National security wrap

The beat

Guns versus Irma

Hurricane safeguarding seems to have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in Florida. After a Facebook event titled ‘Shoot at Hurricane Irma’ caught the attraction of thousands, the Pasco Sheriff’s office was forced to take to Twitter to urge people not to shoot at the storm. Meanwhile, the Palm Beach County’s state prosecutor announced that people who fled the storm but left their pets behind, will face felony prosecutions. Some of the four-legged friends that apparently engaged in looting will presumably be let off, however.

 Another blow for Black Lives Matter

Freddie Gray’s death in police custody in Baltimore caused weeks of protest in 2015. As in other cases, the US Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that the officers involved won’t face federal charges. Internal disciplinary trials are still due in October. Since the election of President Trump, the US has seen an increase in hate crimes, the latest example being an attempted lynching [graphic images] of an 8-year-old biracial boy by a group of white teenagers in New Hampshire.

 IOC’s bitter aftertaste

The International Olympic Committee confirmed the host cities for the Olympic games in 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (Los Angeles), in what has been dubbed a ‘win-win-win’ deal. The custom of countries vying for last minute votes wasn’t required, as a prior agreement allowed both cities to ‘win’. At the same time, the fight against corruption in the Committee is back on the agenda: Carlos Nuzman, organiser of the Rio Olympics, is being investigated for paying US$2 million to buy votes supporting Rio’s bid.

CT scan

Payne in the Philippines

Defence Minister Marise Payne met with her Filipino counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana, last Friday to discuss Australian assistance to the Philippines in the battle against IS. Payne confirmed that a small number of Australian troops will be sent to the Philippines to train Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel. Both stressed that it won’t be a combat deployment, with Lorenzana reaffirming that the Philippines ‘have sufficient troops to fight in Marawi’. The move comes amid heightened concerns about future involvement by Australian jihadists in Marawi and active efforts by Islamic jihadists to recruit fighters from Australia.

Israel pinpoints Iran’s terror threat

The Israel-based International Institute for Counter Terrorism has held its annual international conference in Herzliya. The conference’s Israeli speakers largely focussed on the terrorist threat posed by Iran, branding that country’s nuclear program as ‘the number one existential threat to the state of Israel’. One of the keynote speakers was Sebastian Gorka, former adviser to President Trump. Gorka stressed the need for counterterrorism efforts to not perpetuate an ‘endless cycle of violence’.


Australians questioned amid terrorism fears

Australian airport security personnel have prevented 17 people from boarding flights since July due to terrorism fears. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the concern isn’t only that they may want to fight for ISIS, but that they may want to return to Australia. Islamic State East Asia was officially labelled as a terrorist organisation by the Turnbull administration earlier this month, with jail terms of up to 25 years for Australians who participate.

DACA recipients detained in Texas

An immigration attorney has revealed that several beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program were detained at a checkpoint in Fulfarrias, Texas this week. On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration was rescinding the program. A US Customs and Boarder Protection worker said DACA recipients ‘will temporarily be detained for accuracy and verification of status’.

EU court ruling forces EU member states to welcome refugees

The European Court of Justice has dismissed a legal challenge by Hungary and Slovakia against a 2015 EU policy decision forcing eastern European states increase their refugee intakes. In 2015, when the refugee influx to Western Europe began, the EU mandated that members states must accept a minimum quota of refugees, a decision strongly opposed by Hungary and Slovakia. The Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban called the decision a ‘rape of European law and values’.

First responder

Hurricane season

Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction in its wake this week, as it ripped through several Caribbean countries and Florida. The New York Times demonstrated its capacity for excellent data-driven journalism with its interactive story of Hurricane Irma, told via creative usage of Google Maps, satellite imagery and photojournalism. The Guardian highlighted the vastly differing experiences of haves and have-nots in Miami in the face of Hurricane Irma. With the cost of Irma projected to rise as high as $300 billion dollars, its consequences for local economies may cause more suffering than the event itself.

More weather extremes

Naomi Klein has written a compelling article for The Intercept, accompanied by beautiful pictures, detailing the effects of extreme weather events caused by climate change. Such events are occurring with increasing frequency. The hurricane season looks to be far from over too, as Hurricane Jose follows in Irma’s path.

Off the grid

Security firm Symantec has warned that a series of recent cyberattacks on energy companies in the US and Europe resulted in the hackers gaining the capability to blackout power grids.