National security wrap

The beat

German police use AI to combat child pornography

Authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia—Germany’s most populous state—are working with Microsoft to identify and combat online child pornography using artificial intelligence. The partnership aims to combine human judgement and intelligence with AI technologies to ‘lighten the workload and psychological burden’ on those tasked with identifying and responding to suspected child pornography. This will be the first AI algorithm used in Germany to combat crime.

Top Malaysian police officer compares his country’s drug use with Colombia’s

The inspector-general of Malaysia’s police, Abdul Hamid Bador, has raised concerns over the level of illegal drug use and trade in Malaysia, comparing the country’s situation with that of Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine. As the situation escalates, police say lack of resources has stopped them from countering drug crime. Police officers have also started using widely available illicit drugs—30 officers have been arrested for illicit drug use in the past six months.

Traffickers found in hot-drug crime machine

Police were called to assist two suspected drug traffickers who found themselves trapped inside a cocaine-filled shipping container in the port of Antwerp. It took the authorities two hours to locate the container and release the suspects. Given that the incident occurred during the recent heatwave in Europe, it’s likely that the dehydrated suspects were relieved to see the police.


Germany considers reintroducing border checks

Last week, Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said he intends to reintroduce border checks with Switzerland in order to reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the country. His remarks came after a Swiss-based Eritrean man allegedly pushed a mother and boy in front of a train at Frankfurt’s main train station. Seehofer’s plan has been met with criticism from opposition parties, which are accusing him of using populist sentiments to garner support ahead of upcoming regional elections.

Spanish rescue boat seeks safe harbour

A Spanish charity rescue vessel is seeking a safe port in the Mediterranean after being refused access by countries including Italy, Malta and Spain. The Open Arms is carrying 121 migrants who were rescued last week off Libya. The mayor of the Spanish city of Valencia, Joan Ribó, says he will ask his government’s permission to allow the boat to dock in his city.

US reopens immigration checkpoints in El Paso

US Customs and Border Protection has reopened all six of its immigration checkpoints near El Paso, Texas. Several of them were closed five months ago after Border Patrol said that it needed to redeploy agents from the checkpoints to handle a rise in numbers of undocumented immigrants. The reopening comes as El Paso deals with the aftermath of a mass shooting that highlighted increasing racial and immigration-related tensions.

CT scan

Al-Qaeda shaken by death of Osama bin Laden’s son

Citing US intelligence officials, American media outlets have reported that the heir apparent to al-Qaeda, Hamza bin Laden, had been killed in a targeted US airstrike. He emerged onto the jihadist scene in 2015, using audio recordings to call for attacks on the West to avenge his father. Al-Qaeda supporters have urged caution, saying jihadists must await official comments from their leaders. Experts believe Hamza bin Laden’s death will damage al-Qaeda’s image and its aspirations to compete with Islamic State.

Mexico blames Trump for El Paso shooting

The Mexican media and government have blamed US President Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric for the mass shooting in El Paso. A La Jornada editorial criticised US firearms regulations and condemned Trump’s ‘openly racist and anti-immigrant’ discourse. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard classified the attack as ‘an act of terrorism against the Mexican-American community and Mexican nationals in the United States’. At least seven Mexicans were among the 22 victims.

Rocket Chat a tool for terrorism?

As Facebook and Twitter crack down on extremist content, IS and other jihadist organisations are using new online platforms to disseminate propaganda. In 2018, IS media distributors began using Rocket Chat, an open-source decentralised messaging service, as their primary outlet. A BBC Monitoring report shows that IS has operated on Rocket Chat ‘more or less unhindered for over seven months’. IS servers on Rocket Chat now have more than 1,350 users and nearly 50 chat rooms.

First responder

Ageing infrastructure threatens lives and property

Experts in England are criticising the UK government’s failure to maintain its ageing infrastructure. Heavy rain exposed the frailties of a 19th-century dam wall at the Toddbrook Reservoir in Derbyshire, prompting authorities to evacuate the town of Whaley Bridge on Thursday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the evacuees last Friday. While he congratulated the emergency crews on their work, he said the dam wall is in a ‘dodgy but stable’ condition.

Nano-vaccine for melanoma

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a nano-vaccine that they say may help treat and prevent melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Their innovative approach, using nanoparticles, has so far seen success in preventing the development and spread of melanoma in mice. The research could open the doors to a completely new approach to the development of vaccines.