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Terrorism, Security, and the Threat of Counterterrorism

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2007 Pages: 75-92
Jessica Wolfendale
Date Published
January 2007
18 pages
This article examines the nature of the threat of terrorism, specifically the threat to national security and the well-being of citizens.
It is argued that the threat posed by terrorism to individuals and to states is far less than the threat posed by many other events and is not sufficient to justify the radical curtailment of civil liberties. If the state is genuinely committed to protecting citizens from the threat of terrorism, then the state has a clear duty to demonstrate realistically the extent of the threat and how citizens can guard against it. In conclusion, terrorism must be fought, just as all crimes must and terrorists must be brought to justice just like other criminals, but one must not let counterterrorism rhetoric compel acquiescence to measures that pose a greater threat to lives and one’s way of life than terrorism itself. Since the war against terrorism began, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom have introduced radical new legislation giving police and intelligence agencies unprecedented powers to detain and question people believed to have information connected to terrorism. In current counterterrorism rhetoric, terrorism is portrayed as a danger of such massive proportions that it threatens not only lives but “our way of life.” There are two interrelated assumptions in the claim that basic civil and human rights must be sacrificed in order to fight the threat of terrorism. First, that terrorism poses a unique and far graver threat than other threats and second, there is the assumption that undermining civil liberties and legal protections is the most effective way. This article examines both of these assumptions. Notes