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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: United Kingdom

Polygraphs arrive in the UK

Terry Thomas

The UK has for many years resisted the introduction of the polygraph to its criminal justice processes. It was treated as too unreliable. Another example of American ‘exceptionalism’ alongside the electric chair and the Utah firing squads. Ok for the Americans, but not for us.

But now it’s arrived. Its introduction to the UK has been long drawn out and low key. The law permitting the use of polygraphs was passed as far back as 2007 (in the Offender Management Act) and even today not many people in the street would be able to tell you that it became available to the British police and probation officers from January 2014.

The polygraph is often described as a lie detector.  Its use is based on the notion that lying induces a ‘stress response’ in the automatic nervous system, a part of the Central Nervous System that is largely outside conscious control and which regulates the body’s internal environment.  The effect of this can be observed in changes in cardiovascular activity, breathing, and sweating.  The basis of the polygraph examination involves individuals being asked a series of questions while activity in these systems is recorded, with certain reactions said to be indicative of deception. 

President Richard Nixon, when considering polygraph tests for White House staff in 1971, famously declared:

I don’t know anything about polygraphs, and I don’t know how accurate they are, but I know they’ll scare the hell out of people.
— (quoted in Alder, 2007: 221)

and early 50 years ago the American academic Alan Westin declared:

The reliability figures cited by polygraph operators have been rejected in most scientific and legal journals...efforts to have different polygraph operators test the same subject to judge the reproducibility and independent validity of the polygraph have not been successful ... [and] a series of tests by the same operator with the same subject will show very significant changes in the results.
— (Westin, 1967: 213)

Today a study by the American National Research Council is often taken as the bench mark for the reliability of the polygraph. Its 2003 report stated that polygraph accuracy stood at about 80-90%.

British Experiences of the Polygraph

The British have been quite hesitant about the polygraph. The British Psychological Society have produced two reports in 1986 and 2004 expressing their doubts. The latter concluded:

Although psychological equipment does accurately measure a number of physiological activities, these activities do not reflect a single underlying process. Furthermore, these activities are not necessarily in concord, either within or across individuals.
— (BPS 2004: 29)

The 'stress response' which is measured, for example, may not be a response to 'deception' but could be prompted by surprise, cognitive load, loud noise, etc. The polygraph test is also said to be easily ‘beaten’ because if you bite the inside of your mouth or tongue on a question of no importance, unbeknown to the operator, he or she will begin to wonder - what’s the matter with this machine.

Having passed the enabling legislation in 2007 testing on sex offenders was piloted between April 2009 and October 2011 in the East and West Midlands’ probation regions. The study found that offenders who took the tests made twice as many disclosures to probation staff – for instance, admitting to contacting a victim or entering an exclusion zone, or thoughts that could suggest a higher risk of reoffending (Gannon et al 2014).

At the moment it will only be used on sex offenders –if the police use it they need the offender’s consent –probation can use it without their consent if it’s written into any parole conditions. The police say they will give extra attention to these who do not consent – not sure if that constitutes a free consent without duress being applied. No doubts the law will soon change to enable them to test without consent.

References

Alder K (2007) The Lie Detectors: the history of an American obsession, Simon and Shuster, New York

British Psychological Society (2004).  A Review of the Current Scientific Status and Fields of Application of Polygraphic Deception Detection.  Report (26/05/04) from the BPS Working Party (http://www.bps.org.uk).

Gannon T et al (2014) An evaluation of Mandatory polygraph testing for sexual offenders in the United Kingdom Sexual Abuse: a journal of Research and Treatment 26(2): 178-203

Westin A (1967) Privacy and Freedom, Bodley Head, London

Terry Thomas, emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at Leeds Beckett University

Terry Thomas is emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at Leeds Beckett University. His research areas include sexual offending and police information systems. His most recent book is ‘Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice’ written with Nicola Groves also from the Leeds Beckett University criminology group. He is currently working on the third edition of his book ‘Sex Crime: sex offending and society’ due out November 2015.

Keeping Children Safe: ‘Disqualification by Association’

Terry Thomas

Everybody would agree that we need to ensure safe environments for children in our nurseries and schools. Unsuitable people should not be allowed to work in them. In the UK concerns have been raised that the authorities may have gone too far in their aim to keep children safe.

The policy of ‘disqualification by association’ now means you could be prevented from working with children not because of any misconduct on your part but because of the misconduct of others. If you already have a job working with children you could find yourself suspended from that work even if your work record has been exemplary and you have no criminal record.

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‘Disqualification by association’ comes into play if any one you live with has been convicted of a serious offence or is otherwise disqualified from working with children. The policy has been in place for a few years but was recently highlighted in the case of a teacher who lost his job following conviction for having sexual relations with one of his students; under UK law he was guilty of the offence of ‘abusing a position of trust’ (Sexual Offences Act 2003 s16). But then the headlines followed that his wife, who worked in another school, was to be suspended from her job working with children.

The ‘disqualification by association’ Regulations have been a matter of concern in some quarters ever since their introduction by the Childcare Act 2006 s75 (4) and the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009: 1547). The Regulations only apply to people registered to work with children under eight and Regulation 9 clearly states that:

  1. > Subject to regulation 10, a person who lives –

    (a) in the same household as another person who is disqualified from registration; or (b) in a household in which any such person is employed, is disqualified from registration.

Regulation 10 refers to the possibility of getting this suspension waived by applying to the Chief Inspector of Schools office – Ofsted.

At first the Regulations were applied only to people caring for children under eight in their own home as child-minders and in that context the Regulations made some sense. But then they were extended to anyone working in a school which had children under the age of eight attending.

It took some time for people to realise the consequences of this extension but slowly the truth has dawned (see e.g. ‘Teachers to be barred for living with offenders under new rules’ and ‘Schools suspend staff in child protection confusion’. The question is raised as to why someone with no convictions or other form of disbarment from working with children should be suspended simply because they live in the same house as someone who is. Surely this amounts to a disproportionate response to child protection? Further Department of Education guidance explains the thinking behind the law which:

‘guards against an individual working with young children who may be under the influence of a person who lives with them and where that person may pose a risk to children i.e. by association’ (DfE (2014) Keeping children safe in education: childcare disqualification requirements – supplementary advice, October).

What exactly ‘under the influence’ means is not elaborated on.

The campaign group UNLOCK for ex-offenders calls the arrangements ‘ridiculous’: ‘The regulations have clearly come as a surprise to thousands of people working in primary schools. Schools themselves seem unclear of how the regulations work, with many asking existing staff and new employees to make very broad declarations about not only their criminal record, but also of those that they live with. This has led to hundreds of people making declarations and being suspended as a result, where they have otherwise been working for many years with no problems’ (UNLOCK (2015) Charity for people with convictions calls for “ridiculous” ‘disqualification’ regulations for primary schools to be urgently reviewed 20 January (press release)) ‘Disqualification by association’ seems to have slipped in while no one was looking but its chickens are now coming home to roost.

Terry Thomas is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, Leeds Beckett University U.K. and a Crimcast correspondent.

Changes in the UK law to contain sex offenders

Terry Thomas

 
 

There are noticeable difference between the way the USA and the UK try to protect the public from sex offenders who are living in the community. Both countries have a sex offender register but thereafter there is a departure in the way the register is used and how each try to contain the offender in the interests of public protection.

 
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In the USA the register is publicly available to anyone who wants to consult it including availability on the internet. This ‘universal’ approach of ‘community notification’ is in contrast to the more ‘selective’ approach of the UK where only certain people are allowed to know information about a person’s sexual convictions and their registration status.

The USA has blanket residency restrictions with geographic zones that sex offenders are not allowed to live in. The UK has targeted restrictions on a person’s lifestyle and where they might want to live using individualised preventive civil orders. Another example of the ‘universal’ and ‘selective’ approaches taken by the respective countries.

But is the UK slowly moving towards a wider interpretation of the conditions the state can impose on a sex offender in the interests of public protection?

A recent case heard in the UK Court of Appeal [Richards, R (on the application of) v Teesside Magistrates' Court & Another [2015] EWCA Civ 7] involved a registered sex offender being ‘contained’ by a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) – one of the preventive civil orders introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. These Orders are applied for by the police on certain qualifying individuals and they allow the courts to impose various negative restrictions on a person’s behaviour.

The appeal in this case was against the court’s decision to require the sex offender to wear an electronic tag to monitor his movements. He argued that (a) there was nothing in the law on SOPO’s that said anything about electronic tags being worn unlike all other legal references to tags which were in the statute book, and (b) the requirement to wear a tag was a ‘positive’ when all other restrictions by SOPO’s were ‘negative’ as the law suggested they should be.

The case was lost and the presiding judges ruled that:

The only restrictions to what may be placed in a SOPO are … that it must be ‘necessary’ to impose the prohibition in order to protect the public or particular members of the public from serious sexual harm from the defendant …[and] Parliament did not restrict or limit the prohibitions which may be included in a SOPO. Given the myriad ways in which such harm may be caused, the absence of a list of permitted prohibitions is understandable (para.29)

But SOPOs themselves are about to disappear. The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 Part 9 replaces them with Sexual Risk Orders and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders. Exactly when these new Orders will become active is as yet still unknown. What we do know is that they are going to be even more widely drawn than the existing SOPO (see e.g. ‘New Home Office Rules give police sweeping powers to curb sex offenders’ The Independent 9 October 2013). If we thought the SOPO was vague wait till we see what comes next.

Terry Thomas is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, Leeds Beckett University UK – for a longer account of the changes in the UK law about to take place see Thomas T and Thompson D (2014) New Civil Orders to contain Sexually Harmful Behaviour in the Community British Journal of Community Justice 12 (3): 19-33.

Comics Unmasked, Mannequins Masked

Nickie Phillips

DSCF0358

By Staci Strobl. Crimcast Co-Founder Review of the British Library's exhibit "Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK," May 2 - August 19, 2014

Comics often get tagged as being more ideologically subversive than they actually are-- at least this is the case with mainstream American comic books. But “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK” is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the subversive in popular graphic art forms, and the subversive is probably more at the forefront of the British experience with this art form than the American. In fact, British independent and underground comics are ripe with depictions of social deviance which go on to influence mainstream works. Any criminologist with their eye on popular culture will find it fascinating to see so many works from a wide variety of writers, artists, publishers, in one exhibition.

Putting aside the superhero section of the exhibition, which appropriately nods its head to the quintessentially American genre while celebrating such home-grown successes as Judge Dredd— but also takes the exhibition too far afield from its primary purpose— the exhibition’s thematic arrangement of material spanning two centuries invokes interesting connections in the world of graphics across the ages. I was particularly taken by the juxtaposition of pages from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell (1999) and the Illustrated Police News (13 October, 1888) “coverage” of the Ripper murders under the exhibition’s “violence and gore” thematic grouping. We see how the use of black-and-white ink, shadows, small spaces, and flailing arms in the more contemporary work was a brilliantly stylized representation of the Victorian illustrations and also a testament to the enduring fascination with serial killing. People in the West just can’t get enough of these tales of murderous mayhem and transgression, and comics are a perfect medium to deliver such gruesome content.

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Occasionally a juxtaposition left me scratching my head, such as the inclusion of London Illustrated News’ 1883 Christmas supplement featuring ladies looking for suitors in romantic dress, dancing, telling ghost stories, with descriptive, but not remotely subversive, captions. Here, the exhibition has us considering the theme of “social ladder” (perhaps a polite British way of saying “class”) and certainly the supplement is depicting a very uncritical 19th century notion of ladies of high class. This is placed next to “Lord Snooty and His Pals” (1960, Dudley D. Watkins), a comic strip featuring a young Lord Snooty who prefers to ditch his class trappings and hang out with the poor kids. The connection between the two, other than depicting class in Britain, appears unconnected across time and cultural niche. The culture of boys’ education in the 20th century and ladies’ follies in the 19th are distinct and each world has its own version of illustrated hegemony and counter-hegemony. All I learned from putting them near each other is that it is fun to make fun of class, especially in the U.K., but I didn’t learn much about how class operates in these texts across time, nor did the artistic styles seem to inform each other. And, further, who is making fun of whom? Do the texts need to have an obvious critique to be subversive, or am I the subversive, laughing at the class arrogance of marriage-seeking in days gone by? All of this is followed by the overt Class War Comix (Clifford Harper, 1974) in which a long-haired hippie tells us in black and white, “I used to be in politics—but it began to hang me up… You can’t lay a trip on people,” rounding out a graphic tale of a class-free utopia. I was more confused than ever.

Regardless, there are gems not to miss and of course, the V for Vendettafan does not go away unsatisfied. The iconic British tale of renewed anarchy on Guy Fawkes’ Day is the centerpiece. Fans will delight in original scripts for the graphic novel (with edits!) on display. “Good evening London...This is the voice of fate” artwork still packs an emotional punch. And, mannequins in V masks literally people the exhibit in life-size bunches which seem to grow bigger and bigger as the display weaves its path. The exhibition may be conveying that as comics marched forward so did the enthusiasm for them and their counter-cultural messages. At the same time, I found myself irritated by the mannequins, the first one wearing the exhibition’s souvenir T-shirt which struck me as a tad too commercial for an exhibition on art and anarchy. And, the mannequins were mostly men, wearing a kind of urban uniform of T-shirt, jacket, jeans, sneakers, and of course, mask. They looked rather ominously conformist and seem to dampen the quirky creativity of the work on display.

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With the marching mannequins theme, I didn’t need the additional staging of random objects of apocalyptic modernity (gas masks, phones, grainy photos, shattered glass, and redacted documents, oh my!). It will take all of us to prevent the impending crisis was the message I was getting, and yet the best works were idiosyncratic and goofy graphic experiences from rather unique perspectives from within a cultural milieu, playing on mainstream culture, not wearing the same jeans and T-shirt. I marveled at a William S. Burroughs and Malcolm McNeill's comic strip, “The Unspeakable Mr. Hart” (1970, Cyclops), that I had never seen or heard of before, and in Burroughs style was a drug-induced non-linear comment on police brutality, imperial Britain, and colonial desperation. I got the message even as I could also make no sense of it. I also learned, and saw in vivid comparison, that Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum (DC, 1989) took a nod from the mystical artistic meanderings of Aleister Crowley and his Thoth tarot deck. Neil Gaiman’s introductory comments to a 1989 Sandman script seemed to be as self-congratulating and self-important as I would have expected— and yet what a treat to read it myself, I must admit.

Overall, this exhibition is a must-see for anyone from the popular culture and criminology crowd in range of London between now and its close on August 19, 2014. Though the overall exhibit may not tell a cohesive story, the work on display is truly fascinating in its own right and does give the viewer the sense of Britain’s rich and critically acclaimed comics history.

The Expansionary Nature of Governance Through Fear: Is it Worth it?

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 5 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on TerrorAditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

Over the last four weekly posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part, 4), this blog series has been exploring the profoundly social impact that risk-based security policy has on our everyday lives. In using Selchow’s framework, I’m not trying to say that we have no agency in this process, and that we are helpless to stop it – quite the contrary. I feel only individual choice will reverse the trajectory of securitization, suspicion and fear that currently dictates how we view the risk of terrorism. By zooming in on the dynamics of depoliticization, responsibilization, and the separation of political decision-making from actuality, I have tried to break down the main pillars of what risk-logic does when it is the main force driving the governance of threats. I believe if we can understand objectively the forces at play within the networks of power that we engage in, we can decide for ourselves whether viewing the problem of terrorism only in terms of the risk of an attack and not the reasons behind one is benefiting our lives. Is this what we want for our future?

This question feeds in to the last dynamic of risk that is engendered by the dispositif of precautionary risk (DPR) mode of governance: expansion. As Selchow explains, the logic of risk implies an imperative to act. It is this dynamic that spurs the expansion of security; the UK government thus cannot not act. As we can see in the U.K., this dynamic inevitably feeds a process of ever-expanding securitization whereby increasing areas are deemed to harbor security threats. In the UK this can be seen in a variety of ways, stemming from the four rationalities driving the DPR. For example, this can be seen in the shift of the debate around tackling terrorism from addressing violence to extremism, from the physical to the imagined. This shift is one that has essentially ensured the securitization of potential thoughts.

It is no longer necessary for someone to physically carry out an act, suspicion of intent is enough to necessitate punishment. This perpetuates a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ (as outlined last week) that produces normalized ways of engaging with this perceived risk. In other words, due to the perpetuation of the innate ‘bad’ label given to the archetypal religious Muslim, society is more likely to accept further curtailments on ‘their’ rights. As these risk-based decisions are not ‘tamed’ by an accompanying actuality or any hard evidence beyond the perception of ‘riskiness’, this form of thinking will always produce a sense that there are further uncertainties to be tamed. This can be seen in the steady expansion of who is deemed ‘risky’ since 9/11. From 2001-2005, external, foreign elements were seen to be the primary threat, resulting in the rapid securitization of the immigration system to target asylum seekers and immigrants (Amnesty, 2010). After 7/7, however, threats were expanded to include the panoptic surveillance of British citizens to target ‘home-grown’ enemies. Since then, the yearning for ever greater knowledge has spurred the extension of surveillance to health clinics, schools and universities where doctors and teachers are expected to inform on those under their care. (Liberty, 2007).

Mahdi Hashi

The pre-emptive nature of policies deployed by the DPR means that information is always, and always will be, incomplete. However, the desire to project the appearance of control has led to policies based on the expansion of ever-more vague offenses such as the offenses of ‘glorification of terrorism’ and ‘indirect encouragement’, and non-prosecution constraining measures, such as the Terrorism Prevention Investigation Measures (TPIMs [Annex 3]), in order to trap those who are suspected, but do not meet the evidentiary threshold required to be charged. Indeed, the acute suspicion of foreign nationals suspected of ‘extremist’ thoughts but not guilty of carrying out any criminal act, has very recently led to an expansion of executive power to enable the stripping of any naturalized citizen’s British citizenship. In recent years, this citizenship stripping has enabled governments to stick to the dogma of zero-risk and assassinate terror suspects through targeted drone strikes: if the suspect no longer exists, there’s no need to deal with the problematic prosecution of a crime that hasn’t been committed yet.

How this dynamic effects resistance: power dynamics

Consistent with the other dynamics, this process also precipitates at both the micro and macro levels. At the macro-level, Liberty articulates, ‘politicians feel like they need to be seen to be doing something in response to the terrorist threat, regardless of whether it wise…counter-productive…whether it’s entirely unnecessary’. Amnesty International United Kingdom (AIUK) has commented on the difficulty of fighting expansion of policy due to the combination of future temporality, secret evidence and use of vague offenses. In a 2012 Amnesty International report, resistance to this is seen as ‘shadow-boxing’ where ‘you have no idea if your strategy and points are on the money or wide of the mark’. AIUK has documented how the ‘seepage’ of the use of secret evidence in the U.K. has managed to dampen the successes gained in chipping away the system of pre-charge detention down to TPIMs, becoming an ever-more permanent feature of the civil sanctioning system with the institutionalization of the Justice and Security Act.

Reprieve and CagePrisoners demonstrate the importance of micro-resistance in direct ways with the public. CagePrisoners urge those affected by the expansion of risk-based policy to come directly to them to seek justice together, as well as share individual every-day experiences of these policies on a specially created website ‘www.schedule7stories.com’. They explain that this was done so that Muslims themselves could understand that these policies were not just based on racism, but part of a much bigger problem of governance, thus recognizing the importance of engaging with the macro-level debate.

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Reprieve has aimed to expose the sheer expansion of War on Terror policy such as the rendition network through the invasion of public space. For example, through teaming up with cosmetics company, LUSH, and lingerie designer, Agent Provocateur, images of Binyam Mohammad and Sami al Haj appeared in LUSH High Street windows, bath bombs and even on the runway through underwear that stated ‘fair trial, my arse’ (Reprieve, 2008). The use of humor in conjunction with this micro-level contact had a powerful impact that made the name ‘Binyam Mohammad’ shorthand for U.K. complicity in rendition and torture.

The importance of humanizing the nature of risk-based policies at the micro-level and not just applying political pressure at the state and transnational level is caught up in the significance CagePrisoners gives to the role of ‘misunderstanding’. If individual assumptions are not targeted – whether they be about misunderstanding the driver of policy or misunderstanding the indefinability of terrorism – people will carry on being normalized into thinking that to gain security, you have to keep on giving up freedoms.

Conclusion: How the case of HRO resistance in the UK pulls together the threads of risk and power

By analyzing the role of human rights organization (HRO) resistance to the technologies deployed by the DPR mode of governance in what Foucault calls ‘the battle for truth’, it is thus possible to see how risk dynamics are ultimately intertwined with power. Focusing on this site of resistance can see how Selchow’s four dynamics are central to the constant negotiation of the dynamics of power that circulate the ‘regime of truth’ regarding the governance of the UK through the DPR.

Secondly, the example of the work of CagePrisoners and their encouragement of the micro-resistance of the Muslim ‘suspect community’ to supplement the macro-resistance carried out at state-level by HROs crucially reveals that it is not enough to simply focus on macro-, policy-level resistance whether globally, or against the state. This is due to what CagePrisoners deems ‘misunderstanding’ at both the micro- and macro-levels. The creation of the Muslim ‘terrorist’ is a central technology deployed by the DPR through the four rationalities that drive it. In essence, the case of the UK suggests that the perpetuation of a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ produces normalized ways of engaging with discourses that present the Muslim identity as ‘risky’. In other words, due to the perpetuation of the innate ‘bad’ label given to the perceived ‘archetypal religious Muslim’, it is likely that society will submit to the dynamic of expansion that indicates further curtailments on ‘their’ rights. If it doesn’t affect me - it’s not my problem, right?

By looking at the combined social and political effects of risk dynamics and their ripple effect on relations of power, it can be seen that simply focusing on resistance to top-down frameworks that govern political power such as parliamentary mechanisms and lobbying, is no longer enough. The Foucauldian ‘battle for truth’ is not about absolute truths that are accepted, but about rules by which these truths are constructed and engaged with by society. The importance of going beyond legal frameworks and working at the level of everyday interaction is highlighted by the examples of CagePrisoners and Reprieve in their parallel activities that aim to affect micro-relations. Interestingly, both of these organizations emerged fully-fledged post-9/11, born out of the need to resist the rationalities and technologies deployed by the DPR.

In saying this, this blog series is not saying that state-level resistance is not important. As shown, different HROs take different roles regarding resistance within the DPR system of governance. Organizations like Liberty and Amnesty cannot fulfill the same role as an organization like CagePrisoners as they are not part of the ‘suspect community’. By the same token, Reprieve equally cannot function the same way as CagePrisoners. However, when viewing successful negotiation of power within the DPR such as the joint HRO campaigns on pre-charge detention and UK complicity in torture, it is clear that there needs to be this division of labor. This enables HROs to target the multiple dimensions of the dynamics engendered by the DPR: global, legal, political, social; micro- and macro-.

This series has attempted to highlight the shifting and fluid nature of the circulations of power underlying risk-governance. Risk-logic can’t be reduced to a technical tool used to govern terrorism. The dynamics that this sets in motion have fundamentally altered society-state relations in a profoundly social way. Risk-based security policy has resulted in a wholesale cultural shift that rests on fear and suspicion and doesn’t ask why the problem of terrorism exists. Instead, it simply tries to pre-empt it from occurring through an expansionary process that is slowly destroying freedom of speech, movement and privacy. Ultimately, the question we should be asking ourselves when we ignore this practice is: ‘is this worth it?’

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homeless organizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the last post in her five-part series on Crimcast which began in early January, 2014.

"It's Probably Nothing, But...": How Governments Make Us Responsible For Our Own Security

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 4 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

Following on from last week’s post, this week I’ll be discussing Selchow’s third dynamic that is engendered by the Dispositif of Precautionary Risk (DPR), a pre-emptory risk –based mode of governance: the internalization of security issues and the process of ‘responsibilization’. As touched upon last week, the creation of an archetypal Muslim terrorist figure in the U.K. has essentially depoliticized the issue of the governance of terrorism for the majority of the population, while the blame for the root of terrorism has been placed firmly on Islamic extremism and the British Muslim community by association. Thus, it’s evident that the dynamics of depoliticization and responsibilization are intimately linked. Through the governmentality approach, the DPR mode of governance shows that its assemblages of surveillance and risk discourse both work to construct sectors of society that are ‘dreamt up, marginalized and put under suspicion’; and ‘normalize’ the rest of the population, thereby ‘inviting citizens to become security guards, spies and informants’ on the ‘risky’ Muslim community (Mythen and Walklate 2006:390-392). This means that the Muslim community is not only blamed for the problem of terrorism, but are ultimately pressured to provide the solution to the problem by looking inwardly at themselves; effectively, the Muslim community has to internalize the problem of national security in this way, taking it on their own shoulders while simultaneously easing the responsibility of the government to engage fully with the problem.

Those who do not fall under the ‘suspect community’ are responsibilitized in a way that not only allows the continued allocation of blame on the ‘suspect community’, but also places the onus on them to report on anything ‘abnormal’. This dynamic is most clearly seen in government campaigns such as the recent one by the Metropolitan Police emphasizing that it is the Londoners’ responsibility ‘to be vigilant’ for anything ‘out of place in normal day to day lives’.

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Mythen et. al. (2012:394) thus articulate the core of this politics of normalcy: ‘this requirement to present an outwardly safe identity…reveals the coercive social pressures that a pervasive climate of suspicion has engendered’. Indeed, this has led to ‘checking behaviors’ such as selective use of dialect, clothing and curbing of outward behavior in the public sphere (p. 391). As the 7/7 bombers were ‘home-grown’ from the Muslim community in Yorkshire, the onus of protecting society has fallen hardest on the Muslim communities in the U.K. The consequences of this element of responsibilization via the allocation of blame has led to the targeted surveillance of Muslim communities through stop and search policies, questioning at ports under Schedule 7 of the Terrorist Act, pre-emptory raids, and the pressure to spy on their own communities through the creation of Muslim Community Units through the PREVENT strategy. Notably, even though these pre-emptory actions are based entirely on suspicion of intent, the person who is targeted has barely any rights in place to protect them from the effects of human error in judging their ‘riskiness’. A corollary to this is the 600% increase in Islamophobia since 2001 and its associated increase in violence on Muslim people and mosques (Spalek, 2008:420).

How this dynamic effects resistance: power dynamics

The dynamic of responsibilization can be seen as directly related to the discourses of power surrounding the ‘battle for truth’ regarding justice. Amnesty International United Kingdom (AIUK) iterates that this dynamic makes HRO work safeguarding human rights standards all the more significant: ‘the stuff that is most unpopular is some of the most important…because it’s the issues that others won’t pick up on…that don’t have public support’. As Liberty (2007:16) articulate, it is unlikely that the majority of Britons ‘upon waking up…felt more subject to surveillance than they did yesterday’; however, targeted surveillance over the Muslim community means that they truly feel the interlinked dynamics in Burchell’s (1991) sense of having to change the way they see themselves as governed subjects, due to the way they are governed. CagePrisoners explains, ‘the way the government speaks, the way the media speaks and the way the average person on the street speaks all perpetuate this cycle of fear’, thus responsibilitizing society wholesale through the DPR’s rationalities of zero-risk and shifting of the burden of proof.

However, from CagePrisoners’ personalized responses in interview, we can see that governance through the DPR and the social dynamics it engenders has a much sharper effect on the ‘suspect community’ of Muslims. CagePrisoners explains that this suspicion has a chilling effect on the politics of the community as a whole: ‘if we stick our heads above the parapet, they’re going to come after us next’. It is thus evident that CagePrisoners feels the four interrelated dynamics engendered by DPR in a way that cuts right to the social core of what the application of risk does to society. As CagePrisoners says, ‘wherever you see a threat coming from a community which goes against the norm of understanding of criminal behavior, you will see a disproportionate response to those threats’. CagePrisoners’ responses emphasize that the key role of the organization is to empower the Muslim community to break away from inactivity and submission to the prevailing rationalities of zero-risk and the shift of the burden of proof.

Due to its unique vantage-point as a Muslim organization, CagePrisoners engages in this ‘battle for truth’ on a level that has a much more personal tone than any of the other human rights organizations (HROs) interviewed. For example, in a CagePrisoners article (Balaratnam, 2012) regarding United Kingdom BorderAgency  (UKBA) policy of detaining people at the border for questioning under Schedule 7, the article speaks directly to a Muslim audience and is presented as a Muslim voice. Although not articulated in the terminology of risk, the article essentially asks Muslims to break through the dynamic of responsibilization whereby the allocation of blame on the Muslim community is legitimized through the reflexive internalization of blame. The article asserts it point by provocatively asserting that if the reader is stopped at the border, they have to concede ‘it’s my fault I got stopped today – my fault for being brown’. The form of resistance encouraged by CagePrisoners, therefore, is one that is very different to collective action. It is essentially micro-resistance whereby the individual only resists what affects them on an individual, direct level. Thus, if the affected community itself does not even question the rationalities that legitimize racially-prejudiced forms of profiling and surveillance, CagePrisoners warns that no one will, therefore undermining any lobbying conducted by HROs at the state-level.

This insight is even more powerful when one considers the recent uproar over the detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 – only when one of the majority non-Muslim population was affected did the media question it, let alone campaign against it. Ultimately, it was only picked up by the media because Schedule 7 affected a Guardian journalist’s partner (Greenwald, 2013). This relation epitomizes the importance of the ‘micro’ level of resistance in countering what is essentially a cultural shift to living through risk, when faced with the multitude of arguments that focus on the global erosion of rights and the need for macro-analyses of power.

Whilst Liberty, AIUK and Reprieve revealed their primary state-level focus by identifying the depoliticization dynamics of secrecy and the narrative of fear as the greatest obstacles to checking government overreach, CagePrisoners stated ‘misunderstanding and blind ignorance’. For them, the social impact of society not understanding the Muslim community, ‘what they’re about and their belief system’ is a major factor in the way government policy is formed. His responses suggest that the government construction of a ‘paradigm of who we are and the way that we engage’ has completely neglected the crucial importance of micro power dynamics. In a reflection of the multitudinal networks of Foucauldian power relations, Asim Qureshi, Executive Director of Cageprisoners, outlines that ‘our identity is not just an identity; it’s a multitude of identities that superimpose themselves one on top of the other’. It may seem logical and practical for the UK government to ask the Muslim community to report on ‘bad’ Muslims through policies such as PREVENT; however, the top-down engagement with only the archetypal ‘good’ Muslim that has been created in the political imagination effectively renders the policy counter-productive and end up pushing away the majority of Muslims who feel they do not fit that rigid definition. CagePrisoners gave the example of Muslims being targeted by the government for simply disagreeing with government policies such as going to war with Iraq. At a recent lecture, CagePrisoners’ founder, Moazzam Begg, spoke of a teenage girl arrested for writing poetry that was seen as ‘extremist’. In their view, the government-led counter-terror policy is ‘dictated by people who are not willing to engage in a way that is useful’, thus simultaneously legitimizing more and more extreme measures against ordinary people in order to secure the state, while creating resentment and isolation among communities who would be willing to engage on their own terms.

Moazzam-Begg-640x360

This insight cuts to the social core of the combined dynamics of risk engendered by the DPR; ultimately, as asserted by CagePrisoners, this ‘criminalization of people based on an assumption of what you think they are’ takes away Muslim agency. It says, ‘you’re not capable of making up your own mind…you’re not capable of engaging with society…and so we’re going to put you all in the same tub and treat you all in the same way’. This is why the policy shift from targeting violent actions to ‘extremist’ thoughts dictated by UK counter-terror policy worries CagePrisoners so much; it is inherently disenfranchising and disempowering.

Indeed, this micro-level understanding of power dynamics in the context of risk-governance and the need to resist them is also demonstrated by Reprieve in a way that connects the global, macro-level power dynamics inherent in the War on Terror; apart from the macro-issues of the rendition program and Guantánamo, they acknowledge that it is ‘Life After Guantánamo’ (LAG) that poses a big social problem (Reprieve, 2009). Their LAG program thus attempts to overcome the social and psychological difficulties experienced by ex-detainees that result from absorbing all four dynamics of risk via pre-emptory policies and the way that society treats them when they are finally released.

The U.K. government’s perpetuation of what CagePrisoners calls a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ ultimately produces a Muslim identity that is inherently perceived as ‘risky’. Not only does this dynamic force the Muslim community as a whole to feel responsible for the devastation created by terrorist attacks they had no connection with, the government’s attempts to use this community as an intelligence source ends up actually isolating them further. The rest of society, meanwhile, sinks further into a cycle of constant vigilance and suspicion: is the neighbor with the blinds constantly down up to no good? The perpetuation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘suspicious’ and ‘normal’ labels within UK security practice mean that it is likely that majority society will accept – even crave – extension of security measures and further curtailments on the rights of socially constructed ‘bad people’. The state of constant readiness for the next attack that is physically taken on by the U.K. population thus leads to the dynamic I will be focusing on next week: the expansion of ‘securitization’.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homeless organizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the fourth installment in her five-part series on Crimcast which began on January 3, 2014.

An Exploration into How Risk-Based Security Policy Depoliticizes Counter-Terrorism Measures

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 3 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

The impact of the dynamic outlined in last week’s post (decoupling of political decision-making from actuality) is linked to the second dynamic put in motion by the application of risk-logic to govern terrorism in the UK: depoliticization. The governance of terrorism is essentially stripped of any politicized concern from the public as the interlinked rationalities that drive the Dispositif of Precautionary Risk (pre-emptory mode of governance) enable policy-makers to present security issues as something that needs immediate attention, leaving no time for reasoned debate.

Furedi (2005) explains that this presentation of issues is inextricably linked to a ‘politics of fear’ that overshadows informed debate, thus depoliticizing security issues. De Londras (2011) shows that in the aftermath of an attack, the desires of both the state and the people come together to create a politico-legal space where repression is possible. In the UK this process was triggered by fear following the traumatic attack on London underground transport on 7th July 2005 (7/7) by Yorkshire-born suicide bombers. This legitimized the DPR’s (mode of risk based precautionary governance) central rationalities of worst-case-scenario-thinking and risk of serious and irreversible damage and thus justified the deployment of technologies of zero-risk.

Handwritten letter of condolence after the 7/7 attacks (Photo: Stephen Hird— Reuters/Corbis)

As Johnston (2005) notes, many of the raft of new powers that were introduced after 7/7 were previously sought by the police. However, it was the aftermath of the attack that ‘changed the political environment within which they debated’, allowing for the acceptance of new anti-terror measures to inflate police and executive power. Thus, the ‘politics of fear’ that underlies the dynamic of depoliticization engendered by this risk-based governance can be argued to be a major force in the acceptance of policies that require unprecedented levels of government intervention.

The rationality of zero-risk, however, is one that is self-perpetuating as it drives the imperative to act, to present the terrorist threat as controllable. However, this threat is incalculable according to traditional statistical models of risk based on what is ‘abnormal’. Thus, the fetishization of control that emerges of out the DPR mode of governance's combined rationalities is based on an imagined creation of the terrorist ‘other’. This has translated itself in the UK in two interlinked social constructions that set in motion the dynamic of depoliticization: that of the afore-mentioned panoptic screening process for potential terrorists presented as fair and objective; and the creation of a calculable, controllable Muslim ‘terrorist’ to create a visible target of control.

Amnesty International United Kingdom (AIUK) argues that the extreme circumstances presented by 7/7 allow governments to depoliticize mass surveillance by claiming it ‘treats all citizens the same’, and ‘if everyone does the right thing…then they have nothing to worry about’. However, as outlined in my first post, this front of objectivity obscures fundamentally value-laden choices. The introduction of RIPA in 2000 saw mass surveillance with nearly 444,000 authorizations for communications data between 2005-2006, and techniques such as data mining, cross-department sharing or ‘profiling’ that allow seemingly innocuous data to suggest tendencies that might target the individual for suspicion. The Information Commissioner regarded this practice so depoliticized that we are ‘sleepwalking into a surveillance society’ (Crossman, 2007). Indeed, even after the vast reach of the NSA PRISM scandal and revelations of TEMPURA (mass surveillance databases laundered between the UK and the US) were exposed, polls indicated that the majority of Britons still valued the protection that they felt surveillance afforded them. Thus the dynamic of depoliticization hides the penetrating nature of these surveillance policies through a front of objectivity.

The construction of the Muslim ‘terrorist’ is propagated by the UK Counter-terror strategy’s unambiguous identification of the ‘new’ threat of terrorism coming from Islamists, thereby explicitly linking Islamists and terrorism (HM Government 2006:1). This has been supplemented by a discursive construction of the Muslim community as suspect: ‘few terrorist movements could have lasted for long without a supportive community’ (cited in McGhee 2008:69). This discursive creation by its very nature depoliticizes every single policy, strategy and risk technique deployed within the DPR because, in targeting a minority, it has ensured that the majority of the population does not feel politically or socially threatened by this form of governance.

How this dynamic effects resistance: power dynamics

Through Foucault’s governmentality framework we can see the constant flux not only in the dynamics of power, but in the technologies that are deployed as part of the DPR mode of governance. O’Malley (2008:69) argues that ‘resistances shape existing risk techniques and practices’. Thus, Selchow’s dynamics engendered by the DPR are not simply an effect of a mode of governance through risk but articulations of the constant negotiations between the multiple networks of power active within the state’s journey to its goal of zero-risk. This dialogue is most clearly seen by the deployment of the technology of secrecy in order to safeguard the discourses and technologies of the DPR. For example, Reprieve points to the introduction of the Justice and Security Act (JSA) as a ‘response to the efforts of human rights groups to hold the UK to account’ for its complicity in rendition and torture cases.

binyam

The JSA pulls together all three areas of UK pre-emptive counter-terror policy: detention, surveillance and complicity in extraordinary rendition. It stipulates that cases involving ‘sensitive’ information pertaining to security need to be tried in secret, using closed evidence that the defendant is not allowed to see. Therefore, those suspected in the War on Terror are stripped of their right to fair trial (Bowcott & Cobain, 2012). It is thus revealing that the JSA came into being due to the legal action of Binyam Mohammed against the UK Government, backed by Reprieve, for their complicity in his rendition and torture. As CagePrisoners asserts, ‘independence and transparency are the key to dealing with problems within society – the JSA is the perfect example of how the government is going in a reverse trend to this’. In general, abuses are very difficult ‘to get the slightest information about’ (Reprieve Interview). This evidence-gathering strategy is thus essentially emasculated if it is not possible to obtain evidence, or even to challenge the evidence put forward by the government in security cases as access to it is now blocked by the JSA.

The failure of the human rights organizations  (HROs)to challenge the JSA reveals the powerful depoliticizing force that the construction of the Muslim ‘terrorist’ represents. All of the HROs interviewed acknowledged that a significant factor in their failure to defeat the JSA was the fact that people ‘don’t think it will affect them’ (Reprieve Interview). Reprieve detailed that Ken Clarke, the U.K. Justice Secretary, argued that the closed evidence mechanism would only have ‘narrow’ use, and that ‘people accept that’. This is because the non-Muslim majority have not felt negatively affected by any of the counter-terror policies that have been rolled out.

This narrow focus is seen by all four HROs as a barrier to reaching the non-Muslim population; in the ‘battle for truth’ regarding the JSA, AIUK laments that the government ‘put forward a very compelling narrative’ that argued that this bill ‘will make things fairer’. Both Liberty and AIUK illustrate that this depoliticized narrative was much harder to challenge as the political argument against it now had to use very technical legal concepts to explain why it was actually inherently unfair. If the majority of cases affect only Muslims, then this explains why the profound social impact of giving up the guaranteed right to a fair trial has not gained traction as a wider societal issue.

This disproportionate effect on Muslims is compounded by the dehumanization of this suspect community, thus legitimizing these measures. As AIUK indicates, the depoliticization engendered by the DPR allows for exceptions for a discursively created ‘bad’ people who do ‘bad’ things. Indeed, CagePrisoners sees the legitimization of these measures as a by-product of the ‘demonization’ of Muslims. He sees the essential criminalization of the Muslim community as based ‘on an assumption of what [the government] thinks we are’ due to a paranoia of ‘who we are’ and ‘what we believe in’. CagePrisoners’ impassioned response was given a sharper edge in their example of a government list of children ‘at risk of extremism’ with one child less than three years old. It is assumptions like these that feed back into the DPR technology of surveillance assemblages that submerge individual cases into types, creating new risk assessed identities based on these broad categories. Thus, in the UK, depoliticization follows Krassman’s (2007) observation that it is no longer necessary to actually see the person one judges. Indeed, from the perspective of power-relations one can see that HRO attempts to humanize policies results in aggressive response. As Reprieve states, ‘they do turn around and come after you’ if you break ‘the unwritten rule of “never make the prisoner human”. In Reprieve’s case, aggression was precipitated by the level of success they had achieved in showing the human costs of Guantánamo by publicizing the hunger strike. Reprieve’s viral video that showed rapper, MosDef, being force-fed in a Guantánamo jumpsuit brought the brutal human impact home to thousands of viewers.

mos def

Therefore, the main effect of the dynamic of depoliticization is that the majority of the population does not feel affected by counter-terror security policy due to the dual construction of a terrorist Muslim ‘other’ and seemingly objective screening process. Burchell (1991:146) argues that individuals only feel affected when ‘the way they are governed requires them to alter how they see themselves as governed subjects’; it is only then that we become aware of the ways the political power of the state impinges on our lives, that ‘we feel it’. Ultimately this means that the counter-arguments to security policies engendered by risk-logic are not just forced to prophesize the future, but due to their narrow focus, have to campaign in the realm of the social imagination.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homeless organizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the third in her five-part series on Crimcast which began in early January, 2014.

When Security Decision-Making Becomes Estranged from Actuality

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 2 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

In my previous post, I outlined the four dynamics set in motion when we think of security threats through the prism of risk-logic. This post will zoom in on the first dynamic, ‘decoupling political decision-making from actuality’ and show how this frame of thinking has a profoundly social effect on our everyday lives and the way we recognize and engage with the threat of terrorism.

You may be thinking at this point – what does this have to do with me? It’s the government’s prerogative to protect us, and they call the shots – not me. In order to illustrate how the infiltration of risk-logic in security practices not only affects us, but changes the way we conduct our lives, I am going to demonstrate how power relations at the ground level as well as the governmental level are affected. I will do this by looking at the work of United Kingdom-based human rights organizations who try to combat the curtailment of freedoms post-9/11, as they engage with the general public as well as governmental authorities. This will be based on interviews with Amnesty International UK (AIUK), Reprieve, CagePrisoners, and Liberty.

The utility of viewing risk-based governance in terms of power relations:

foucault18

It’s useful to view the impact of risk-logic in security practices through the lens of Foucault’s governmentality thesis, whereby power is seen as a circulatory phenomenon rather than something that is ‘held’ by any one entity (Foucault 1990: 91). In other words, power relations are as important at a governmental (macro) level, as they are at the grassroots (micro) level. Foucault defines modes, or assemblages of governance as a ‘dispositif’ of governance. This consists of rationalities (ways, or frames for thinking about policy) and technologies (tools, practices and policies that are used in governing) of governance that encompass the efforts of those in power to account for ‘the authority of their authority’ (Aradau and Van Munster, 2007:15).

This governmental attempt to justify their right to power is done through discourses of knowledge which are in turn facilitated through everyday social practices enacted by ordinary people. Through this Foucauldian framework it is possible to see the role of human rights organizations’ resistance to risk-based counter-terror policy in what Foucault calls ‘the battle for truth’. This is not a battle for an absolute truth, but ultimately about the rules that dictate how true and false are separated (Rabinow 1984:74). It is through this lens that we can see how Selchow’s four dynamics are central to the constant negotiation of the dynamics of power that circulate the Foucauldian ‘regime of truth’ that makes up governance.

Burchell (1991:144) suggests that modern politics is characterized by an oscillation between a ‘suspicious fear’ of state intervention in our lives, and a ‘demand that the government will respect our rights whilst taking responsibility… for sheltering us from insecurities and dangers’. It is in this space that the social impact of risk-logic can be clearly seen, between those who suspect the government of over-reaching their power and those who believe it is protecting them, thus participating in risk-based security practices.

It is in this space that we can locate and examine the resistance carried out by UK human rights organizations to counter-terror policies, thus illustrating the very real impact that risk-based security policy has on our everyday lives.

Zooming in on the first dynamic: the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality

The Foucauldian dispositif of government (or mode of governance) we are seeing post-9/11 is one that Aradau and Van Munster describe as the ‘dispositif of precautionary risk’ (DPR), as opposed to previous forms of risk-governance. While previous dispositifs of risk centred on identifying, preventing and containing existing threats, this new DPR instead seeks to pre-empt risks through active engagement of the population, thus setting in motion Selchow’s four dynamics.

Selchow’s first dynamic, ‘the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality’ - that is engendered by the DPR - thus echoes this new dispositif post-9/11. This can be seen clearly in the U.K. through the Police National Legal database’s (PNLD 2009:85) assertion that ‘given the current level of threat from international terrorism’, there is a need to apprehend those suspected of terrorism ‘prior to gathering sufficient evidence to secure a conviction’.

The DPR is driven by four inter-linked rationalities that fundamentally change the relationship between state and society by allowing new technologies to be deployed and justified as part of the fight against terror: the notion that any level of risk is unacceptable (i.e. zero risk), constant worst-case-scenario-thinking, the belief of serious and irreversible damage posed by terrorism, and the shifting of the burden of proof from state to society as a whole (Aradau and Van Munster, 2008). In this way, the ideal of total security has replaced the desire for peace, driving a politics that assumes the terrorist ‘other’ unquestionably responsible for irreparable damage.

From 2000-2006, five new terrorism acts were introduced which encompassed the expansion of powers that constituted ‘alternative non-prosecution actions to protect the public’ (PNLD 2009:85) such as 28 day pre-charge detention, stop and search powers, indefinite detention of ‘suspected international terrorists’, control orders and new offenses such as ‘glorification of terrorism’.  From 2007, counter-terrorism powers were effectively normalized. New offices, official national security strategies, and laws such as the Counter-Terror Act 2008 and the introduction of TPIMs ensured that exceptional measures were institutionalized. The expansion of counter-terror powers from temporary emergency legislation to permanent fixtures that institutionalize the decoupling of decision-making from the grounds of actuality in ‘daily security practice’ clearly illustrates how the DPR has set in motion the decoupling of action from actuality in the U.K.

Pre-emptive domestic security practices can be seen to be justified by an emotive narrative of national security that is extremely hard to counter-act. This is epitomized in the militarization of domestic policing in the U.K. which led to the shooting of Charles De Menezes as part of the new ‘shoot to kill’ policy operationalized after the 7/7 attacks in London. Similarly, 250 police officers stormed a house in Forest Gate in search of chemical weapons, shooting one man and detaining two for eight days – both men were later released without charge (Mythen and Walklate 2008:235).

Charles De Menzes: Mistaken for a suicide bomber and shot by police (Photo credit: BBC News)

These pre-emptive domestic practices are echoed in the violent complicity of the U.K. in the global intelligence network driving the pre-emptory abduction, rendition and torture of terror suspects; once one assumes a projective ‘what if?’ position, presumption of innocence metamorphoses into a presumption of guilt. The engendering of the decoupling of action from actuality is made undoubtedly clear by the recalibration of justice to allow for the pre-emptive measures to be issued purely on suspicion of future conduct; it is no longer necessary to carry out terrorist activity, suspicion of intent is enough. This dynamic thus echoes the DPR rationality of shifting the burden of proof: As Bonner (2007:34) outlines, post-9/11, suspects are effectively presumed guilty until proved otherwise. This is clear by Iain Blair’s assertions that whilst IRA terrorists were presumed innocent until proved guilty, the ‘unparalleled’ (in Bonner 2007:7) threat of today’s terrorist is seen as too dangerous to allow that privilege.

The DPR thus illuminates both the top-down discursive construction of the terrorist threat, and the efforts of the state to (re)establish a mandate for control; worst-case scenario-thinking drives more extreme measures that loop back and reinforce an expansive culture of fear, garnering support for pre-emptory practices that are based merely on suspicion of intent rather than any actual event. For example, the government reaction to the Forest Gate shooting reinforced the rationalities of the DPR: "You can only imagine if they fail to take action and something terrible happened what outcry would be then, so they are in an impossible situation" (BBC, 2006). The rationalities of zero-risk, the risk of catastrophic damage and worst-case-scenario-thinking drive a scare-mongering narrative that ultimately legitimizes the rationality of shifting the burden of proof from the state to the individual.

The difficulty to counter-act this emotional narrative of pre-emptive security policy is compounded by the fact that policy-making is seen by HROs as not malicious, but genuinely based on the desire to protect the public due to their duty to try to control the terrorist threat, or at least instill confidence in their authority by presenting the threat as ‘under control’. AIUK explained in an interview that the government ‘often had good grounds for having concerns’, and ‘we would be in a difficult position if we didn’t acknowledge that’, thus undermining attempts to state that a pre-emptive stance is detrimental to society. AIUK explained that the emotions surrounding the issue of protecting citizens allow for pre-emptive action on ‘extreme’ individuals. However, as Reprieve pointed out, just the mere suspicion of terrorist activity or association makes it very difficult to ‘advocate for them in the court of public opinion’ – ‘they’re scarecrows’. Representatives from Liberty and AIUK make clear that the government holds ‘all the cards’ in the form of national security intelligence access to state secrets. As AIUK illustrates, ‘the state can stand up and say we have seen how many bad guys there are…how many plots’. Both Liberty and AIUK point to this dynamic as a huge challenge to combat using human rights framework as the response is always boiled down to ‘we can do it now because the risk is so much greater than it has ever been’ (AIUK interview).

The main impact of the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality on the power of HROs is thus encapsulated in the future temporality of all decision-making. When there is no official offense or action that is being addressed through the application of a TPIM or by the rendition of a suspect – it is increasingly difficult to make people understand the difference between people who are merely suspected, and those who have actually committed a crime. CagePrisoners and AIUK argue that the very act of pre-emptory arrest, or the issue of TPIM leads the public to believe that they must be guilty of something – thus hindering HRO resistance to these measures. The onus of guilt placed on terror suspects by the decoupling of action from actuality is clearly seen in HRO advocacy for Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee in Guantanamo Bay. Aamer has never been charged with any crime, however the paralysis of this dynamic has rendered the writ of habeas corpus 'functionally useless’ due to the risk posed by his status as a terror suspect: what if?

This dynamic has taken a sinister turn domestically within the U.K. as CagePrisoners points out that doctors and university professors are now recommended to report those ‘vulnerable to extremism’ (Travis, 2011). This means that more and more public institutions where people interact are being drawn into the worst-case-scenario-thinking that rationalizes the DPR, feeding into a culture of fear that legitimates the creep towards the curtailment of rights to a fair trial, privacy, asylum and free movement because of fear of terrorism.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homelessorganizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the second in her five-part series on Crimcast which began in early January, 2014.

Deconstructing Risk Narratives in the War on Terror

Nickie Phillips

NTAS

Part 1 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

Since 9/11 many of us may have noticed the creeping erosion of democratic and legal principles  in what has been called ‘The War on Terror’ (WoT). The present day, world-wide agenda combining extraordinary rendition, secret evidence, mass surveillance, secret detention and 'enhanced interrogation' is something that has caused uproar among all who care about civil liberties, fair treatment and due process. Journalists, academics and human rights activists the world over have repeatedly exposed and condemned these global security policies, seeking change at the highest level in the international and domestic arena.

While this strong focus on legal and policy implications of the WoT is an essential and core component of the means to combat the effect of global security practices post-9/11, this series will argue that if we really want to abolish these policies, we first need to change the way that we think about terrorist security threats in the first place.

Many studies have noted a conceptual shift to the logic of risk in global security practices. In my view, the most important finding of these analyses show that the impact of ‘risk’ in shaping security post-9/11 renders the War on Terror far more than an assemblage of policies. It represents the advent of a cultureof fear and suspicion based on society’s understanding and engagement with the risk posed by terrorism. In other words: by thinking of terrorism through the logic of risk, we render ourselves incapable of human empathy and find ourselves accepting more violence, more surveillance and an increasingly hollow legal system of accountability simply because we are scared of what might happen.

Donald Rumsfeld (2002): ‘the message is that there are no knowns. There are things that we know that we know. There are known unknowns…but there are also unknown unknowns – things we don’t know we don’t know’.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Photo: New York Magazine)

Rumsfeld’s quotation reveals that in the extreme conditions of uncertainty post-9/11, policy-makers are no longer able to guarantee predictability, security and control. The result of this infiltration of fear into decision-making has resulted in a paranoid global phenomenon whereby security officials are 'given' an imperative to act in advance of any possession of evidence. As outlined by President Bush in 2002 and pursued with a vengeance by Obama, this ‘not only means dealing with real immediate threats; it also means anticipating threats before they occur.' This conceptual shift in 'security think' is epitomized by the global network of over fifty countries involved in the pre-emptory practices of pre-charge detention and extraordinary rendition, and the internment of hundreds of men without charge or trial in locations such as Guantánamo Bay (OSJI report, 2013).

The overall effect of the application of risk-logic to security is not to be underestimated. Risk-logic ultimately transforms security practices into complex social practices: it changes the way we live and the way we interact with each other. This blog series will attempt to illuminate how this way of thinking has profoundly affected society. In order to have a concrete starting point, I will show how risk-logic affects the work of human rights organizations working to combat the seep of human rights violations endemic to the WoT. By the end of this series, I hope to convey an insight into the poisonous forces of risk at work in society, and how this wholesale cultural change affects traditional methods of checking the balance of power in the world we live in.

Sabine Selchow has put forward a very useful framework of four inter-linked dynamics for looking at the transformative effect of risk-logic on society– what this blog post will be based on (see  Selchow 2014; also Loughnan and Selchow 2013). As it’s useful to understand these dynamics separately, I’ll first briefly outline each one. Then, in the coming weeks I’ll zoom in on each dynamic and show how it translates into everyday life, as well as how it affects relations of power between the state and society.

1. The decoupling of political decision-making from actuality

The obsessive desire of security officials to regain control post-9/11 means that risk-logic locates its temporality in the future, therefore effectively separating political acts from having to address an actual, or tangible threat. The advent of the idea of risk as a means of governing thus coincides with a security apparatus that no longer seeks to prevent, order or withhold, but instead to pre-empt (Amoore & DeGoede, 2008). Once institutions shift their focus from addressing existing threats to potential threats in the future, they are duty-bound to assume responsibility for control. This means that it is no longer possible to determine if a threatening event would have happened without the risk-based pre-emptory action, as risk-based action is always in the realm of the unknown. This pre-emptory stance that ultimately depoliticizes security policy, is summed up by Blair’s 2004 response to criticism of the pre-emptive war in Iraq: ‘…would you prefer us to act, even if it turns out to be wrong? Or not to act and hope it’s OK?’

2. The Depoliticization of Security

As touched upon in the previous section, the application of risk to security essentially depoliticizes policy-making. Firstly, the temporality of risk-based decisions means that the policy-maker is able to present issues as needing immediate action in the face of extreme uncertainty and risk of catastrophic damage. The net result of this is that issues related to terrorism have to be presented as capable of being controlled. This fetishization of control is situated firmly in the political imagination, as terrorism is ultimately ‘a risk beyond risk’ that cannot be measured (Aradau & VanMunster 2008:23). The ‘unexceptional’ (according to the United Kingdom's Home Office in 2006) nature of attackers, such as the 9/11, Madrid and 7/7 bombers, render creation of any risk models based on identifiable characteristics of ‘terrorists’ impossible. Mythen and Walklate (2008) stress that the calculus of risk post 9/11 is directed by a projective ‘what if?’ position whereby presumption of innocence metamorphoses into a presumption of guilt. Since risk models cannot be modeled on abnormality this suggests that the government will have to screen everybody equally. In reality, whilst this may sound appealing, this essentially submerges individual cases into types based on factors of risk, ultimately creating ‘new’ risk assessed identities: it is no longer necessary to actually see the person one… judges (Krassman, 2007).

3. Internalization of security issues and the process of responsibilization

Through the application of risk logic, global security threats are no longer the sole remit of government security agencies, but become a responsibility for every citizen as part of lived, everyday experience. This dynamic is most clearly seen in government campaigns worldwide urging citizens to report anything that arouses suspicion, leading ordinary people to absorb the responsibility of securing their state. Public and private, internal and external are now boundaries that have been profoundly blurred, leading to a politics of normalcy inherent to risk-based modes of governance (Amoore & DeGoede). Being ‘normal’, as defined by the U.K.’s Metropolitan Police is now a political act whereby the citizen not only protects their country by reporting anything ‘abnormal’, but actively defends themselves from suspicion as a terrorist. This action is all the more powerfully embedded in society through the explosion of panoptic surveillance put in motion by the application of risk logic to security.

4. The dynamic of the expansion of ‘securitization’

The fourth dynamic of risk is the expansionary and unlimited nature of its mandate. As discussed, the logic of risk implies an imperative to act – to be seen to be doing something in the face of the uncertainty posed by the terrorist threat. This imperative inevitably feeds an expanding process of securitization, whereby a wider array of issues are deemed to be security threats. However, as risk-based decisions are not ‘tamed’ by an accompanying actuality or event, this instates a process of unlimited risk-based action. Risks are ‘infinite because they multiply over time since one can always do more to prevent them from becoming real’ (Rasmussen 2006:4); risk-logic thus always produces the sense of further uncertainties. This leads to an insatiable quest for ‘more and better knowledge of risk’ (Ericson & Hoggarty, 1997:85). This risk assessment however, has to draw on past experiences in order to address an imagination of the future. Therefore, previous knowledge is always incomplete, thus driving a governance of risk yearning for ever greater knowledge. The population wholesale is thus securitized in an ever-expanding process that has a profound impact on society.

Although this is an extremely brief outline of the dynamics underlying the shift in global security policy post-9/11, the next installments in this blog will explore each in further detail and clarify the profoundly social impact of security policy by looking at the difficulties faced by human rights organizations in combating the curtailment of freedoms post-9/11. The following blog posts will aim to illustrate the deep cuts that risk-logic has made in the way that society all over the world thinks by linking risk-logic to power relations. Ultimately, the fight against counter-terror policy is no longer solely in the governmental arena; the real fight is against the pervasive culture of fear and suspicion that underlies the relations between ordinary, innocent people every day.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homelessorganizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the first in her five-part series to be published on Crimcast.  It will appear weekly from January 7, 2014.

The Continuing Lore of Jack the Ripper

Nickie Phillips

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Dozens of curious onlookers crowd London streets each night to experience the saga of the infamous Whitechapel Murders. Crimcast was among the throngs this September to capture the essence of living in treacherous Whitechapel in the late 1880s.

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Though the Whitechapel Murders occurred over 100 years ago, speculation continues as to the identity of the so-called Jack the Ripper, believed to have brutally mutilated and murdered at least five women in the area from 1888-1891.  As such, extensive archival research continues to be poured over by both trained and self-proclaimed experts in Victorian history, criminal profiling, and psychology.

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The five victims were prostitutes at the time of the murders, but a 2009 genealogy revealed that three of the five were previously married and later had turned to prostitution to survive.

Whitechapel was considered one of the most destitute areas of London, and the horrendous murder of Mary Kelly, believed to be the last victim of Jack the Ripper, occurred on Dorset Street. Dorset was known as the worst street in London, where poverty, alcoholism, and prostitution were endemic.

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In 1998, psychologists, historians, and the police gathered at the International Investigative Psychology Conference at Liverpool University to debate the authenticity of the archival "Diary of James Maybrick" in which Maybrick allegedly revealed himself to be the killer. According to the BBC News, there was no consensus that the diary was authentic, nor however, was there consensus that the diary was fraudulent. The first edition of the book The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The Discovery, The Investigation, The Debate by author Shirley Harrison contains a facsimile of the diary and documents the controversy surrounding its discovery.  Harrison continues to assert that the document is authentic, and an updated edition of the book, with a Foreword by Professor David Cantor, Director of the Institute of Investigative Psychology and Forensic Behavioural Science at the University of Liverpool, was published in 2010.

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"The only conclusion they did reach was that the document was written by someone with a 'disturbed mind' and it was therefore 'fascinating', even if it was not genuine." -- UK Ripper Diary has Historians Stumped,BBC News

Maybrick, though, is only one of about 100 potential suspects. In 2006, a composite of Jack the Ripper was created, along with a profile of the suspect leading investigators to conclude

"that police at the time were probably searching for the wrong kind of man."

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One of the more intriguing possibilities is that Jack the Ripper was actually Jill the Ripper. One such speculation surrounds the notion of a "mad midwife" who, as a woman, would have walked the streets without suspicion and would have been an "anatomically educated murderer."  Interestingly, though the killer's signature involved removing organs, the most consistently removed organ across the victims was the uterus.  Although some removed organs were laid alongside the body, the uterus was typically missing.

Because of the hysteria surrounding the murders, many people in Ripper's time, and some present-day Ripperologists, believe Ripper continued to kill in the few years after the generally agreed upon five murders.  This climate of fear and these later Ripper murders--or copycat murders-- is the subject of the popular BBC television series Ripper Street.

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Jack the Ripper still fascinates the public despite the unfortunate fact that more prolific and more gruesome serial killers have since followed him. But as the iconic killer who first captured the imagination of the English-speaking world, the case provides important insight as to the cultural origins of our continual fascination with the murderous macabre.

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This is the fourth in a 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often intriguing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of criminology and criminal justice.

Urban Utopia in Southwark, London: The Lake or The Shard?

Nickie Phillips

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Wandering around South Bank London on a damp evening, Crimcast stumbled upon a compelling sight-- a small lake constructed out of timber in the middle of an urban scape.  Nestled next to a stone archway for commuter trains to and from Waterloo station, "The Lake" featured lounge chairs, a cafe, and playground.  A sign indicated that this was an urban oasis, built by architects, carpenters, and other artistic visionaries to bring the notion of being on holiday directly to the people.  Had we arrived just a couple days earlier we would have seen the many community members enjoying some late summer sun and floating homemade model sailboats. The privately owned land has been donated to a collective called EXYZT whose manifesto calls for utopian imaginings and community experimentation.As such, the gates are open for all comers who may wish to relax, enjoy a tea, or take on a project in one of the many work spaces underneath the railway arches.  We particularly liked a piece in the gallery space created by a local artist featuring a baby stroller resting on a treadmill on cardboard.

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Architect Nicolas Henninger explained that the members of the collective, who have spaces throughout Europe, live on-site and bring their brand of enthusiasm for building social capital to local people.  "We had families here throughout the summer who made small boats and enjoyed themselves.  It's  temporary installation so we will have something new next year."

Whether the The Lake, or previous years' projects featuring gardens and faux Lido seasides, the zeitgeist is one of anti-commodification and collectivism through art and design.  Playing and building together forms a key part of the collective's modus operandi.  A game of "Anti-Monopoly" was ready to go in the tea shop.

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A passing bicyclist who stopped to explore along with us couldn't help but notice The Lake stood in poetic contrast to The Shard looming above it-- a brand-new sky-scraper, purportedly the tallest in the European Union.  It houses a hotel, residences and offices. Talk quickly turned to the hundreds of millions of pounds it cost and that one can buy a small space there for a mere £8 million.  The bicyclist was concerned that The Shard would create problematic traffic flows for the area and that once inside the complex it would isolate people from interaction with the existing Southwark community around it.

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Although Southwark has come a long way from its Dickensian roots, the borough's revitalization is happening in two distinct ways represented by The Lake and The Shard.  One envisions social capital the other panders to global capital.  One empowers locals to work and play together in a low-key, creative space; the other is a silver cage for the cosmopolitan elite, rising above the neighborhood and barely grounded in it.

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Graphic Justice Symposium 2013, London

Nickie Phillips

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Graphic Justice: a one-day symposium on the intersection of comics and graphic fiction with the concerns of law and justice, to be held at St Mary’s University College, London on 11 September 2013.

With Anglophone comics, Francophone bandes dessinées, and Japanese manga, graphic fiction represents an expanding dimension of today’s global popular culture and is a richly innovative form of expression.

From the overt law and order focus of many mainstream superhero narratives and comics-inspired blockbuster movies, to the more nuanced examinations of the human condition in less mainstream graphic works; from copyright to the freedom of expression; from the blurring of text and image in the very medium itself to representations of law, justice, and legal systems on the surface of its pages: comics and graphic fiction are rife with themes relevant to law and justice.

Comics have been receiving an increased level of academic attention in recent years, with dedicated journals and conferences springing up around the world. Yet the significance of comics with respect to the concerns of law and justice has received little critical attention. As a development of existing disciplinary fields such as law and popular culture, law and literature, and legal aesthetics, graphic justice is a research alliance aimed at increasing engagement with this under-explored disciplinary crossover.

Go here

for more information.