National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user Brian Godfrey

The Beat

Money, money, money, must be… laundered?

Last week, the Basel Institute on Governance released its 2016 Basel Anti-Money Laundering Index, an annual ranking of 149 countries on money laundering and terrorism financing risks. Iran was ranked the top global money laundering threat for the third year straight. On the other end of the spectrum, Finland was ranked the lowest risk country, while Australia was ranked 106. Malaysia fell around the middle of the index, but the country has been making headlines over the past few months over the 1MDB scandal—the state-owned fund has been accused of involvement in embezzlement and money laundering. The US is suing 1MDB for the return of US$1billion in assets that were allegedly misappropriated. For a comprehensive overview of one of the world’s biggest financial scandals, read this in-depth report from The Guardian.

SA to adopt facial recognition tech

The South Australian Government has awarded NEC Australia an AU$780,000 contract to deploy facial-recognition technology to the SA Police as of late October. The technology is designed to support forensic, investigative and frontline policing operations—helping the police force to solve crimes faster and apprehend criminals earlier. A new report by Privacy International, ‘The Global Surveillance Industry’, looks at the use and trade of other electronic surveillance technologies by law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world.

CT Scan

Increased security to counter terrorism ahead of Rio Olympics

Security forces are poised and ready ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony in Rio on Saturday 6 August. The increased security comes amid online calls by Daesh to attack the event. Last month, Brazilian authorities arrested 10 members of an Islamist militant group called Defenders of Sharia on charges of allegedly organising a terror plot. In addition, a report by the Brazilian Intelligence Agency released in April warned of tweets threatening ‘Brazil as the next target’. Read more about security challenges facing the Olympics here.

US launch air strikes on Daesh in Libya

On Monday 1 August, the US began a series of airstrikes in Sirte, Libya as part of a new military campaign against Daesh. Pentagon officials announced the strikes took place after the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord requested support for its forces working to defeat Daesh in Sirte. The strikes were part of a three-phase plan designed to defeat the terrorist group in its primary stronghold in the country. Operation Odyssey Resolve was a series of ISR flights to counter violent extremism in the region, Operation Junction Serpent provided targeting information, and Operation Odyssey Lightning saw the air strikes which commenced on Monday. Those measures come as CIA Director John Brennan told Congress that Daesh’s presence in Libya was ‘probably the most developed and most dangerous’ next to Iraq and Syria.


‘The eye—it cannot choose but see

While biometric iris scanners are now being used at airports for automated border control, they  aren’t foolproof, with a new report raising concerns that using a high-res photo of an eye or a stolen eyeball could dupe the technology. Recognising a live eye is a genuine concern for biometric security, and researchers are scrambling to incorporate ‘liveness’ detection methods. Just last month, the liveness detection-iris competition was held at the International Conference on Biometrics.

Land grabs at murky borders

A recently released paper, ‘Land Grabs: Causes, Consequences and the Evolution of Territorial Conquest’ has found that land grabs—seizing lands with ill-defined or disputed borders—continues to occur. The study examined 105 land grabs since 1918 to try to understand the conditions under which they’re likely to occur and whether they lead to war. Check out this Foreign Affairs infographic on the history of the land grabs.

The EU’s funding of Sudan’s border police…

Foreign Policy has revealed that the EU will provide Sudan’s government with funding to secure its borders, despite President Omar al-Bashir’s indictment for crimes against humanity and genocide. Earlier this year, New Statesman and Der Spiegel detailed that the EU plans to fund Sudan’s border police and assist them in building reception centres to stem the flow of migrants and refuges to Europe.

First Responder

Pacific Islands need to integrate disaster risk management

A new World Bank report (PDF) released last week has called for Pacific Island nations to make a concerted effort to integrate climate and disaster risk management into their infrastructure planning and development. ‘Pacific Possible: Climate and Disaster Resilience’ proposed a series of new measures, including adaption strategies for coastal protection; water resources; flooding and agriculture; and infrastructure and buildings. The report also quantified the potential cost of climate adaption for Pacific Island nations—ranging from one to 13% of GDP—with Kiribati and the Marshall Islands facing the biggest bill. It stressed the need to take immediate steps—such as retrofitting buildings to withstand future cyclones—to reduce the impact climate change-related events will have in the future.

Stronger building codes required in North America

Resilient infrastructure is also an issue for developed countries, as was highlighted at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region’s Annual Summit in Calgary last month. Experts from private industry, academia, non-profits and government agencies came together to examine the 2013 floods in southern Alberta and the fire in Fort McMurray earlier this year, and to address the need for resilience in the built environment. Founder and chair of the Resilience Action Fund, Aris Papadopoulous, said that weak building codes cost communities dearly during disasters, and that society needed to stop relying on ‘escape’ building codes which are only designed to give people enough time to leave a building.