National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user Neil Forbes.

The Beat

It’s all about that face

Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy & Technology recently released an investigatory report (PDF) on the growing use of facial recognition systems in law enforcement. Among the key findings is the revelation that approximately half of all American adults have searchable images on law enforcement systems. Alarmingly, African-Americans are disproportionately overrepresented in that group. The report documents a myriad of factors, such as fragmented regulatory oversight and poor database management, have led to police searching with few restrictions and an emerging racial bias. US media outlets have raised concerns over this ‘high-tech form of racial profiling’ and other potential civil rights abuses, particularly against innocent individuals whose details have been hoovered up into databases. The authors of the report call on state legislatures and Congress to implement stricter regulation on data retention, searching practices, and profiling parameters such as race, ethnicity or religion.

Italian Mafia makes Daesh an offer they can’t refuse

Italian newspaper La Stampa reports that the Calabrian centred ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate is running guns for Daesh. The Calabrian mobsters are offering Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers to Libyan-based Daesh buyers in exchange for ancient archaeological artefacts, which are then sold to Asian and Russian collectors. The commercial arrangement comes despite Daesh’s reported fear of the Italian mob.

CT Scan

Battle for Mosul

The battle to liberate Iraq’s second-largest city from Daesh rule got underway Monday morning. Zana Gulmohamad at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center has an excellent overview (see Part 2 in the PDF) of the ongoing operation. Key players that were interviewed by Gulmohamad explained plans to keep Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga out of the city itself, though many expressed doubts about their ability to do so. Analysts note the many challenges following the expected re-capture of the city, including managing the competing interests of parties involved, governing Mosul’s ethnically and religiously diverse population, and providing aid for displaced residents in what’s expected to be a catastrophic humanitarian emergency for the Iraqi government.

Déjà vu?

In a recent piece for The Telegraph, RUSI’s Raffaello Pantucci warns against underestimating the resilience of groups like Daesh as has been done in the past. He highlights the constantly evolving nature of the group and the risk posed by an influx of returnee fighters. For two interesting takes on previous operations in Mosul, see Michael Knights’ assessment (PDF) of Iraqi forces in Mosul from 2008–2014 and this piece over at War on the Rocks, which looks at how al-Qaeda in Iraq survived underground in Mosul from 2005–2010.

Tailored CVE

A new report from Brookings provides a series of policy recommendations on countering violent extremism for the next President. The report argues for changing the government’s ‘community-oriented approach’, which securitises America’s Muslim communities, and instead focusing on tailored interventions at the individual level.


Daesh capitulates

On Monday, Turkey’s military announced that security along the Syrian border has largely been restored. Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces, supported by Turkish armour and air power, have captured nine areas, including former Daesh stronghold Dabiq. The Dabiq offensive concludes the third phase of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, and removes the threat of cross-border rocket attacks into Turkey. President Erdogan’s spokesperson described Dabiq’s capture a ‘strategic and symbolic victory’ over Daesh. Following these successes, the Turkish-backed FSA forces have commenced the fourth phase of Euphrates Shield and are moving to seize Al-Bab.

The ABF strikes back

Australian Border Force (ABF) officials have disclosed that international crime gangs deliberately targeted Australian airports and seaports during last month’s rolling strikes by Immigration and Border Force staff. ABF assistant commissioner Clive Murray revealed that contraband flowed more freely into the country and said ‘good evidence’ indicated a concerted effort by organised criminals to exploit the temporarily diminished inspection capacity. Officials from the Community and Public Sector Union, which represented the striking workers, disputed the ABF’s assessment labelling the evidence ‘weak’ and arguing that Australia’s borders weren’t compromised.


Check out ASIO’s Annual Report to Parliament, which details passport cancellations, what ASPI’s Jacinta Carroll describes as one of the ‘few tangible and public measures’ of Australian counter-terrorist efforts.

First Responder

More on climate

At a UN meeting in Rwanda last week, world leaders moved to adopt revisions to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, agreeing to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by up to 80–85% by 2047. HFCs were developed as an alternative for chloroflurocarbons, the substances targeted in the initial protocol, and are used primarily in refrigerators and air conditioners. The new agreement will most likely require ratification by the US Senate. Some analysts are concerned it’s unlikely to pass a Republican majority that has pushed back on climate issues in the past.

Superbug solutions

After a stern message from UN leaders at last month’s UN General Assembly, who warned that ‘antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development, and security’, researchers at Sydney University have scored a win in the fight to combat the so-called ‘superbugs’. The team discovered antimicrobial peptides in the milk of Tasmanian devils and successfully tested the peptide’s ability to kill drug-resistant bacteria.