Day 25: Spooks

Danica is a naval intelligence officer. She sniffs out interesting information from a variety of sources and pieces together scenarios. Most of the scenarios involve the possible shipment of drugs from Pakistan along the “hash highway” or the “smack track” to the east African coast. Opium is grown in Afghanistan, processed into heroin in Pakistan and then shipped on small fishing vessels to Tanzania and Kenya where custom control is lax. Drug money funds terrorism so catching the smugglers is an important counter-terrorism measure.

Danica works long hours sifting through intelligence reports. She says naval intelligence work is like pole dancing: it sounds sexy but it’s hard work! The commander of CTF150 (see blog post day 24) will use her intelligence reports to decide whether it is worth asking one of the ships in the CMF (Combined Maritime Forces) to risk boarding a suspect vessel and searching for drugs. Sometimes they find nothing but sick crew members, and offer medical assistance, food and supplies. The boarding party switch from policing to PR.

However, sometimes the intelligence is brilliant. On 29th March, it lead to the seizure of 500kg of heroin which was hidden on a dhow sailing off Tanzania. The heroin has a street value of over $100 million in Australia.  It is now feeding fish in the Indian Ocean.

Interviewing Danica in my bedroom in Bahrain

Interviewing Danica in my bedroom in Bahrain

This drug bust was the culmination of months of work for Danica and the other 25 or so Australians working in CTF150. They deployed to Bahrain before Christmas and go home in about two weeks time.  Danica has a fiance and a pet Wimauma waiting for her in Canberra.  Her dog’s name is Spook.