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National security wrap

Posted By , , and on May 4, 2017 @ 12:30

Image courtesy of Pixabay user KRiemer.

The Beat

Body cameras and artificial intelligence

The Intercept profiled a controversial development [1] at the tech world this week. Taser (now Axon) made news last month when it offered a free year-long trial of its body cameras to every police officer in America. That’ll mean a lot of data, and Axon’s looking to use it—it’s been recruiting artificial intelligence gurus [2] to set up algorithms that’ll use the police encounters to help ‘anticipate criminal activity’ (see Axon’s Law Enforcement Technology Report [3]).

The trouble with these big data-driven systems is that bias can be learned or reinforced by the algorithms. Proponents at Axon argue that prioritising video over text presents a ‘huge gain in information fidelity and transparency’, which will help offset the skew. But those opposed worry that existing trends (like racial profiling [4]) will be cemented by automated classification, and that the input (which needs to be labelled before it’s fed into the network) mightn’t be objective. It’s a debate that we expect will play out along the same lines as the AI-based sentencing [5] that’s creeping [6] into the US legal system.

Looking gift cards in the mouth

AUSTRAC’s risk assessment of stored value cards was released [7] on 2 May (PDF [8]). Alarmingly but maybe unsurprisingly, there were 12 incidences in the last two years [9] where it was judged highly likely that gift cards had been used to finance terror, although the overall threat was judged to be ‘medium’.

CT Scan

Understanding the newfangled far-right

For those with some time on their hands, this lengthy article from New York magazine helps readers to understand the emergence of America’s new far-right movement [10]. According to the authors, it’s useful to conceptualise this group not as a fringe movement [11] but rather as a ‘powerful counterculture’ whose ‘weirdness’ stems from rapid growth ‘without any strong ideological direction’.

On a similar note, award-winning Australian documentary-maker John Safran [12] recently released his new book, Depends What You Mean by Extremist: Going Rogue with Australian Deplorables [13]. The fascinating study explores the diverse community of radicals including white nationalists, Islamic State (IS) supporters, anarchists and others, presenting a ‘confronting portrait’ of contemporary Australian society.

The true measure of Islamist terror

Lowy’s Rodger Shanahan [14] recently argued that many incorrectly conflate [15] the ‘threat of death from terrorism with the threat from terrorism.’ Indeed, statistics will show that in terms of sheer numbers, deaths from terrorism remain low [16]—for more check out this article on The Strategist regarding society’s counterterrorism industrial complex [17]. And yet, Shanahan warns that by only taking into consideration actual deaths from terrorism as a measure of the threat, we risk underestimating the widespread and enduring [18] nature of the new brand of terrorism bought about by groups like IS and al-Qaeda. To this end, Former Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas has claimed [19] that Australia’s falling behind the rest of the world in our approach to terrorism.


Hungary completes second border fence

The Hungarian government announced [20] last Friday that it’s finished constructing a 155km fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of migrants bound for Western Europe. It’s the second border fence Hungary’s installed, after the fences it put up along its borders with Croatia and Serbia in 2015 after 400,000 migrants passed through the country. Having referred to migration as ‘poison’ [21], Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban doesn’t want to use [20] migrants to address Hungary’s labour shortages and demographic woes [22], and refutes [23] the EU’s mandatory refugee resettlement quotas.

China tightens Xinjiang border security

China plans to deploy drones [24] to patrol the borders that its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region shares with eight other countries. Aimed at curbing terrorist infiltrations, this broader effort to tighten security also includes [25] installing barbed wire and surveillance cameras along the more than 5,600km border. Chinese authorities believe the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks, which have killed more than 200 people [26] in the past two years, have been trained in neighbouring countries before entering China illegally.

So you think you can smuggle?

Finally, what do a catapult drug-launcher, human eyeballs and a broken leg cast made entirely of cocaine all have in common? Well, they’re all among this list [27] of weird items, and even weirder methods of smuggling, that’ve been foiled by border security officials.

First Responder

Dakar leads the way

Dakar, Senegal has become the first African city to release a city resilience strategy [28], as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities project. Dakar’s strategy adopts a broad approach to resilience, encompassing not just preparation and recovery planning for natural disasters but also for ‘the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis.’ [29] In Dakar, that includes rapid population growth, a dramatic youth bulge (72% of residents are under 35) and severe social inequalities. It’s hoped Dakar may serve as a testing ground for local solutions to those challenges, which are common to many African cities undergoing rapid urbanisation. To see if yours has made the list, check out more of the 100 Resilience Cities plans here [30].

Developments in debris

More accurate tornado warnings aren’t far away, with the development of ‘the first numerical polarimetric radar simulator to study and characterise tornado debris’ [31]. Developed by a University of Oklahoma research team with the Advanced Radar Research Centre, the simulator improves understanding of how debris scatters during a tornado, and how the size, concentration, shape and orientation of debris may impact its fall through the atmosphere. These studies will improve tornado warning accuracy and near real-time damage estimation, and enable faster direction of emergency services to affected areas.

Article printed from The Strategist: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au

URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/national-security-wrap-65/

URLs in this post:

[1] controversial development: https://theintercept.com/2017/04/30/taser-will-use-police-body-camera-videos-to-anticipate-criminal-activity/

[2] recruiting artificial intelligence gurus: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/taser-makes-two-acquisitions-to-create-axon-ai-300404780.html

[3] Law Enforcement Technology Report: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3679537-Taser-2017-Law-Enforcement-Technology-Report.html

[4] racial profiling: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/predictive-policing-video_us_56f898c9e4b0a372181a42ef

[5] AI-based sentencing: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/24/artificial-intelligence-judge-university-college-london-computer-scientists

[6] creeping: https://www.wired.com/2017/04/courts-using-ai-sentence-criminals-must-stop-now/

[7] released: http://www.austrac.gov.au/media/media-releases/minister-justice-media-release-austrac-risk-assessment-stored-value-cards

[8] PDF: http://www.austrac.gov.au/sites/default/files/stored-value-cards-risk-assessment-WEB.pdf

[9] 12 incidences in the last two years: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/02/militants-using-gift-cards-to-bankroll-terrorism-intelligence-agency-says

[10] new far-right movement: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/beyond-alt-understanding-the-new-far-right.html

[11] not as a fringe movement: https://theconversation.com/the-seeds-of-the-alt-right-americas-emergent-right-wing-populist-movement-69036

[12] John Safran: https://johnsafran.squarespace.com/

[13] Depends What You Mean by Extremist: Going Rogue with Australian Deplorables: https://penguin.com.au/books/depends-what-you-mean-by-extremist-9781926428772

[14] Rodger Shanahan: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/people/experts/bio/rodger-shanahan

[15] incorrectly conflate: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/islamist-terrorism-true-measure-threat

[16] deaths from terrorism remain low: 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/

[17] counterterrorism industrial complex: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/national-security-wrap-57/

[18] enduring: http://www.soufangroup.com/tsg-intelbrief-irans-presidential-election-takes-shape-2/

[19] claimed: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/national/top-cop-backs-homeland-security-counterterrorism-shakeup/news-story/fd30e27c03a952c62d29eb0a0ca9a634

[20] announced: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/hungary-completes-2nd-border-fence-meant-to-stop-migrants/2017/04/28/a31aca86-2bff-11e7-9081-f5405f56d3e4_story.html?utm_term=.fbb5e21f96b3

[21] ‘poison’: http://www.dw.com/en/hungary-completes-second-fence-to-keep-out-migrants/a-38632459

[22] labour shortages and demographic woes: http://www.dw.com/en/hungary-blocks-migrants-but-needs-foreign-labor/a-19448738

[23] refutes: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37528325

[24] deploy drones: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/china-to-deploy-drones-wire-fencing-along-xinjiang-border-to-prevent-infiltration/story-mJNsHS9vJnxoOWWZh8HTEO.html

[25] includes: http://english.cctv.com/2017/05/03/ARTIAHE2HETRvnVGWToqTHkW170503.shtml

[26] 200 people: https://sputniknews.com/asia/201705021053183765-china-use-drones-border-security/

[27] this list: http://www.therichest.com/shocking/15-shocking-items-confiscated-by-border-security-agents/

[28] city resilience strategy: http://www.100resilientcities.org/strategies/city/dakar#/-_/

[29] ‘the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis.’: https://sm.asisonline.org/Pages/Senegal-Steps-Up.aspx

[30] here: http://www.100resilientcities.org/cities#/-_/

[31] ‘the first numerical polarimetric radar simulator to study and characterise tornado debris’: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170501102241.htm

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