National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user NOAA Photo Library.

The Beat

Transnational crime and the Panama Papers

The Panama Papers had their first birthday on 3 April and most pundits are thankful for the public attention the leaks brought. However, as the Global Financial Integrity organisation notes, policymakers are still grappling with the global ‘shadow financial system.’ The Panama Papers revealed how a subset of anonymous companies work in the much larger ecosystem of opaque financial structures. The lack of transparency in these kind of constructs is a critical enabler of transnational crime—an issue that’s addressed in a recent report from the organisation, titled ‘Transnational Crime and the Developing World.’ The report estimated the combined global business value of 11 transnational criminal industries to be between US$1.6 and US$2.2 trillion annually.

Transparency International has timed two studies to coincide with the anniversary, highlighting the role that opaque financial institutions play in facilitating the movement of illicit assets. One report looks at money laundering in luxury markets, finding that ‘little due diligence is done on luxury goods buyers and where there are laws, there is little enforcement.’ The second considers how ‘glaring legal loopholes’ enable corruption in the real estate markets of Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.

MS13 gang members discuss Trump

Members of the infamous street gang Mara Salvatrucha or MS13—a designated ‘transnational criminal organization’—have been interviewed by InSight Crime for thoughts on the new US administration. The recurrent narrative in the frank responses is the poverty of those drawn to the gang and their perceived exploitation for ‘cheap propaganda.’

CT Scan

Are we missing the root causes of terrorism?

In an interview with the ABC concerning terrorism, Dr Clarke Jones, argues that Western society’s obsession with religion and politics often leads to us missing the root cause of terrorist attacks. According to Clarke, because society doesn’t engage with local communities enough, ‘we do not fully understand the different perspectives that exist’ when it comes to why individuals perpetrate terrorist attacks. Clarke recommends community engagement and greater understanding of cultural issues surrounding young populations who are disengaged from society.

The link between terrorism and sex

As policymakers try to understand why young men are so susceptible to recruitment by terrorist groups, are they missing something fundamental? According to Valeria Hudson they are—and that something is sex. Hudson’s research highlights the ‘gender blind spot’ in security and foreign policy studies. Her recent research examines the ‘causal relationship between brideprice and the ease of recruitment into insurgent groups’. For Hudson, the link between gender issues and national security has never been fully understood ‘because its seen as some type of lesser, woman-related issue.’

The mother of deradicalisation

Those fortunate enough to attend the ANU’s Women in National Security Conference this week were treated to a speech by Dr Feriha Peracha—a clinical psychologist who, for the past eight years has worked with the Pakistani Army to deprogram and reintegrate 192 former young radicals. Peracha describes herself as a ‘mother or grandmother to radicalised children’ and credits her success to ‘using empathy to understand what has happened to them’. Perhaps it’s time to learn from people like Peracha considering that Australian experts have begun questioning the effectiveness of deradicalisation programs.


Malaysia’s new land border agency

The Malaysian government is proposing to establish a new land border security agency, which will be armed and tasked with countering smuggling and other illegal operations. The proposal comes under the Malaysian Border Security Agency Act 2017, which was tabled on Tuesday. Interestingly, the bill provides full protection for informers, and will deem uncorroborated evidence from agent provocateurs as credible.

‘2 pair shoes’

Never a dull moment at the ABF—this week, they’ve uncovered the attempted smuggling of 11 snakes, nine tarantulas and four scorpions (view the full list and their exotic varieties here) in a box marked ‘2 pair shoes’ in a Melbourne international mailroom. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is also claiming the find as a small victory following a recent surge in biosecurity failures.

Trump’s border wall bidding closes

The deadline to submit prototype designs for Trump’s border wall closed on Tuesday. The US Customs and Border Protection agency called for proposals in March, and will announce the names of shortlisted companies in June. The contenders will then have 30 days to construct their prototypes, costing $200,000 to $500,000 each, on state-owned land in San Diego. According to the CEO of the American Council on Engineering Companies, some of the ‘larger, more experienced’ firms remained absent from the bid, perhaps wanting to steer clear of any political repercussions.

First Responder

Disaster in Colombia

At least 262 people have died after a mudslide in Colombia, in one of the country’s biggest ever natural disasters. Torrential rains swelled three rivers, sending a deluge of mud, water and debris through the town of Mocoa in Putumayo province. Electricity and water supply is limited and the hospital network has collapsed; President Santos has declared an ‘economic, social and ecological emergency’. The FARC rebel group has offered to join relief efforts, but hasn’t received approval from the government.

Tornado of criticism

A group of storm chasers is copping some flak after deliberately driving into a Louisiana tornado. Some in their community believe they set a poor example by getting too close to the twister, calling them ‘irresponsible’ and accusing them of bragging about their antics. Hoping to further a conversation about ‘chaser “ethics”’, Forbes weather contributor Marshall Shepherd interviews one of the storm chasers here.

Water winners and losers

An essay by David Owen in The New Yorker this week provides an intro into his new book, ‘Where the Water Goes’. It traces the interconnected economy of the Colorado River and entertains the consequences of the river—which supplies water to over 36 million people—running dry.