National security wrap

The beat

Victoria Police stop using controversial facial recognition technology

Victoria Police has confirmed that it is no longer using facial recognition services offered by Clearview AI. Documents released under a freedom of information request revealed that the agency had used the US-based company’s technology until March. Concerns have been raised about the use of facial recognition technology by Australian law enforcement agencies and by police in general. Experts have stressed the need for greater public debate about the benefits and costs of such technology and ways to address issues such as privacy and bias.

US police departments don’t meet minimum human rights standards

Police departments in 20 major US cities are failing to meet the minimum international human rights standards in their use of lethal force, according to new research from the University of Chicago. The study highlights the detrimental impact of lax oversight and limited police accountability—and the extent to which policing practices in the US deviate from international norms.

CT scan

UK attack labelled terrorism

UK police have labelled the killing of three people in a park in Reading as a terror attack, but have said they believe the suspect acted alone. The country’s most senior counterterrorism police officer, Neil Basu, announced the alleged terrorism link and Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the attack. The suspect, reported to be 25-year-old Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah, was investigated by security services last year but wasn’t initially deemed to pose a serious risk.

Three arrested in Sydney counterterrorism operation

Sydney police have arrested three men for possession of illegal firearms and ammunition, including a military-style assault rifle. The arrests followed a five-month investigation into a report that a person aligned with an extremist group was dealing in weapons, but the three suspects have so far not been charged with terrorism. They are, however, likely to be face charges for up to 100 firearms offences. The 14 weapons seized by authorities are estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.


North Korea steps back

After a series of hostile actions, North Korea has announced it will suspend military action against South Korea and ‘decisively carry out the next action’. The regime had threatened to send its army into the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea after defector groups in the South used balloons to send propaganda leaflets to the North. North Korea also destroyed the inter-Korean liaison office near the border town of Kaesong. South Korean ministers convened an emergency meeting in response and urged the North to adhere to reconciliation deals.

China and India agree to defuse border tensions

China and India have agreed to de-escalate tensions on their Himalayan border after a week of deadly clashes that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. Some reports claim 40 Chinese soldiers died, but that’s been described by Beijing as ‘fake news’. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said both countries had ‘agreed to take necessary measures to promote a cooling of the situation’, while the Indian armed forces reported that a ‘mutual consensus to disengage’ had been reached. The Indian government has been criticised for failing to protect national interests, with the dispute identified as India’s ‘worst diplomatic crisis’ in decades.

First responder

Australia helps Indonesia’s pandemic response

Australia has announced that it will donate $4.9 million to UNICEF to help Indonesia respond to Covid-19. The new funding is in addition to $21 million in direct aid and $6.2 million donated through the World Health Organization. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently set the Pacific, Timor-Leste and Indonesia as priorities for Australian aid as the coronavirus crisis hit. Though it’s come from existing aid budgets, $100 million has already reached Pacific nations to support their responses to both the pandemic and natural disasters.

Appeal to help hundreds of thousands in central Sahel

The International Organization for Migration has appealed for funds to aid hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. A long-lasting humanitarian crisis driven by violent conflicts and drought in the central Sahel has been worsened by the threat of Covid-19 spreading among its vulnerable populations. The IOM plans to provide shelter, water and healthcare to 460,000 people but says it needs US$37.8 million ($55.1 million) to do so.