National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ryan Hyde

The Beat

Ice smoking room coming to Sydney

Drug law reformers want to open Australia’s first ice smoking room. Australia currently has one supervised injecting facility (SIF) in Sydney, providing a place for drug users to inject illicit drugs under the supervision of nurses and social workers. 10 countries have already opened SIFs and recently, an American addiction medicine specialist has argued that the US joins their ranks. Studies have shown that drug consumption rooms reduce crime, violence and overdoses. Former NSW premier Bob Carr, who approved Sydney’s SIF, has backed the broadening of the service to include smoking rooms for ice users—but the NSW government has said it has no plans to open such a room.

The Philippines’ alarming approach to tackling drugs

In an alternative approach to tackling drug problems, newly sworn-in Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has urged the population to take the law into their own hands and kill drug addicts. In the Philippines, about 1.7 million people use drugs—with the most popular substance being methamphetamine. Reuters reported that in the weeks since Duterte’s election victory, there’s been a spike in the number of suspected drug dealers killed by police and vigilantes. At least 45 people with suspected links to drug trafficking have been killed by police since Duterte was officially sworn in last Thursday.

CT Scan

Ramadan—a new annual motive for terror attacks?

As Ramadan draws to a close on 5 July, a spate of terror attacks during the Holy Month suggest that Daesh is now using the period  to inspire and motivate their followers. During the 2016 Ramadan period a suicide attack on an army post in Jordan killed seven, while suicide bombers killed 40 in Yemen and five in Lebanon on 28 June. In addition, a suicide attack at Ataturk Airport in Turkey killed 41 on 28 June, Palestinian assailants killed two Israeli civilians on 29–30 June, attackers killed 22 in café in Dhaka Bangladesh on 1 July and suicide bombers attacked three locations across Medina, Saudi Arabia on 4 July. The Institute for the Study of War released a forecast report on Daesh targets during Ramadan that explains how it now uses the Holy Month to justify its cause and stage ‘linked campaigns across multiple geographic rings’.

Global counterterrorism data base leaked

A Thomson Reuters counterterrorism database, ‘World-Check Risk Screening’, was leaked to the internet on 29 July by an unnamed third party. The breach was discovered by security researcher Chris Vickery, who reported his finding to the company. The mid-2014 version of the database exposed 2.2 million records of people and organisations suspected of terrorism, organised crime and money laundering. Those records were used by 50 of the world’s largest banks and 300 government and intelligence agencies, and were found to incorrectly designate some actors as terrorists. Thomson Reuters is working to correct the leak.


Can you have your cake and eat it too?

A new report from The Transnational Institute has outlined how Europe’s border security industry is profiting from the refugee crisis. The ‘Border Wars’ report suggests that rather than being passive beneficiaries of the EU refugee crisis, the border security industry is actively encouraging the securitisation of Europe. The authors indicate that border security contractors are among the largest arms dealers in North-Africa and the Middle-East, and argue that they’re fuelling and profiting from the conflicts. Indeed, it’s an emerging market with the global border and maritime security industry estimated to reach US$56.5 billion by 2022.

Eurasia’s new borders effecting more than just humans

A study published in PLoS Biology last month summarises the extent to which the 30,000 kilometres of walls and fences constructed across Eurasia post-9/11 era poses a major threat to wildlife and can increase the mortality rates of threatened species. The study demonstrates that the construction of razor wire fences on the Slovenia–Croatia border in 2015 is having unforeseen consequences on lynx populations by separating them from their main populations. However, the authors also point to instances where it’s been beneficial to species, such as the Asiatic Wild Ass on the Mongolia–China border—where fences have stopped them from being illegally hunted. The report highlights the need for governments to approach animal conservation in a trans-border manner.

First Responder

Report into the Syrian refugee response

A new report from the UNHCR and more than 200 international and national actors has looked at the progress in living standards made by host countries in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan’s Mid-Year Report (PDF) found improvements have been made to assist refugees and host communities in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. Despite those steps forward, providing access to basic services remains a critical challenge. Growing poverty in refugee households, particularly in Lebanon and Jordan, was of notable concern—with 90% of registered Syrian refugees in Jordan’s urban areas living below the national poverty line.

FEMA in the headlines

The head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told audiences at an event at the National Academy of Science on 28 June that disaster-struck communities were using decision-making tools that rely too heavily on past data. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate warned that past data wasn’t keeping up with environmental trends, population densities and technology, and there needed to be a move away from cost-benefit analysis. FEMA’s been busy this past week, it also launched its new app aimed at helping communities prepare for and recover from disasters. The app allows users to upload photos, find shelters and features a checklist and other preparation tools. It’s hoped the new app will have better results than underwhelming FEMA’s Disaster Reporter, which was released last year.