National security wrap

The Beat

The net closes on Panama Papers suspects

Tax evading high net wealth Australians will be sweating on ATO investigations into Australians allegedly identified in the Panama Papers. The ATO advises that criminal charges may be laid for tax evasion, money-laundering and fraud. This week the AFP, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and 100 tax officers raided 18 Panama-related targets, seizing documents, electronic media and even 170kgs of silver—worth approximately $150,000—from one Queensland property. The ATO, AFP and AUSTRAC are leading a Serious Financial Crime Taskforce that has identified 1000 Australian entities linked to $2.5b of suspicious cross-border transfers.

Howzat! Brazilian senate dismisses Rousseff

Brazil’s ongoing corruption scandals have claimed the biggest scalp: that of the country’s President. On Tuesday former President Dima Rousseff finally exited Palácio da Alvorada, the official presidential residence, and headed home to Porto Alegre. Rousseff has been investigated for claims that she took unauthorised loans and manipulated fiscal accounts to hide the extent of the budget deficit during her 2014 election campaign. A nine-month impeachment process resulted in her suspension in May and culminated in a 31 August Senate vote (61-20) convicting her of violating budgetary laws. Former vice president and interim President, Michael Temer, has been sworn in and will serve the remaining presidential term through to 2018.

CT Scan

Diminishing Daesh

Daesh continued its stream of propaganda on Tuesday with a new magazine titled Rumiyah (Rome). The publication features a story on previously convicted Australian terrorist Ezzit Raad, who, according to the release, died from shrapnel wounds suffered while fighting in Manbij. Raad is amongst several Australians who’ve been linked to the group. On Monday the Supreme Court handed down a 10-year jail sentence to 19 year-old Sevdet Ramadan Besim over an Anzac Day plot, as well as hearing an ongoing case concerning a Melbourne teen who’d made contact with recruiters in Syria attempted to build an explosive device. Sydney man Hamdi al-Qudsi was also jailed last Thursday for facilitating the travel of seven Australians to fight in Syria. (Read more about al-Qudsi on The Strategist.)

The magazine reiterates the call for attacks on Australian soil—‘kill them on the streets of Brunswick, Broadmeadows, Bankstown, and Bondi. Kill them at the MCG, the SCG, the Opera House, and even in their backyards’. Despite the rhetorical onslaught, the group continues to lose ground in Iraq and Syria. Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield continues to push further into Syria, the group’s foothold in Libya is shrinking, and the battle for Mosul looms large.

Debating CVE

Check out the US-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s debate (1 hr) over the controversies (PDF) of CVE programs.


The taming of the beast

Mexico’s government plans to crackdown on the La Bestia, or ‘the beast’, a cross-border freight train network that has transported millions of migrants into Texas. The north bound route is infamously dangerous—earning several nicknames including the ‘death train’—with migrants risking amputation, death and predation by organised criminals and gangs. On Tuesday 23 August the Secretariat of Communications and Transport unveiled a plan to ‘tame’ the beast by nationalising management of rail lines in southern Mexico. Specific measures will impose new monitoring posts, CCTV cameras and aerial drone surveillance over key checkpoints such as tunnels, train yards, switching stations and urban centres clustered along train lines—areas which migrants will attempt to hop aboard.

UK-Ireland border to remain

British and Irish officials have sought to ease concerns over the future of the Common Travel Area after Britain exits the EU. In speaking to a House of Lords select committee on the European Union on Tuesday, Irish ambassador to the UK Daniel Mulhall expressed confidence that EU authorities are cognisant of the UK-Ireland land border’s ‘unique circumstances’. UK Brexit minister David Davis echoed these sentiments, informing the House of Commons that no hard border will be will be erected in Ireland.

First Responder

Spill the beans

On Saturday, the US and China ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement in the lead up to the G20 Summit, though 55 nations must still sign for the agreement to go into effect. There’s been some controversy in Australia over the Climate Change Authority’s special review (PDF) on climate action. Two members of the authority, Professors Karoly and Hamilton, released a ‘minority report’ (PDF) blasting the review’s recommendations as ‘not soundly based on climate science’.

Climate scientist Ed Hawkins has produced a visual that maps out global temperature changes from 1850–2016, which clearly shows a planet heating up over the years. And, if you’re anything like us, the threat to your daily cup-a-joe posed by climate change should be enough to raise some alarm bells.

Fire, oil, and food

Ongoing fighting in Nigeria and the Middle East has devastated local communities. While Boko Haram have been pushed back by government forces, the fighting has left North-eastern Nigeria in desperate need of food aid. The UN’s World Food Programme estimates that 4.5 million people are in need of assistance. In Iraq, oil wells captured by Iraqi forces in Qayyara had been set ablaze before ISIS fighters fled, covering residential areas with smoke and oil. There’s also some serious concern over the humanitarian implications of the fight for Mosul and the monstrous task of reconstruction.