National security wrap

The beat

Top cop says UK risks becoming ‘Orwellian’ police state

The commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, has warned that the UK could become a ‘ghastly, Orwellian, omniscient police state’ if law enforcement fails to confront the ethical and legal challenges presented by modern technologies. She said that while we’re now only ‘tiptoeing into a world of robotics, AI and machine learning’, in the future these technologies could be used for so-called predictive policing. This type of policing raises a number of issues, particularly in relation to the racial and gender biases exhibited by AI, which legal systems around the world are yet to grapple with.

Police sink underwater drug smugglers

Peruvian police have arrested 12 people involved in an underwater drug-smuggling ring operating in South America. The ring, headed by Colombians collaborating with Peruvians, used divers to attach sealed packages of cocaine to the hulls of commercial vessels. The technique allowed around 600 kilograms of cocaine to be smuggled from one port to another.

Rioters arrested in South Africa

Police have arrested almost 200 people following an outbreak of violence in South Africa, with riots erupting in Johannesburg, Pretoria and surrounding areas. While rioters targeted foreign-owned businesses, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the violence was the result of ‘criminality rather than xenophobia’.


Tensions rise at Georgia–South Ossetia border

Georgia has warned that it may face a serious confrontation with the Russian-backed region of South Ossetia, after separatists demanded that Georgian authorities remove a checkpoint on a disputed boundary. Officials in Tbilisi said they’d observed a mobilisation of military equipment and personnel in the separatist region near the administrative boundary line between the two territories. The US, Russia and EU have called on both sides to exercise restraint and abide by established mechanisms to settle the dispute.

Pick-up picked up

US Border Patrol agents seized drugs worth more than US$1 million from a pick-up truck at a checkpoint in New Mexico. The Dodge Ram was found to have been carrying about 17 kilograms of methamphetamine and about a kilo of heroin, all of which was turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Ever since US states began to legalise marijuana, Mexican cartels have been trying to make up for lost profits with other, more profitable drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Migrants cross into Spanish enclave

Moroccan authorities say that around 400 migrants attempted to cross the border between Morocco and Ceuta, an autonomous city under Spanish control. About 150 of them climbed fences or walked past a border post to enter the Spanish enclave. Moroccan authorities have since arrested 90 migrants, while 55 of those who succeeded in crossing the border have already been sent back to Morocco.

CT scan

Pompeo refuses to sign US–Taliban preliminary peace deal

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly refused to sign a preliminary Afghan peace deal. The American special envoy who led talks with the Taliban earlier said the US had reached an agreement ‘in principle’ to withdraw 5,400 of 14,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban would agree to keep Afghanistan free from militant groups looking to attack the US and its allies. It’s only the first step and many are pessimistic about the prospects of peace in the country.

Australian IS fighter found alive

Australian man Hamza Elbaf, who was believed dead following the collapse of the Islamic State terror group’s caliphate, has been found alive in a Kurdish prison in Syria. Elbaf and his three brothers left Sydney in 2014 for Syria, but he claims he worked as an IS cook because he wasn’t qualified to fight. He has expressed a desire to return to Australia, but only if he isn’t given a lengthy prison sentence.

Colombia’s peace process failing?

Colombia’s peace process is under strain as members of rebel group FARC’s radical faction released a video showing them taking up arms and criticising the government’s failure to keep its commitments. FARC’s former second-in-command, Ivan Marquez, has promised to form a new, clandestine guerrilla movement. FARC, which is today also a political party, has strongly condemned the video.

First responder

Dorian leaves trail of destruction in Bahamas

Hurricane Dorian has devastated areas of the Bahamas, says Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. The category 5 storm was the largest on record to hit the islands, with winds of up to 295 kilometres per hour and torrential rain causing severe flooding and destruction. The Red Cross estimates that 45% of the homes on the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco have been rendered uninhabitable.

No-deal Brexit will be ‘major natural disaster’

The EU will reportedly declare a ‘major natural disaster’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The declaration would allow for almost €600 million (A$970 million) to be released from a solidarity fund which was created in 2002 to help member states deal with natural disasters. The European Commission claims that Brexit is a ‘singular event’ that could have a significant impact on trade patterns, growth and jobs and therefore warrants the activation of the fund to help countries deal with the damage.

Emergency relief for Japanese flood victims

The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia has dispatched relief personnel to Saga Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu, after the region was hit by severe downpours which caused several landslides and floods. The team has been working in a hospital in the city of Saga and is looking after people at a welfare facility which houses evacuees with special medical needs. The torrential rains came as Japan held annual nationwide disaster drills on 1 September.