National security wrap

The beat 

Police use of tasers scrutinised in Western Australia 

The ABC investigated the use of tasers by police in Western Australia using data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The investigation was prompted by a high-profile incident in 2017 involving a police officer who tasered a man after pulling him over for a random breath test. The ABC found that, on average, five Western Australians are tasered by police every week, with a quarter of those incidents linked to mental health or alcohol and drugs.

UK police ‘boys’ culture’ under investigation

The London-based Centre for Women’s Justice is set to make an official complaint against police departments in a number of UK jurisdictions for failing to appropriately address allegations of domestic abuse perpetrated by their officers. The complaint will outline police failings when dealing with allegations of domestic abuse involving one of their own. Solicitor Nogah Ofer says there are concerns over the ‘potential for improper manipulation when police forces investigate their own officers’.

Blowpipe blunts belligerent Bavarian bovine

German police were forced to deploy multiple units and a helicopter after a ‘highly aggressive cow’ went on a rampage through the Bavarian town of Sand am Main. Police pursued the 600-kilogram beast through the town and eventually captured it with the help of a vet with a blowpipe tranquiliser dart—but not before the cow had destroyed a scooter and a greenhouse, had an altercation with its owner, and damaged a police car.


Government pushes repeal of medevac laws

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has slammed border-security ‘naivety’ as he seeks to repeal laws controlling the medical transfer of asylum seekers, which the government believes poses an ‘unacceptable risk to the nation’s border protection regime’. This comes as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton used his powers under the medevac laws to block the transfer of a refugee on security grounds, despite previous claims that the government was powerless to do so. The repeal of the legislation depends on Senate support.

US eyes facial recognition cameras 

US customs officials are seeking information on facial recognition software for border agents’ body cameras. A document shows the agency wants to ‘obtain information and/or recommendations for body-worn cameras [and] software for video management and redaction’ to ‘expand its audio and video recording capability’. Though the technology could help agents find people of interest, there are concerns that it could perpetuate biases and even lead to the deportation of misidentified or legal immigrants.

Indian guard killed on Bangladesh border

Bangladeshi forces have killed an Indian border guard and wounded another after an altercation erupted over a detained Indian fisherman. Border Guard Bangladesh claims its officers acted in self-defence after gunfire by India’s Border Security Force, though the Indians denied using their weapons. It’s the first fatal incident between India and Bangladesh in recent times, as border relations are usually good. The fisherman is to be handed over in a future meeting.

CT scan

France foils 9/11-inspired terror plot

French intelligence services have foiled a terror plot inspired by the September 11 attacks in New York, the 60th time a potential terrorist attack has been thwarted by authorities since 2013. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that the suspect was still planning the attack when he was arrested. Newspaper Le Parisien reports the man was in the process of looking for a weapon with which to hijack a plane.

US diplomat says terror support an obstacle for India–Pakistan relations

Pakistan’s continued support for extremist groups that engage in cross-border terrorism are the ‘chief obstacle’ to talks between India and Pakistan, according to the acting US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Alice G. Wells. Wells said the US supports a direct dialogue between Pakistan and India, as outlined in the 1972 Shimla Agreement, but recognises that until Pakistan takes ‘sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists in its territory’, a resolution is unlikely.

Tougher punishments recommended for UK terror supporters

A UK sentencing body has recommended tougher punishments for people convicted of expressing support for banned organisations or viewing terrorist material online. Under the new guidelines, those convicted of encouraging terrorism could face a doubling of minimum jail terms from five years to 10 years. If the recommendations are confirmed, the laws will come into effect in early 2020.

First responder

Climate change could create ‘uninsurable’ homes 

The ABC reports that climate change is causing insurance premiums to rise as extreme weather threatens properties. Its investigation found that up to 720,000 addresses in Australia will be ‘uninsurable’ by the turn of the century if climate change isn’t mitigated. There will also be implications for the property market, where buyers will need to factor in climate risk when making a purchase. Insurers worldwide are now adapting their investment portfolios to limit climate-change risks.

Natural disasters displace record number of people

A report released by the US State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit shows that a record number of people were displaced by natural disasters in the first half of 2019. Of the 10.8 million displacements worldwide between January and June, a record 7 million were caused by natural disasters. The five most devastating disasters caused 5.2 million displacements, with Cyclone Fani alone displacing almost 4 million people in India and Bangladesh.

Disease threatens Thai rubber production 

An outbreak of a leaf-spotting disease caused by Pestalotiopsis fungi has spread to plantations in Thailand, which produces about 40% of the world’s rubber. The disease has been found only in the south of Thailand, but threatens to reduce the area’s output of rubber by half. Around 16,000 hectares have been affected by the disease so far, and authorities are making efforts to contain it. The disease has also hit rubber plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.