New Conversation Blog: on GCHQ, data collection, and effectiveness

On Monday a new post from me was published on The Conversation. It is reproduced below.

The release of yet more of Edward Snowden’s leaked files reveals the still-astonishing scale and breadth of government surveillance after more than a year of revelations. These recent papers revealed to The Intercept website discuss a programme within Britain’s GCHQ known as “Karma Police”, in which the intelligence agency gathered more than 1.1 trillion pieces of information on UK citizens between August 2007 and March 2009.

Spurred on by the expansion of intercept warrants under the Terrorism Act 2006, this information is users’ internet metadata – details of phone calls, email messages and browser connections that includes passwords, contacts, phone numbers, email addresses, and folders used to organise emails, but not the actual content of messages or emails. Continue reading New Conversation Blog: on GCHQ, data collection, and effectiveness


Measuring the Effectiveness of Counter-Terrorism

IMG_6511I am currently in beautiful Giardini Naxos on Sicily for the 9th Pan-European conference on international affairs, where I am presenting this afternoon on measuring effectiveness in counter-terrorism. The presentation draws on my work on EU counter-terrorism, including the edited collection The Impact, Legitimacy and Effectiveness of EU Counter-Terrorism that came out with Routledge earlier this year. The (very plain) power point that I will use is here, but the key points of the presentation are outlined below.

The first important thing to think about is what we mean by effectiveness when considering counter-terrorism. In very simple terms, we might say that effectiveness is simply the having of an effect, i.e. a measure is effective if it changes the status quo ante in some appreciable way. However, that simple conception is clearly insufficient. Continue reading Measuring the Effectiveness of Counter-Terrorism

“Detention in the ‘War on Terror'” Now Available in Paperback

515vxJcn7EL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In 2011 Cambridge University Press published my monograph, entitled Detention in the ‘War on Terror’: Can Human Rights Fight Back? The book has now been rereleased in paperback form, at a very reasonable £23.99.

While much of the law has changed since the book was published in 2011, in my view the three core elements of the argument that I outlined in this book remain viable. These are:

  • In times of terroristic crisis a space rich with the potential for repressive laws targeting the liberties of perceived risk bearers is opened up by a combination of ‘top down’ (or ‘moral’) panic perpetuated by moral and norm entrepreneurs such as politicians and security services and a ‘bottom up’ (or ‘popular’) panic emanating from a popular sense of risk and vulnerability and demand for ‘security’. (Primarily Chapter 1)
  • In spite of hegemonic efforts by the US & UK to undermine the right to review of the lawfulness of one’s detention, this right remains resilient on the international law, arguably even having been strengthened in recent years. Thus, the international right arguably fares better than domestic rights protections in at least some respects. This can be partially explained by what I term ‘insulating factors’ that distance and, consequently, protect the international right from the convergence of top-down and bottom-up panic experienced in domestic systems. (Primarily Chapter 5)
  • One way in which the international resilience of the right has impacted on rights protection at domestic level, notwithstanding the panic outlined above, is by its refraction through the courts into domestic jurisprudence, so that counter-terrorism judicial review has been relatively more robust and less deferential than experienced in previous circumstances of terroristic/violent crisis and than might have been expected. (Primarily Chapter 6)

In the meantime I have nuanced my arguments to some extent. For example, I have more fully explored what I described in the book as a ‘realist footnote’ of international adjudication tending to undermine some of the core elements of the right to be free from arbitrary detention (in Saul (ed), Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism), and identified courts’ involvement in ‘regulatory constitutionalism’ (in Davis & de Londras, Critical Debates on Counter-Terrorism Judicial Review).

Detention in the ‘War on Terror’ is still assigned on reading lists for both undergraduate and graduate courses (esp. Chapters 1 and 5) and so I hope the release in paperback will make it more affordable for, and accessible to, students working in the area.