National security wrap

Image courtesy of Pixabay user Stevebidmead.

The Beat

All that glitters…

… is not gold, and not all that is gold is legally mined.

African Matters profiles the latest developments in Ghana’s fight to curb galamsey, the practice of illegal artisanal mining. In April this year, practitioners were given three weeks to stop mining; consequently, 544 excavators were removed from the sites. But it’s a wicked problem, not least because upper estimates suggest the illegal mines support the livelihood of up to 3 million individuals. And, to complicate matters, there has recently been an influx of Chinese miners, numbering in the ‘tens of thousands’, as well adjacent Chinese investment (PDF). The recent lynching of a government soldier assigned to help police the mines will only muddy the waters.

Meanwhile, Insight Crime has suggested that illegal gold mining in Costa Rica hints at a diversifying criminal landscape. There’s also an update on the case of an American gold importer who allegedly raked in billions of dollars from illegal mines in Peru—the intricacies of the investigation highlight the adaptability of the crime networks plying the trade.

And finally, Executive News gives us a detailed look at Beirut’s surprising gold trade, noting that African gold-smuggling may be facilitated by Lebanese exporters.

In a nutshell

Outside Online brings us a fantastic longform account of the curious case of the disappearing nuts. (As soon as you read the words ‘Nut Theft Task Force’ you know things are going to be good.)

CT Scan

Effects of a Trump budget on CT efforts

President Trump’s budget proposal was released last week and Americans in the CT community are less than impressed. The budget calls for a reduction in security spending on nation-wide initiatives such as the Urban Area Security Initiative  (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Program. Considering the horrible attacks in Manchester just last week, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer says its makes ‘absolutely no sense’ to cut funding from the UASI, noting that the initiative has been the ‘lifeblood of New York’s anti-terror programs and the cornerstone of effective preparedness and prevention against terror threats’.

Included in the budget are significant cuts to peacekeeping operations, which Eric Rosand and Alistair Millar from Brookings argue is unlikely to lead to a reduction in terrorist violence over the long term. They believe that a successful CT strategy should include promoting traditional ‘soft power tools’ such as programs that promote the peaceful resolution of political disputes and grievances, development, good governance, human rights, economic growth and the rule of law.

Engaging youth in CVE programs

Australian terrorism experts have warned that a lack of community engagement is discrediting CVE programs which target Australian youths vulnerable to radicalisation. Experts argue that due to the perceived stigma attached to talking with government agencies, individuals are wary of reporting potentially radicalised people to authorities. They argue the focus needs to change from surveillance of children to ‘understanding the broader social issues youths face’. Interestingly, a similar argument was recently made at the opening of the OSCE-wide CT conference.


Malaysia heightens border security amid regional chaos

After the recent string of bombings in Indonesia and Thailand, and the rebel siege of the Philippines’ Marawi City, the Malaysian government has announced heightened security measures near its borders with those neighbouring countries. In Sabah, nearest to Mindanao where President Duterte has declared martial law, the Malaysian armed forces will deploy two additional patrol ships and the National Special Operations Force in addition to the troops already stationed on the islands off Borneo’s coast. Further east, combat boats and additional infantry troops will guard the Lahad Datu coastline. Due to its proximity to Mindanao, Malaysia is also on high alert in anticipating a potential influx of refugees and militants.

A Palestinian’s checkpoint scrum

June marks 50 years since the end of the 1967 Six-Day War that began Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Washington Post has delved into the lives of some of the 70,000 West Bank Palestinians who push through checkpoints to get to their construction jobs in Israel. To bypass the scrum and get to work faster, these workers resort to scaling the ‘walls of cages’ at Checkpoint 300 near Rachel’s Tomb—a sacred site to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

First Responder

Nuclear (un)safety

An article in Science magazine last week, ‘Nuclear safety regulation in the post-Fukushima era’, summarised here, makes some alarming revelations about the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The authors (researchers from Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists) argue the NRC’s refusal to adopt a critical protection measure against a catastrophic nuclear waste fire was justified by ‘faulty analysis’. Among other factors, it’s argued the NRC deliberately excluded the possibility of a terrorist attack from its modelling and as a result significantly underestimated the scale of destruction of such a disaster. The paper links the decision to nuclear industry and congressional pressure on the NRC, to ‘low-ball the potential consequences of a fire’ to avoid cost increases and potential plant shut-downs. One scenario modelled shows fallout from a fire could be bigger than that of the 2011 Fukushima accident.

Disaster in Sri Lanka

Monsoon rains have caused Sri Lanka’s worst flooding in 14 years, with at least 194 people reported killed and more than half a million affected. The death toll is expected to rise as the severe weather continues, and authorities warn of disease risks and possible crocodile attacks. Australia has pledged $500,000 for rescue assistance.