Go back

Counter-terrorism in 2017

Published 10 Sep 2017

On the 5th of September at Glover Cottages, the new director of National Security Policy at the ANU, Jacinta Carroll, talked about the growth of international terrorism and strategies by counterterrorist agencies to foil them. She focused particularly on the remarkable work of counterterrorism agencies in Australia.

2017 has demonstrated the carnage that Islamist groups are capable of. And since the rise of IS, Australia has been on a “probable” threat level for three years. However, at least a dozen plots for acts on Australian soil had been frustrated due to the work of counterterrorism agencies, and no mass casualty attacks had occurred.

The key difference between Islamic State and Al Qaeda is that by using simple language, ISIS had increased its accessibility to the public. ISIS wants to carry out violence now, instead of waiting for history.  By saturating online communications with its propaganda, ISIS is way ahead of Al Qaeda in technology. Information technology and communications has become the core of its operational planning. This, along with globalisation has allowed for ISIS engagement beyond the Middle East.

ISIS has also countered investigative technology and developed measures to avoid detection, particularly through encrypting its communications. Whilst this would logically call for stricter laws allowing access to encrypted data, (like laws introduced in the  United Kingdom), privacy advocates in Australia argue that governments would be encroaching unacceptably on private lives by going down the same path. So something of an impasse had occurred.  Jacinta emphasised that counterterrorism agencies must not lose sight of the type of society we are.

Nevertheless, Australia is partnering with industry to create a long-term plan to shape next generation encryption capabilities that limit terrorist use. Jacinta emphasised that counterterrorism must be carried out collectively by nations and groups, no matter how disparate, provided they share common goals. She thinks that in time, a dedicated effort by counter terrorist agencies will lead to technology that will far outstrip technology used by terrorists.


Reported by Karen Du  

AIIA NSW intern