National security wrap

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The Beat

New report: crimes against humanity in Mexico

A new report (PDF) from Open Society Foundations suggests that there’s a ‘reasonable basis’ to believe that both Mexican government forces and the Zetas drug cartel have committed crimes against humanity against civilians over the past decade. The report calls for Mexico to establish an internationalised investigative body with the power to prosecute atrocity crimes. Unfortunately for Mexico’s citizens, InSight Crime has assessed that as unlikely—at least in the short term. A new article in The New York Times has examined Mexico’s military campaign against drug gangs—where organised crime, security forces and the failing justice system regularly intersect. And The Atlantic has published an interview with Lisa Sanchez—a leading activist for drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights—discussing the latest global trends in drug legalisation and the merits of thinking about drugs within a human rights framework.

New tech for law enforcement

The FBI is allegedly developing automated tattoo recognition technology to develop profiles of people based on their ink. According to an investigation by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the use of tattoo recognition technology to identify criminals raises concerns for privacy, freedom of expression, religious freedom and the right to associate. The use of software to profile criminals has drawn criticism from civil rights advocates in the past, like this article from ProPublica which argues that risk assessments in the US have racial disparities.

CT Scan

Enhanced biographical data collection in China as part of counterterror efforts

Xinjiang residents are now required to submit DNA samples, finger prints, voiceprints, and a ‘three-dimensional image’ as part of the application process for travel documents. Implemented on 1 June, the measure is part of government efforts to prevent Islamic extremism through increased retention of biographical data. The Yili prefecture is home to the Uighur Muslim minority who are behind the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. Washington recently angered China by questioning its efforts to counter extremism, citing a lack of transparency about incidents Beijing called terrorism in US Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 released on 2 June.

FBI increases the use of stings in terrorism cases

The FBI has significantly increased its use of stings in terrorism cases according to a report by The New York Times. Undercover operations are now used in approximately two of every three prosecutions involving Daesh supporters, indicating a marked rise in operations over a two year period. The report findings are bolstered by FBI Director James Comey’s announcement on 7 June that the number of cases involving Daesh in the US isn’t decreasing. Director Comey was addressing media in response to three Somali-Americans convicted in Minneapolis of conspiring to commit terrorist acts overseas by joining Daesh in Syria.


New initiatives at the EU’s external borders

With Frontex (the EU agency responsible for managing external border cooperation) reporting that 13,800 people requiring rescue in the Mediterranean over the last week, the European Parliament is looking at new initiatives to improve the management and security of EU borders. In a plenary on Tuesday, the EU parliament outlined a new plan to address such concerns. A significant point of contention is how the EU is protecting its external borders. In March this year, the European Parliament commissioned a study that examined the establishment of a European Border and Coast Guard, which involves uniting Frontex and the national authorities responsible for border management. The EU Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee supported the initiative in May, and the EU Parliament is now in discussions with EU countries to reach an agreement.

The changing status of borders

Earlier this year Wilton Park, an international forum for strategic discussion, held ‘The future of borders: geopolitical trends and challenges to 2030’, which included discussions from Michael Clarke, recently retired Director of the Royal United Services Institute, and Philippa Malmgren who served as Special Assistant to the President of the United States for Economic Policy. Wilton Park have just released their report of the proceedings, which summaries the main discussion points of the conference, such as the evolution of borders and the re-appearance of walls, and includes an excellent podcast of Clarke and Malmgren discussing the status of borders.

First Responder

Disaster management plan for India

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the country’s first national plan for disaster management in New Delhi last week. The National Disaster Management Plan (PDF) features a framework for government agencies to address all phases of disaster managementprevention, mitigation, response and recoveryin order to make India more disaster-resilient. The plan aims to maximise the country’s ability to manage disasters across all levels of administration and within communities, and is expected to be periodically reviewed in order to keep up with emerging global best practices. India is particularly vulnerable to natural disastersthe UN Office for Disaster Reduction named it among the top three most natural disaster-prone countries in 2015with damage costs of US$3.3 billion.

World Heritage sites at risk

The UN has warned that 31 World Heritage sites in 29 countries are facing increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change. The World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate (PDF) report—released on 27 May—details varying climate impacts on tourism sites, including Venice, Stonehenge, Shiretoko National Park in Tokyo and the Galapagos Islands. The report calls on governments and the private sector to identify which sites are most vulnerable, and develop policies and resources to increase their resilience. It also recommends that the World Heritage Committee considers the climate change risk to prospective sites before adding them to the list.