To What Extent Does the ‘War on Terrorism’ Threaten

To What Extent Does the “War on Terrorism” Threaten to Erode Civil Liberties?

The onslaughts of September 11 resulted in a US-led “War on Terrorism” that has been the topic of great contention throughout the international community. For the intents of this analysis, I define “War on Terrorism” as a series of counter-terrorism steps adopted by the Bush Administration and supported by its Alliess in the aftermath of the September 11 onslaughts.

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Britain and the United States have both taken unusual steps in the yesteryear, when faced with terrorist force or war. For illustration, in its run against the IRA during the 1970s, Britain interned terrorist suspects without test. The United States interned many 1000s of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Therefore, there is ever a greater hazard to the protection of civil autonomies during exigency state of affairss. In confronting acute menaces of terrorist act, democratic authoritiess have to keep a balance between protecting society and guaranting that basic freedoms are preserved.

Michael Freeman maintains that the belief in the distinction of societal order over justness can be traced back to Thomas Hobbes ( Freeman, 2005:38-39 ) . Harmonizing to Freeman, the Hobbesian tradition holds that order is “the first virtuousness of societal institutions” . On this footing, society requires the resignation of single rights to Government in return for security ( Freeman, 2005:39 ) . In conformity with this tradition, the greater the danger confronting the public, the more likely it is that the populace will seek authorities protection, even at the disbursal of civil autonomies. This might explicate the indicants of worsening support in the UK for civil autonomies. For illustration, during a recent UK study, 8 out of 10 respondents accepted that curtailing the freedoms of terrorist suspects was “a monetary value worth paying” . ( BBC News web site, 24 January, 2007 ) . On this footing, it would look that the “War on Terrorism” has surely had a negative impact on civil autonomies.

This has been borne out besides through the statements of British Government functionaries. Home Office Minister John Reid has stated that Britain may hold to cut back freedoms in order to forestall maltreatments by terrorists ( BBC News web site, 9 August 2006 ) , while the Head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, has warned that civil autonomies may hold to be “eroded” in order to support British citizens from terrorist act ( BBC News web site, 10 September 2005 ) . In add-on, the Government has sought to widen the 28-day bound detainment period for terrorist suspects to a upper limit of 90 yearss ( The Guardian web site, February 2, 2007 ) . For civil autonomies candidates, these are dismaying developments.

The belief that the “War on Terrorism” is already earnestly gnawing civil autonomies has been farther strengthened by developments in the United States. The fleet transition of the Patriot Act through Congress in 2001 gave the US Government expanded powers to entree the information records of private persons. For many observers, this has constituted a clear invasion of privateness ( For illustration, Richard Ashby Wilson, 2005:26 ) . The detainment of foreign terrorist suspects at Guantanamo without due procedure precautions is a farther illustration of the eroding of civil autonomies.

The system of cheques and balances in the United States has held back some of the surpluss of the Bush Administration. Thus, in June 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Guantanamo Bay detainees were protected by Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, and had earlier ruled that keeping US citizens without test and without entree to a attorney were unconstitutional. Pressure has besides been brought to bear on the Bush Administration to guarantee that suspects are able to see the grounds that is used against them.

The evident violation of civil autonomies in the aftermath of the “War on Terrorism” begs the inquiry of whether human rights and security are incompatible. Fernando Teson maintains that they are non antithetical ( Fernando Teson, 2005: 59 ) . Indeed, he writes that “security steps can merely be justified by the really moral rules that legitimize the province in the first place…liberal security is the impudent side of freedom.” Indeed, Aharon Barak, the President of the Israeli Supreme Court has argued that democracies must safeguard human rights, even when terrorist menaces abound: ”Sometimes a democracy must contend with one manus tied behind its back…Preserving the regulation of jurisprudence and acknowledgment of single autonomies constitute an of import constituent of its apprehension of security” ( Richard Goldstone, 2005: 164 ) .

Kenneth Roth, a taking human rights candidate in the United States, has warned that the disregard of civil autonomies in the battle against terrorist act will hold unsafe effects, as it is likely to engender more terrorists and estrange possible Alliess in the war against terrorist act. In Roth’s sentiment, an effectual counter-terrorism policy must work to set up “strong international norms and establishments on human rights” , as opposed to supplying a footing for their disregard ( Kenneth Roth, 2004:128 ) .

Harmonizing to Michael Ignatieff, nevertheless, the West should be prepared to accept “the necessity of lesser evils” ( Ignatieff, 2005:3 ) . Harmonizing to Ignatieff’s thesis, the great “evil” of terrorist act demands that we have small alternate but to accept “lesser evils” such as an indefinite detainment of suspects, even though this involves a divergence from our freedoms. A failure to take this class will expose us to greater terrorist hazards in the hereafter. Ignatieff’s solution to this debatable but necessary class of action is to guarantee that the “War on Terror” is closely reviewed by our parliamentary organic structures and benchs ( Ignatieff, 2005:14 ) .

In a similar vena, Richard Goldstone believes that all democracies should mind the recommendation of the post-9/11 US Commission of Inquiry which called for a non-partisan commission of Congress to supervise any authorities invasion of civil autonomies. In Goldstone’s position, this is the best hindrance against an inordinate invasion of civil autonomies ( Richard Goldstone, 2005: 166 ) .

Interestingly, Alan Dershowitz argues for a new set of Torahs wholly to strike a necessary balance between human rights norms and Torahs of war, so that civilians can be protected from new terrorist menaces ( Dershowitz, 2006 ) . He points out that the period between the terminal of the Second World War and now has seen unprecedented alterations in warfare. Laws must therefore alteration with the times – a failure to make so would be “bad for human rights” , harmonizing to Dershowitz. In position of the pressing necessity of obtaining intelligence to queer terrorist onslaughts that could ensue in 1000s of deceases, Dershowitz reluctantly accepts that “unpleasant practices” such as anguish could be allowable, every bit long as they are restricted by jurisprudence.

Michael Gove and Melanie Phillips travel farther, reasoning that an overdone accent on civil autonomies has resulted in the acute terrorist danger confronting Britain ( Michael Gove, 2006 ) ( Melanie Phillips, 2006 ) . The British governments enabled Islamist groups to come in the state freely and carry on incitation to terrorist act. Indeed, harmonizing to this position, the Human Rights Act of 1998 bucked up terrorist activity in Britain, since it meant that the Government could non behave panic suspects back to their state of beginning, for fright of anguish. Phillips calls for the abrogation of the Human Rights Act and the remotion of human rights statute law from the statue book, keeping that “Britain was arguably a freer society before European homo rights jurisprudence eroded the foundation of British liberty.” ( Phillips, 2006: 279-280 ) . Gove argues that the British Government must establish new Torahs in order to forestall terrorists from runing freely, and accepts that this may affect the impermanent limitation of civil autonomies ( Gove: 2006:136-137 ) .

Therefore, harmonizing to Gove and Phillips, it is in fact inordinate regard for civil autonomies which has led to terrorist act and the subsequent “War” against it. Either manner, it is clear that every bit long as there is an acute terrorist menace to our society, there will hold to be a moderate trade off between security and civil autonomies. The “War on Terrorism” will affect a limited eroding of our civil autonomies. Nevertheless, while non all civil autonomies are inviolable, certainly the protection of the right to life is itself an elemental homo right?


Michael Freeman ( 2005 ) , ‘Order, Rights and Threats: Terrorism and Global Justice’ , in Richard Ashby Wilson ( explosive detection systems ) ,Human Rights in the ‘War on Panic, Cambridge University Press.

BBC News web site, 24 January, 2007

BBC News web site, 9 August 2006

BBC News web site, 10 September 2005

The Guardian web site, February 2, 2007

Richard Ashby Wilson ( 2005 ) , ‘Human Rights in the War on Terror’ , in Richard Ashby Wilson ( explosive detection systems ) ,Human Rights in the ‘War on Panic, Cambridge University Press

Fernando Teson ( 2005 ) , ‘Liberal Security’ , in Richard Ashby Wilson ( explosive detection systems ) ,Human Rights in the ‘War on Panic, Cambridge University Press

Richard Goldstone ( 2005 ) , ‘The Tension Between Combating Terrorism and Protecting Civil Liberties’ , in Richard Ashby Wilson ( explosive detection systems ) ,Human Rights in the ‘War on Panic, Cambridge University Press

Kenneth Roth ( 2004 ) , ‘The Fight Against Terrorism: The Bush Administration’s Dangerous Neglect of Human Rights’ , in Thomas G. Weiss, Margaret E. Crahan and John Goering ( explosive detection systems ) ,Wars on Terrorism and Iraq,Routledge

Michael Ignatieff, May 2, 2004, New York Times Magazine,Lesser Evils.

Alan Dershowitz, July 3, 2006, The Independent,Should We Fight Terror with Torture?

Michael Gove, 2006,Celsius 7/7, Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Melanie Phillips, 2006, Londonistan: How Britain is Making a Panic State Within, Gibson Square

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