Episode 17: Technology adoption and organisational learning by terrorists and start-ups, with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Carolina “Nina” Ponzeto

DaveedGRFor this episode of Sub Rosa, Andrew interviewed Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Carolina “Nina” Ponzeto from Valens Global. They discuss technology adoption and organisational learning, focusing on terrorist organisations as well as regular commercial start-ups.

This is a lengthy episode, covering a wide range of topics.

The episode first discusses a new report (co-authored by NinaPonzetoDaveed along with Matt Shear and David Jones) on the use of technology by violent non-state actors, such as drug cartels, terrorist groups, or insurgent organisations. This part of the discussion looks at remotely planned terrorist attacks, the use of drones, the use of commercial drones by violent non-state actors, as well as cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence.

The conversation then turns to Valens Global itself, which is a start-up in the national security sector. Nina, as their Chief Operating Officer, tells us about ways in which Valens Global adopts technology and engages in organisational learning. Part of this discussion looks at how running your own organisation can provide insight into how other organisations are run, including violent organisations, as well as how the academic field of terrorism studies hasn’t greatly focused on organisational learning.

Andrew, Daveed and Nina also discuss broader national security debates, how the “marketplace of ideas” can be quite dysfunctional at times, and how start-ups in this area can help address some of these problems but also risk exacerbating them.

The episode runs for about 90 minutes. This is the first Sub Rosa episode recorded over Skype, so there are a couple of patches of poor sound quality. These are mostly in the first 15 minutes, but it clears up afterwards.

The episode was recorded on 11 October 2019, and the main report discussed is now available online: Virtual Plotters. Drones. Weaponized AI?: Violent Non-State Actors as Deadly Early Adopters.

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Episode 16: Kate Grealy on the politics of the radical label in Indonesia

s200_kate.grealy-riadi For this episode, Kate Grealy discusses the role of the label “radical” in Indonesia’s current political climate.

This episode is based on a conference paper Kate recently presented, called Hardliners, Moderates and the Politics of Islam in Indonesia.

Terrorism prevention efforts in Indonesia have long had a strong focus on ideological expressions of extremism within Islam, and claimed to promote a moderate Islam as an antidote to the extremism deemed to create terrorism. Kate’s research asks just how useful this type of approach actually is, and why are some extremisms considered riskier than others in the current political climate. It finds that the label “radical”, while an important definitional tool, is being instrumentalised by the state and those in positions of power to repress certain forms of criticism and silence those considered a threat. 

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Episode 15: Kate Grealy on the impact of countering violent extremism (CVE) policies on international development efforts

s200_kate.grealy-riadiFor this episode, Kate Grealy shares a presentation she recently gave to the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne in November 2018.

Kate’s talk provided an overview about how countering violent extremism (CVE) policies have been incorporated into international development, focusing on global approaches that have been implemented in Indonesia. Kate discusses the implications of the international development sector engaging in work that has previously been conducted by domestic counter terrorism and security professionals, and looks at emerging issues in the field.

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Episode 14: Intelligence studies and the future of Pine Gap, with David Schaefer

dave schaefer kings

For this episode, David Schaefer returns to talk to Andrew about the academic field of intelligence studies. David also discusses a new article of his on the potential impact of new technology on intelligence cooperation in outer space and the future of Pine Gap, the joint US-Australian satellite facility. You can read his article here.

David Schaefer is currently a PhD Candidate at the Department of War Studies in King’s College London. This episode was recorded in April 2018 and marks the second time David was been interviewed on Sub Rosa.

We begin by talking about David’s new research in London and the field of intelligence studies, and then we discuss his new article on optical communications technologies and whether they will make Pine Gap less valuable in future. At the very end David and Andrew (joined briefly by Katrina Zorzi) discuss a range of books that listeners might be interested in for more information on the topic.

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Episode 13: Space technology and the US-Australian alliance, with David Schaefer

dave schaefer kingsIn this episode, Andrew talks to David Schaefer about developments in space technology and how they are changing long-held assumptions about the military alliance between Australia and the United States.

David Schaefer is currently a PhD Candidate at King’s College London. When this episode was recorded in September 2017, David was based at the University of Melbourne, working for AsiaLink and Ormond College.

We spoke about his research on how technological changes have impacted the US-Australian alliance in ways that haven’t always been widely recognised in Australia’s national security debates. We also spoke about how this potentially makes Australia’s exposure to great-power conflict more complex and ambiguous than during the Cold War, particularly in the context of US-China rivalry and the prospect that any new conflict could open with cyber-attacks against information networks shared between Australia and the United States.

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Episode 12: A conversation on terrorism in Australia, with Levi West – part 2

levi-west-conversation-headshotIn this episode, Andrew continues his conversation with Levi West about terrorism in Australia.

Levi West is the Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University.

This is the second episode in a two-part series. The first half  covered terrorism in Australia from the 1960s up until 2013. This second half covers the impact of the Syrian civil war, the rise of “Islamic State”, and controversies over counter-terrorism powers.

We discuss measures such as passport-confiscation, control orders and citizenship-revocation, drawing out some of practical, legal, and moral issues involved. We also discuss how jihadist terror plots in Australia have evolved, and some of the factors behind this. We end by briefly covering the terrorist threat in Indonesia, and counter-terrorism cooperation between Indonesia and Australia.

The episode was recorded in November 2016, so it does not cover some more recent developments, such as an alleged Christmas Day bombing plot in Melbourne, or the alleged attempt by a man in New South Wales to assist “Islamic State” with missile technology.

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Episode 11: A conversation on terrorism in Australia, with Levi West – part 1

levi-west-conversation-headshotIn this episode, Andrew talks with Levi West about terrorism in Australia.

Levi West is the Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University.

This is the first episode for 2017, and has a different format to earlier episodes. Instead of a straight Q & A interview, we’ve gone for a more conversational format, with the host and guest both contributing. This episode presents the first half of the conversation, discussing terrorism in Australia from the 1960s up until 2013.

We discuss the international development of terrorism and its Australian manifestations, demonstrated by some Yugoslav, Ananada Marga, Palestinian, Armenian, far-left and far-right groups that sometimes engaged in small-scale political violence in Australia.

We then discuss transitions that occurred in the 1990s, with high-profile terror attacks such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (by jihadists), the 1995 Tokya subway sarin gas attack (by the Aum Shinrikyo sect), the 1995 Oklahoma bombing (by far-right extremists), and the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (by jihadists). These attacks had implications for Australia, particularly with a local jihadist scene emerging, though terrorism rarely featured in political discussion at the time.

We then turn to the post-9/11 environment, as global jihadism became the predominant terrorist threat to Australia, posing a more serious prospect of mass casualty attacks than earlier threats had.

We discuss how jihadism within Australia evolved up until 2013, and how various political developments (such as the seizure or loss of territory), strategic shifts (through the writings of jihadist theoreticians), and counter-terrorism responses (including increased resources and powers for security agencies) shaped the threat.

The impact of the Syrian civil war, the rise of “Islamic State”, and controversies over counter-terrorism powers, are covered in the next episode.

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