ASPI’s Counter-Terrorism Program was established in late 2015. The program aims to:
explain the counter-terrorism environment, including policy, legislation, terrorist threats,
and cross-jurisdictional and international issues
provide counter-terrorism policy advice, alternatives and contestability.
The program undertakes research across the spectrum of counterterrorism topics, facilitates dialogue and discussion among stakeholders and provides advice to government, community and industry stakeholders, with a particular focus on what can be done to counter terrorism.
Isaac Kfir led the program from July to December 2019 and is now engaged at Charles Sturt University as an adjunct instructor. Leanne Close commenced as head of the Counter-terrorism Policy Centre in April 2020. Before joining ASPI, she spent over 33 years as a police officer in the Australian Federal Police, rising to become Deputy Commissioner National Security. Leanne is also a member of the ACT Sentence Administration Board and the Victorian Expert Advisory Panel on Countering Violent Extremism.
In July 2019, three written submissions were provided to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security regarding its review of the mandatory data retention regime, and, jointly with Dr John Coyne, on the operation, effectiveness and implications of sections 33AA, 35, 35AA and 35A of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.
From 14 to 18 October 2019, the fourth ASPI – Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Australia–Europe Counter-Terrorism Dialogue was held in Germany and Belgium. The theme of the dialogue was ‘Terrorism realities old and new: assessing and continuing evolving challenges’. The annual ASPI–KAS dialogue brings together senior government representatives, policymakers, academic experts, practitioners and members of the diplomatic corps to share their views, develop better understandings and explore how cooperation could be strengthened. The participants worked together through a combination of roundtables, an in-depth seminar and meetings at various relevant institutions and ministries at federal, state and EU levels.
ASPI’s Counterterrorism yearbook 2020, edited by Isaac Kfir and Dr John Coyne, was published in March. This edition of the annual yearbook continued to provide assessments of various international approaches to managing terrorist threats. It also included thematic chapters on mental health, strategic policing, the media and the terror–crime nexus. The key themes that emerged from the yearbook include the decline in Salafi-jihadi terrorist activities and the resultant need for the international community to adopt a united, cohesive approach to deal with foreign fighters and their families, the increase of right-wing extremist activity, deradicalisation approaches in prisons, and the role of technology, particularly social media, in the evolution of violent extremism.
In April, Leanne Close contributed a chapter on policing in ASPIs publication After Covid-19: Australia and the world rebuild (volume 1) and participated in a webinar event on 13 May 2020, discussing her findings.
A special ASPI publication by Professor Boaz Ganor titled Terrorism is terrorism: the Christchurch terror attack from an Israeli perspective was released on 19 May 2020. Professor Ganor is the Ronald S Chair for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC Herzliya), Israel, and the founder and executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. In 2019–20, on sabbatical from IDC Herzliya, he served as a Visiting Fellow at ASPI. An overview of his report was published in The Strategist on 19 May and republished in The Mandarin on 20 May. Professor Ganor participated in an ASPI podcast to discuss his findings on 27 May.
Leanne Close published several articles in The Strategist on various topics including:
Australia’s police need priority access to fuel in times of crisis
ASIO powers to question children – a difficult balancing act—jointly with Michael Shoebridge
Militarisation of Policing in America and lessons for trust and legitimacy in Australia
Militarisation of Policing in America and lessons for accountability in Australia.
On 10 June, Steven R Casstevens, who is the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, participated in an ASPI podcast regarding the civil unrest in the US following the death of George Floyd through the actions of police officers in Minnesota.
On 20 June, Leanne Close participated in a podcast, on behalf of the ACT Bar Association, for its professional development series. The other panellists included the president of the ACT Bar Association, barrister Steve Whybrow, ACT barrister Jack Pappas and Anthony Dowsley, who is a journalist for the Herald Sun. The panel discussed various topics, including legal professional privilege, ethics, integrity and media engagement.