4 billion a year. The European eel is classified as a critically endangered species, and a spokesman for Europol has said that eel trafficking is their ‘flagship operation’ when it comes to tackling environmental crime.

CT scan

Tunisia bans face coverings after spate of suicide attacks

Tunisia has banned face-covering veils in state-run buildings after three suicide attacks in one week. The ban comes during the country’s peak tourist season and ahead of national elections later this year. IS claimed responsibility for the attacks. Analysts warn that more attacks could disrupt the upcoming elections hindering the country’s fragile democracy. Face veils were also banned by former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali until 2011.

Petty criminals and homegrown individuals an increasing terrorism threat

The UN Security Council has heard about the growing threat posed by terrorist groups who use criminal activities to help fund their operations. Expert Tamara Makarenko said that ‘small-time criminals who have opportunistically embraced terrorism’ are an increasing cause for concern. A new ASPI report by Isaac Kfir also highlights the growing threat of ‘homegrown individuals whose links with and understanding of Salafist-jihadism are minimal’.

Calls for an international coalition to fight terrorism in the Sahel

Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou has proposed an international coalition, like that in Iraq and northern Syria, to fight terrorism in the Sahel region. His call for greater US action in the fight against Islamic insurgencies comes at a time when the US is scaling back its involvement in the region.

First responder

Lower-impact, climate-related disasters occur at least once a week

The UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, Mami Mizutori, says that climate-related disasters are now happening ‘at the rate of one a week’. In an interview with the Guardian, Mizutori called for greater investment in climate change adaptation adding that ‘resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for’. In the UK, Sir David Attenborough has criticised Australia for its inaction, saying that the country is one of the most affected by climate change.

Should the Ebola crisis in Africa be declared an emergency?

Rory Stewart, the UK’s international development secretary, has called on the World Health Organization to declare the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo an global health emergency. The WHO has declined to do so three times, arguing that although the Ebola virus could spread to other states, the virus does not yet pose a worldwide threat. In related news, two experimental Ebola drug treatments have been found to be effective against the current strain of the disease.

Changes suggested for LA earthquake alert app

Residents of the city of Los Angeles have asked authorities to make changes to the ShakeAlertLA app after it failed to warn them about 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes near the city of Ridgecrest 160 kilometres to the north. With the epicentre of the quakes located far from Los Angeles, the level of shaking in downtown LA did not reach the minimum level of intensity required for the app to trigger a warning.