Project Trace is a three-year (2017-2020) initiative to reinforce the counter-terrorism capacity and expertise in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.
Funded by Global Affairs Canada, the project will equip participants with skills, tools and methodologies needed in order to effectively gather and exploit information from online platforms, including social media, for counter-terrorism investigations.
Supporting all 10 ASEAN member countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), Project Trace targets officers from national counter-terrorism units, intelligence and investigation officers from cyber units, and any other national agencies responsible for investigating and combating the use of Internet for terrorism purposes.
Yearly programme cycles include basic and advanced training sessions, along with table-top exercises based on real-life case studies and scenarios to provide participants with hands-on experience. A common analytical software has been provided as a specialized tool to assist certain countries in conducting their investigations.
Activities are overseen by a Steering Committee comprising a representative from each participating country. This met in February 2018, November 2018 and September 2019.
Each year the project conducts basic and advanced training courses. Hands-on exercises complement the classroom training.
The first basic training course on countering the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes was held in February and March 2018 in Bangladesh. The course focused on analytical investigation methods.
Participants included 20 officers from cybercrime and counter-terrorism units and INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs) of all ASEAN nations.
A second cycle of training began in Siem Reap, Cambodia in January 2019. A new group of 23 participants from all 10 ASEAN countries attended the one-week basic training session to counter the use of the Internet for terrorism purposes.
The third cycle of training kicked off in Manila, Philippines in October 2019 by gathering a new cohort of 24 law enforcement officials from all 10 ASEAN countries.
As part of the progressive approach of this programme, participants who attended the basic session are invited to attend an advanced training session. The first advanced course was held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in July 2018. It focused on increasing participants’ knowledge of the regional terrorism context and the online radicalization process as well developing their skills to effectively gather and analyze information from online sources, including social media.
Human rights, legal and gender considerations, evidence collection standards and open source and social media investigation techniques formed the curriculum of this week-long session. A series of practical exercises saw participants conducting simulated online investigations in line with law enforcement best practice.
The project’s second year and third year advanced training courses were held at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation in Semarang, Indonesia in March and December 2019.
October 2018 saw the conclusion of the Project’s first year training curriculum on countering the use of the Internet for terrorism purposes. Attended by 15 participants, a one-week train-the-trainer session was held in Vientiane, Laos. Participants learned how to properly transfer knowledge to their peers and colleagues and deliver training in line with the Organization’s standards, in order to increase the Project’s reach and sustainability. Alumni were certified as INTERPOL instructors and invited to support the delivery of subsequent training cycle activities.
The train-the-trainer was repeated as part of the second and third year cycles of the project, in Bangkok in June 2019 and Hanoi, Vietnam in February 2020.