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National security wrap

Posted By , , and on March 9, 2017 @ 12:30

Image courtesy of Flickr user Dennis Sparks.

The Beat

A fintech love story

The big four Australian banks will partner [1] with Western Union, Paypal, and several government authorities including AUSTRAC, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Tax Office and ASIO, to target serious financial crime and terrorism financing. The ‘Fintel Alliance [2]’ will be the first time [3] that such public and private personnel [4] are housed under the one roof. The Operations Hub [5] will be in AUSTRAC’s Sydney and Melbourne offices, while an Innovations Hub [6], exploring the implications of new technologies like blockchain, will be instituted. The partnership also promises specialised training [7] and a suite of new capabilities for the crime fighters, including the ability to track [8] monetary transactions greater than $10,000 in near-real-time. The intelligence might soon be shared across the Five-Eyes network, with the UK National Crime Agency already sending [9] over two officers.

During the launch (catch up on YouTube [10] or browse #FintelAlliance [11]) AUSTRAC CEO Paul Jevtovic emphasised [12] the partnership’s flexibility: ‘Fintel Alliance is a living organism; it does not have an end or final state.’ This isn’t even its final form!

Printing pistols

After a Sydney man was arrested [13] for manufacture of firearms last week (he’d assembled 3D-printed guns [14]) one online repository reported [15] that the blueprints had been downloaded thousands of times from Australia. It’s not a new issue [16], and last time around ABC FactCheck [17] gave a good summary of the Aussie state-of-play.

CT Scan

ACT campaign

This week, British police launched a national campaign [18], Action Counters Terrorism, to urge ‘the public to act on their instincts to help tackle the terrorist threat’. The campaign is accompanied by a new podcast which ‘reveals previously untold stories [19] of how terrorist attacks on UK soil were prevented’. The podcasts include accounts from counterterrorism detectives, bomb disposal and surveillance officers, senior police constables, witnesses and even the terrorists themselves and focuses on how these attacks were prevented, thanks to information-sharing from the public.

Society’s counterterrorism industrial complex

An eye-opening piece [20] from The New York Times argues that society’s intense focus on terrorism has ‘helped spawn a veritable counterterrorism industrial complex’. Apparently, concern about terrorism is rising despite a lack of empirical evidence to justify it. After 9/11, Americans came to the sobering realisation that terrorist attacks can indeed happen on US soil. As of 2016, an incredible 80% of Americans regard ISIS as a major threat to the US [21], despite evidence suggesting that ‘guns are 3,210 times more likely to kill them [22]’. The fact is—Americans are more afraid of terrorism than they are of guns and Trump knows it.  As a result we’re seeing extreme polices such as Trump’s latest Muslim travel ban [23] which NYT believes is ‘the logical extension of an illogical threat assessment’.


The ABF helps crack the Golden Triangle

Last week, the Australian Border Force gifted a rigid-hulled inflatable boat [24] to Thailand to support its efforts in combating illicit drug trafficking in the notorious ‘Golden Triangle’ [25] region. The vessel will improve interoperability and outcomes between Thailand’s narcotics authority and other members of the Safe Mekong Anti-Drug Operation [26], including China, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia. The ABF will also provide vessel search training to the operation’s personnel on the Mekong River in May.

Five Eyes to share biometric data

The Five Eyes intelligence alliance is poised to share amongst themselves biometric data [27] collected at their respective borders in an effort to weed out terrorists, including foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria. The Canadian government is spearheading the data-sharing technology [28], and the heads of the five countries’ customs agencies recently met in London to flesh out the plan. Representing Australia at that meeting, the ABF also wants to station Australian officers at the other countries’ border points. By streamlining the detection of problematic individuals, these measures will expedite visa processing times for those of us with lower risk ratings.

First Responder


For the last seven months ambulances in Washington DC have been equipped with ‘vehicle-mounted radiation detectors’ [29] as part of a DARPA trial. The SIGMA program’s goal is to prevent attacks involving nuclear threats, including radiological “dirty bombs”. The trial provided the first dynamic, real-time mapping of the city’s background radiation levels and identified any spikes that could indicate a threat. The creation of networked, continuous data monitoring signalled a future ability to ‘incorporate intelligence holistically into risk assessment’ [29] and improve nuclear and radiological threat-monitoring capabilities. Basically, as one commentator put it: ‘DARPA has been using ambulances to search for nukes in D.C.’ [30].

New commissioner in town

The London Fire Brigade’s new commissioner [31], Dany Cotton, is the first ever woman to hold the post. After graduating training in 1988, Cotton was only the 30th woman to join the service of 6,000. Now, she commands a 4,800-strong force across 102 fire stations and is responsible for frontline response in a city that last year logged 100,000 incidents [32]. When asked what single thing would help bring more women into the service? Cotton answered: ‘stop saying “fireman”’ [31].

Extreme sport

Finally, watch this video [33] of skiers chasing a ball of lava (!) down Mt. Etna’s slopes, which began erupting [34] ten days ago.

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URLs in this post:

[1] partner: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/australia-is-targeting-money-laundering-and-terrorism-in-a-sophisticated-new-collaboration-with-banks-and-fintech-2017-3

[2] Fintel Alliance: http://www.austrac.gov.au/fintel-alliance-launch

[3] first time: https://www.ministerjustice.gov.au/Mediareleases/Pages/2017/FirstQuarter/AUSTRAC-launches-world-first-alliance-to-combat-serious-financial-crime.aspx

[4] personnel: https://www.intheblack.com/articles/2017/03/03/evasion-enables-fintel-alliance

[5] Operations Hub: http://www.austrac.gov.au/sites/default/files/fa-announcement-operations-hub-v1.pdf

[6] Innovations Hub: http://www.austrac.gov.au/sites/default/files/fa-announcement-Innovation-hub-v1.pdf

[7] specialised training: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/02/reuters-america-australia-says-it-will-teach-worlds-first-cyber-crime-university-course.html

[8] track: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/terror/banks-join-national-security-fight/news-story/138b7d4d84d53162ebfb51b4ac856d19

[9] sending: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/1035-nca-joins-australians-in-economic-crime-crackdown

[10] YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwlwgiFpmiY

[11] #FintelAlliance: https://twitter.com/hashtag/FintelAlliance?src=hash

[12] emphasised: https://twitter.com/AUSTRAC/status/837426404715212800

[13] arrested: http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/news/media_release_archive?sq_content_src=%2BdXJsPWh0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGZWJpenByZC5wb2xpY2UubnN3Lmdvdi5hdSUyRm1lZGlhJTJGNjE0MDkuaHRtbCZhbGw9MQ%3D%3D

[14] 3D-printed guns: https://www.facebook.com/nswpoliceforce/photos/pcb.10154585759506185/10154585759401185/?type=3&theater

[15] reported: http://www.smh.com.au/national/thousands-of-aussies-download-instructions-on-how-to-make-a-3d-gun-20170302-gupd5w.html

[16] not a new issue: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/01/gunslingers-and-the-mythology-of-making-your-own-weapon/423771/

[17] ABC FactCheck: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-26/3d-printing-fact-file/6429816

[18] launched a national campaign: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/action-counters-terrorism

[19] reveals previously untold stories: https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/newsroom/2017/03/police-call-on-public-to-help-tackle-terror-threat/podcast-is-a-counter-terrorism-campaign-first

[20] eye-opening piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/04/opinion/sunday/how-our-strategy-against-terrorism-gave-us-trump.html?_r=1

[21] regard ISIS as a major threat to the US: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/05/05/key-findings-on-how-americans-view-the-u-s-role-in-the-world/

[22] guns are 3,210 times more likely to kill them: https://qz.com/898207/the-psychology-of-why-americans-are-more-scared-of-terrorism-than-guns-though-guns-are-3210-times-likelier-to-kill-them/

[23] Trump’s latest Muslim travel ban: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/new-executive-order-bans-travelers-from-six-muslim-majority-countries-applying-for-visas/2017/03/06/3012a42a-0277-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html?utm_term=.0fd03376c5be

[24] gifted a rigid-hulled inflatable boat: http://newsroom.border.gov.au/

[25] ‘Golden Triangle’: http://www.quantumbooks.com/other/politics-and-society/southeast-asia-drug-war-what-exactly-is-the-golden-triangle/

[26] Safe Mekong Anti-Drug Operation: http://www.chiangraitimes.com/vietnam-and-cambodia-invited-to-join-the-safe-mekong-anti-drug-operation.html

[27] poised to share amongst themselves biometric data: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/terror/biometric-data-set-to-be-shared-with-five-eyes-intelligence-network/news-story/e281dbb28898f7499685ef6017be607b

[28] spearheading the data-sharing technology: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canada-pursues-wider-biometric-data-sharing-with-five-eyes-allies/article16990741/

[29] ‘vehicle-mounted radiation detectors’: http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2017-03-01

[30] ‘DARPA has been using ambulances to search for nukes in D.C.’: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/darpa-nuke-detection-test-2017-3?r=US&IR=T

[31] London Fire Brigade’s new commissioner: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/05/dany-cotton-london-fire-brigade-commissioner-interview?CMP=fb_gu

[32] 100,000 incidents: http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/responsetimes.asp

[33] this video: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/03/03/skiers-chase-a-smoldering-lava-bomb-down-the-slopes-of-mt-etna/?utm_term=.3fc26965680b

[34] began erupting: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/mount-etna-volcano-eruption-sicily/

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