National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user kokotron bcm.

The Beat

Non-‘Accra’-dited US Embassy

A fake US embassy in Ghana which operated for about a decade has been shut down. The US State Department confirmed raids in Accra in which 150 passports from 10 countries were found and several people arrested. The fake embassy run by Ghanaian and Turkish organised crime rings, issued counterfeit and fraudulently obtained visas for US$6,000 a pop. The criminals were reportedly able to pay corrupt officials to ‘look the other way’. Check out the photo of the fake embassy versus the real deal here. You can’t make this stuff up.

The illegalities of China’s ‘war on corruption’

A new Human Rights Watch report has shone a spotlight on the extra-legal detention system used as part of Chinas ‘war on corruption’—launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in late 2012. The shuanggui disciplinary system—which has been described as a living hell by a former detainee—allows the Central Commission on Discipline Inspection to summon, detain, interrogate and torture any of 88 million Communist Party members until a confession is made. Human Rights Watch argues the opaque internal mechanism—which allows for beatings, self-deprivation, stress positions and solitary confinement—should be abolished if China wishes to succeed in its anti-corruption campaign. China was ranked 83rd out of 168 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2015.

CT Scan

Vive le Sirte libre!

The long battle for Sirte—the last major Daesh stronghold in Libya—is coming to an end after government-aligned militia groups took control of the city’s remaining Daesh-controlled neighbourhoods. Daesh took control of the city in 2015, and it has featured as their most important base outside of Syria and Iraq since then. The six-month battle to retake the city was fierce; car bombs, suicide attacks and snipers led to heavy casualties for the militia groups. However, hundreds of US airstrikes and support from British and Jordanian Special Forces eventually paved the way for Libyan forces to clear out the city.

Turning off auto-play: fighting terrorist content online

Four internet giants have banded together to combat the spread of terrorist content on the internet. Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube, and Twitter are partnering up to create a shared database of ‘hashes’—unique digital fingerprints—of terrorist imagery and videos that will help them track and remove the content from their platforms. However, that doesn’t mean that the companies agree on what constitutes terrorist content. The post stipulates that it’ll remain up to each company to tag images and videos and to review content tagged by other companies using their own internal guidelines and processes (which have come under fire in the past).


Tackling illicit tobacco and the ABF

Appearing on the ABC’s 7:30 report on Monday, Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Wayne Buchhorn described ‘significant’ concerns that the proceeds from a multi-million dollar trade in tobacco illegally smuggled into Australia were being used to fund drug importation and other organised crime activity, including fundraising for a charity aligned with Hezbollah. 7:30 also reported that efforts by the Australian Border Force to tackle illicit tobacco trade were being hampered by a lack of ‘modern powers’, including the use of tracking devices and in rare cases conducting raids and arrests independently of the Federal Police.

Fixing British immigration

The findings of a report sanctioned by the UK government to investigate the country’s immigration failings were released on Monday. The ‘Casey Review’, named after its author Dame Louise Casey, pointed the finger at inadequate measures to foster integration and social cohesion.  The report includes a list of recommendations to tackle social exclusion of migrants, including identifying common ‘British values’, ameliorating economic exclusion and inequality and enhancing integrity in public office to promote rule of law.

100% there for the taking

A Kiwi woman was allegedly detained in Kazakhstan because officials didn’t believe New Zealand was its own country. The report has delighted Australians, who have long viewed the neighbouring island as ‘Little Australia’.

First Responder

Searching for greener energy

Google has said it will reach 100% renewable energy sources to power its global operations by 2017. The mega company has two main reasons to make the switch: European Google energy lead Marc Oman said it’s both a practical initiative to lock in low-cost energy options and corporate responsibility to combat climate change. And relying on renewable energy reduces the risk of exposure to oil price volatility and is easier for businesses to directly invest in their own energy supply chain. You can find Google’s first environmental report here.

E-rays-ed from existence

The Union for Conservation of Nature has designated the Mediterranean Ocean a ‘hot spot’ for the extinction risk of sharks, rays and chimaeras in a new report. It concludes that at least 53% of 73 species surveyed across the three groups of fish are at risk of extinction. The primary drivers of that are overfishing and lack of an environmental management plan. Sharks in particular are apex predators which help regulate aquatic ecosystems and stimulate tourism—as such, their loss would be detrimental to the Mediterranean’s sustainability.