New resources on Australia’s extreme-right, FARC, cyber security and more

Another quick post of updates about new publications.

I’ve published a new AVERT post, Learning the Rules: Resources on the Complexities of Counter-Terrorism in Australia:

If you search “Australian counter-terrorism” in Google Image, the results are usually pictures of heavily armed police officers or soldiers, possibly raiding a house, guarding an iconic location, or standing outside an armoured vehicle. There are good reasons for the popularity of such attention-grabbing images; they convey the idea of preventing deadly acts of terrorism more simply than images of people sitting behind desks.

However, while the police and military services both play crucial roles, counter-terrorism also involves many other parts of Australia’s system of government.

In this post, I share a collection of resources that provide an inside look at different counter-terrorism roles played by various government bodies, including the police but not limited to them. These resources provide insights from:

· Coroners who have led inquests when counter-terrorism has gone wrong and people have been killed;

· Police officers who have been involved in the monitoring, investigation and arrest of terrorist suspects.

· Judges who have presided over the trials of accused terrorists, which often involved new and untested laws;

· Statutory officials who have been tasked with overseeing the use of counter-terrorism laws and other national security powers;

Mario Peucker and Debra Smith have edited a new book, The Far-Right in Contemporary Australia, with lots of great authors:

This book is the first to elaborate on radical and extreme right movements in contemporary Australia. It brings together leading scholars to present cutting edge research on various facets and manifestations of Australia’s diverse far-right, which has gained unprecedented public presence and visibility since the mid-2010s.
The thematic breadth of the chapters in this volume reflects the complexity of the far-right in Australia, ranging from the attitudes of far-right populist party voters and the role of far-right groups in anti-mosque protests, to online messaging and rhetoric of radical and extreme right-wing movements. The contributions are theoretically grounded and come from a range of disciplines, including media and cultural studies, sociology, politics, and urban studies, exploring issue of far-right activism on the micro and macro level, with both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Alexandra Phelan has published an article in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), called FARC’s Pursuit of “Taking Power”: Insurgent Social Contracts, the Drug Trade and Appeals to Eudaemonic Legitimation:

This paper argues that eudaemonic legitimation is a useful tool in understanding how insurgencies seek to justify their “effectiveness” and “performance” vis-à-vis the state in order to enhance authority and mobilise support for their strategic objectives. By examining primary FARC documents, conference and plenary findings, and select interviews with former and active FARC, ELN and M-19 members, it demonstrates how FARC constructed social contracts and integrated illicit financing into its operations as a strategy to appeal to its eudaemonic legitimation in its areas of proto-state influence, in turn aiming to mobilise support and consolidate a full-spectrum normative system. “Effectiveness” in FARC’s strategic approach through rule-setting allowed the organisation to expand to control significant portions of Colombian territory, which to a degree impacted positively on social mobilisation and challenged the government’s legitimacy by consolidating power structures in areas where there was a lack of government authority. FARC further appealed to social and economic “performance” by using revenue from its fundraising activities through engagement in the coca trade and kidnap for ransom to not only strengthen its military capacity, but also implement social initiatives and provide material goods. In turn, FARC was able to develop zones of security through the creation of social contracts in which stable economic practices were able to solidify, contributing in its effectiveness in providing proto-state authority and allowing for insurgent expansion.

Debra Smith & Steven Talbot have published an article in the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, called How to make enemies and influence people: a Social Influence Model of Violent Extremism (SIM-VE):

This paper proposes a Social Influence Model of Violent Extremism (SIM-VE). In the context of increasing concern regarding the role of the internet in engaging people in violent extremist groups, particular attention is paid to the nexus between offline and online environments. The article addresses some of the barriers to developing predictive modelling to identify who will undertake an act of violent extremism and discusses how the SIM-VE model provides a conceptual framework to inform the development of online data gathering and information sorting processes that are relevant to enhancing structured professional judgement of risk. Strengths and limitations of the model are also discussed.

Finally, Katja Theodorakis and Clint Arizmendi have published a report, Cyber Security in a Contested Age – Geopolitical Challenges and Opportunities for Australia and Germany:

The publication originated as a result of the ‘1st Australia Germany 1.5 Track Cyber Security Dialogue’ held in Canberra in June 2018 – it is not a direct summary of the proceedings but draws on and further develops some of the key themes that emerged during the Dialogue. This Dialogue, titled “Mapping the Field: The New Ecology of Cyber Security Challenges”, explored crucial aspects of contemporary cybersecurity issues: geopolitical implications of a shifting global order; international cyber norms; military cyber operations; and public-private partnerships. The attendees, German and Australian cyber security professionals, government representatives, academic experts and private sector representatives discussed current and emerging threats and opportunities in cyberspace to enhance multi-agency and partner coordination and cooperation.

Several distinct trends identified through the Dialogue are addressed in this paper:

•Attribution, deterrence and the problems associated with these concepts a shifting operating environment;

•The effect such trends have upon traditional methods of diplomacy, especially when the integrity and privacy of such engagements is no longer guaranteed;

•What defensive measures should look like. Are methods such as ‘hacking back’effective and/ or productive?; What are our responsibilities and accountabilities, as democratic societies in choosing such measures?

Australia and Germany share similar challenges and approaches in this field. Questions at the forefront of policy-making debate query how governments can keep up with technology industry innovation that often out paces, if not drives, military adaptation. How can deterrence and attribution be used effectively – from a national security perspective – against a backdrop of societies that seek to be increasingly anonymous and where privacy legislation, such as the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), has global implications for governments and the private sector alike? At the same time, the two countries’ cyber security strategies also differ on a number of aspects; in this way, to compare and contrast approaches can be fruitful for gaining a deeper understanding of the problem-set and what can be done about it. Ultimately, the analysis paper will demonstrate that in order to effectively manage and mitigate within a cyber ecosystem, a combination of political leverage, diplomacy, dialogue and deterrence is required in order to safeguard State sovereignty.


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