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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: violent crime

Murder: Moral Panic, Mythos, Modernity, Call for Presentations

Nickie Phillips

Moral Panic, Mythos, Modernity

Part of The Violence Project

Saturday 1st August – Monday 3rd August 2015

Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Murder is the ultimate taboo, an assault not just on an unlucky individual but on the very fabric of society.…This inter-disciplinary meeting seeks to investigate the subject – and perpetrators – of murder in their various guises. We invite participants to explore the subject and perpetrators of murder from the full range of disciplinary and professional perspectives. The conference aims to generate an inclusive dialogue involving researchers, artists, clinicians, social workers, representatives from the voluntary sector, legal professionals, individuals whose lives have been impacted by murder and others with an interest in the field.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

Defining and Conceptualising Murder:
– 
Legislative provisions for defining and punishing murder (including international law)
– Murder and the legal process (including defences and punishment)
– Cross-cultural perspectives
– Impact of historical and cultural change on the understanding of murder
– Philosophical perspectives – de Sade, Nietsche, Brady, etc.
– Religious conceptions of murder and death
– Penalties for murder – capital punishment vs. life imprisonment, whole life tariffs, ‘Right to Die’ and ‘Right to Life’, etc.
– Impact of race, gender, sexuality and class on the way murder is understood and punished
– Defences/justifications of murder
– Limits on the definition of murder: animals, mercy-killing, etc.
– Community responses to murder

Special Categories of Murder:
– 
War crimes and genocide
– School shootings, spree killing, thrill killing, mass murder, Craigslist murders
– Serial killers (including ‘Celebrity’ serial killers; serial killing as vocation or career choice)
– Family murders – matricide, patricide, filicide, infanticide
– Ideological murder: political assassinations, honour killing, martyrdom, freedom fighters, etc.

Murder and Psychology:   
– Factors that lead people to commit murder
– Mental fitness of perpetrators– PTSD, psychopathy, schizophrenia, The M’Naghton Rule, etc.
– Copy-cat killing
– Grief/coming to terms with murder; healing community scars

Murder and Technology:
– 
Technologies that facilitate murder
– Technologies that facilitate the detection and punishment of murderers
– Forensic awareness and the ‘CSI effect’

Murder and the Media:
– 
Reporting/representing murder – factual accounts, fiction, and fact-based fiction
– Perpetrator vs. victim – narratological framing, empathy, and the creation of news agendas, etc.
– Murder as entertainment: documentaries/true crime, fiction/TV/film, snuff
– The aesthetics of murder

Economics of Murder:
– 
The cultural capital of murder
– Dark tourism, Ripperology, etc.

For more information on submission requirements and deadline click here.

Don't Be Bamboozled by "International Terrorism": Republic of Congo and the Struggle for Everyday Justice

Staci Strobl

Photo of Brazzaville: Peter Romberg

Photo of Brazzaville: Peter Romberg

 

By Staci Strobl

With the violence in Gaza and Iraq, and the continued struggle for minority communities in the U.S. to be policed Constitutionally (Michael Brown and Eric Garner), Obama's meeting last week with leaders from Africa did not make it among the top news stories. But, the struggle for peace and social justice is at a critical stage for many of these countries, and indeed protestors demonstrated outside the White House to draw attention to the Administration's problematic economic partnerships with leaders that many consider dictators complete with overtures to their role in the U.S.-centric War on Terror.   Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, for example, had a particularly strong presence at the demonstration. 

Meanwhile, the leader of Republic of Congo, a relatively stable country in an unstable part of the world, was a less controversial White House guest, but nonetheless an interesting case in the tension between the alleged hope brought by a globalized economy (think Thomas Friedman) and the simultaneous legitimization of unfinished and problematic aspirations for peace and security.

Republic of Congo (sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville)  should not be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), its neighbor.  It is a former French colony that went on to be a Marxist state, but has since emerged, after some internal strife, as an allegedly developing democracy -- though the power of President  Denis Sassou Nguesso overshadows the political system and human rights groups have criticized the lack of a free press.  On the other hand, Nguesso is praised for environmental conservation efforts in relation to his country's rain forest, the second biggest in the world.  He also has been instrumental in brokering a recent ceasefire in the civil war between DRC's President Joseph Kabila and opposition fighters.  The country's economy is based on oil, forestry and agriculture.

Unfortunately, Republic of Congo remains an unsafe place for public dissent.  Last year, two teachers who were organizing a strike in support of a campaign for higher public sector status, were arrested for their union efforts, including the use of Twitter.  Several other union activist were arrested and one, Daniel Ngami, was forced to read a statement on television urging teachers to abandon their strike and return to work.  Although these arrestees were released within days without charges, this treatment amounted to a punishment for exercising free speech.

Perhaps more disturbing was the expulsion of refugees from the country.  In June, Republic of Congo forcibly expelled 130,000 DRC citizens that it claimed were the source of crime and insecurity.  The United Nations, meanwhile, documented that the expulsion-- of people already battered and fleeing war in the DRC-- involved physical beatings and even sexual abuse by authorities.  One Republic of Congo authority publicly expressed surprised at such "rude comments" from the U,N.

Despite these gross injustices within the country, Nguesso outlined his top priority in partnering with the U.S. as bringing American assistance and training to fight international terrorism and maintain national security from external threats:

"Make no mistake, we Congolese, we Africans, have to be responsible for our own security and, if required, fight for it... American could assist us all by effectively supporting a collective African response to these important challenges."

Although the discourse of international terrorism is an effective currency for getting at the ear, and pocketbook, of the U.S., the focus on national security and external threats fails to address, and even provides a distraction from, any more critical engagement with the political rights and freedoms of every day people.  As we see in America's engagement with all sorts of leaders and regimes of marginal, or worse, human rights record (such as in Bahrain or Turkmenistan), it appears that geopolitical security, economic partnerships and the requisite diplomatic glad-handing acts as a legitimizing factor, effectively labeling the country a "good" one.  Since most Americans probably are not familiar with Republic of Congo in any substantive way, the superficial thumbs-up become the whole story.

Some may argue, however, that there are worse leaders than Nguesso and much more fragile, war-torn countries in Africa.  But should the international community lower its human rights standards when we focus on the continent of Africa?  Has in effect Africa become a lost cause in the Western consciousness where we reward countries for at least maintaining a nation state on the barest, and often dictatorial levels?  Where we reserve are most collective ire for the warlords therein, neglecting so many other of the world's bad actors?  For example, some have criticized the International Criminal Courts potential bias in indicting mainly African individuals under the purported mission of prosecuting war crimes around the world.

Nguesso claims that his country harbors no political prisoners and has full. freedom of speech and the press, contrary to Amnesty International.  However, a focus on national security and a vague fight against international terrorism (construed here as piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and being a bulwark against the spread of Boko Haram in the north), often turns into a blank check for regime to pursue other state-centric agendas at the expense of the people.  Though to be fair, Nguesso also has asked for U.S. aid to bolster education in his country, to fight high levels of unemployment and poverty, none of the security-oriented talking points alluded to anything that may help the average Congolese person's access to justice, or to train and augment local police forces in protecting human rights.  It appears that the discursive fusion of economic globalization and the fight against international global terrorism gets top billing.

Criminologists have a moral obligation to remain engaged in research and consciousness-raising about the everyday crime and access to justice in nations like Republic of Congo, who received national security-related aid and keep the dialogue focused on external threats.  Part of a critical consciousness about lesser known, "other" places, of the world is not to merely cast them in large, geopolitical frames as sites for global terrorism, but also as places where people need police stations, courts, and sanitary prison conditions, where political dissent is criminalized  where crimes occur (18.8 murders per 100,000 in 2004 and high rates of property crime).  Rape during the civil war of 1993-2002 has left many women in a state of post-rape trauma, as described in an article by Hustache, et. al.

Sadly, mainstream Western criminology often doesn't reward research agendas which focus on everyday crime and justice in far flung corners of the world.  Greater glory seems to go to criminologists willing to ride the wave of federal grants focusing on the same old international terror paranoia, feeding the notion that the rest of the world is a mere backdrop.  But ultimately, even the most global of global of terrorism is embodied in everyday cities, towns and villages.  A sober look at the more mundane crime problems in places like Republic of Congo would certainly not preclude a fight against terror, should it rear its head.  And, it will allow a better glimpse into what crime and justice means for the people of Republic of Congo, beyond the national security interests of its president.

 

Bearing Witness: Art and Resistance in Cold War Latin America

Nickie Phillips

June 2, 1986, =

Wednesday, 7th of May, 2014 from 5:30pm-7:30pm

Attend the opening of the exhibition Bearing Witness: Art Resistance in Cold War Latin America.

The exhibition runs from May 8, 2014-September 12, 2014

at ANYA AND ANDREW SHIVA GALLERY JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CUNY 524 WEST 59TH STREET L2.73.14 NEW YORK, NY 10019

Gallery Hours: 1pm-5pm, M-F, or by appointment

While censorship, kidnapping, torture, and murder became common tactics for repressive governments throughout Latin America during the Cold War, many artists from the region responded by producing poignant works of art that speak out against these atrocities. This exhibition brings together three distinct bodies of work that do so through documentation, poetic subversion and revelation.

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.

DSCF0361

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.

DSCF0359

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.

Craigslist: A Hub for Crime?

Nickie Phillips

Danielle Reynolds, Correspondent

craigslist

For those searching for employment, housing, friendship or products and services, the Craigslist community can be extremely useful. Millions of visitors view billions of ads each month, with the majority of users having pure intentions. During the summer of 2011 I attempted to use New York City Craigslist to find a long-term sublet apartment and to my surprise found many interesting, yet unsuitable ads under the category “Rooms & Shares.” Some ads promised negotiated or complimentary rent for “favors,” while others outright asked for a live-in “naked girlfriend.” After reading many questionable and unreliable ads, I decided to delve further into the Craigslist world to uncover if Craigslist was indeed a hub for dubious activities.

Unfortunately Craigslist is vulnerable to abuse by a minority of its users, manipulating the site as a fast and free network to others whom they plan to physically and/or financially exploit. Often the perpetrators construct false identities to initiate crime, by developing a sense of trust among Craigslist contacts prior to committing the criminal act. Various criminal acts, such as murder, prostitution, drug and weapon sales and rape, among various other scams, have been initiated or conducted via Craigslist.

Miranda Barbour and husband Elytte Barbour were accused of using a Craigslist ad for “companionship” to lure Troy LaFerrara and stabbing him 20 times, then strangling and killing him, discarding the body approximately 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Miranda claimed that she used Craigslist to meet “unhappy men” and charge as much as $850 for a “delightful conversation.” During an interview with CNN reporter Francis Scarcella, Barbour admitted to almost 100 killings over a 6 year period, occurring in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California. In Ohio, Richard Beasley was convicted for killing 3 men who responded to a Craigslist ad for work on a cattle farm.

The most notorious Craigslist murder, however, refers to Philip Markoff, known as the “Craigslist Killer,” which inspired the 2011 Lifetime movie. The movie, based on true events, tells of a pre-med student who found his victims through Craigslist ads for erotic services, then attacking and/or murdering them upon meeting with them in a motel room. Markoff was arraigned on murder charges related to the death of Julissa Brisman (2009) and was charged with two armed assaults of Trisha Leffler and Corinne Stout.

craig killers

In 2011, Californian Michael Delgado was arrested for raping a woman who he had hired from Craigslist to clean his apartment. Once within the home, Delgado sexually assaulted and raped the woman for over an hour. He was charged with false imprisonment, assault and rape with a foreign object.

In 2009, Michael John Anderson was convicted of killing Katherine Ann Olson, a nanny who replied to a Craigslist ad for a babysitter. Upon arriving to the Anderson’s home to inquire about an employment opportunity, she disappeared.

Prostitution has made good use of cyberspace, including sites such as Craigslist. Traffic to all Craigslist personal sites, including a section for romance or “missed connections,” is higher than for any online personals sites including Match.com, eHarmony, among others. “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist has become a major hub, amassing listings with offerings for casual sex, perhaps catering to the erotic underbelly of society where courtship gives way to expediency and anonymity. Created in 2000, ads posted in this section range from prim to vulgar and often providing photographs with precisely what individuals have to offer. Founder of “Casual Encounters,” Craig Newmark, stated that the section was created in response to a demand for a division that allowed for a wide range of personal meetings and relationship options.

On September 8, 2006, “Casual Encounters” forums had been compromised in several cities by individuals posting fraudulent ads in order to obtain personal information from its users, such as email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses, photos, etc. This was the first time the section had been threatened by various prostitutes and spammers to seize and control the community. Then in 2007 a Minneapolis woman pleaded guilty in federal court for running an underage prostitution ring through Craigslist. Craigslist has become a favorite for prostitutes as it is relaxed, allows people to be more candid and anonymous, and has a lack of oversight. Although Craigslist policy prohibits pornographic photos, it is not vigorously enforced. “Casual Encounters” accounts for approximately 2% of all Craigslist postings, and since its creation it has quickly evolved to fulfill a variety of suggestive quests as it delivers erotic thrills for minimal effort.

Craigslist, although a hub for illegal activity, has also been used to combat that activity as law enforcement targets criminal users in sting operations, catching prostitutes using the site to sell their services. In Long Island, eight women were arrested on prostitution charges in a sting operation by the Nassau County Police Department who have used Craigslist to make over 70 arrests in 2013. As technology expands, the traditional sense of looking for street walkers, brothels and massage parlors has transitioned to scouring Craigslist ads and various pages on cyberspace. In July 2013 Nassau County Police Department arrested 43 women for walking the streets soliciting prostitution and 60 on Craigslist pages soliciting online.

danielle

Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast contributor, teaches Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Danielle earned her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2011 from John Jay College where she was awarded the Claude Hawley Medal and Graduate Scholarship. She currently lives in New York City.

Chicago Homicides and the Concealed-Carry

Nickie Phillips

Let's not get carried away.

(Searchingforstyle.com)

This dubious Red Statearticle suggests that the drop in homicides in Chicago during the first three months of 2014 is attributed to the recent implementation of the issuance of concealed carry licenses in the state.

This might be an interesting hypothesis, except for the fact that the “first wave of concealed-carry permits” was not mailed until the last week in February. And for the fact that the number of shootings had already fallen “24% from 2,448 to 1,864 between 2012 and 2013”. And for the fact that nearly $100 million was paid in overtime for officers and policing strategies that were implemented specifically to target gun violence.

Crimcast suggests a review of the problem of extraneous and confounding variables would be appropriate here.

Countries with Low Crime Rates: Comparing Vietnam and Japan

Nickie Phillips

By Megan Helwig, Guest Blogger

Vietnam-Japan_jpg

Vietnam and Japan, each with vastly different political regimes, maintain relatively low crime rates. Vietnam, a socialist state, appears to employ methods of fear and intimidation to maintain social control. Japan, a constitutional monarchy/parliamentary democracy utilizes a community-oriented policing system to maintain social order. Both states culturally advocate harmony and social order as their goals. However, both states also seem to take separate approaches as well as possess varying viewpoints of what maintaining societal harmony entails.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian country run by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Vietnam is one of five remaining Communist nations of the world, amongst Laos, Cuba, North Korea and China. Vietnam is comprised of a “massive state security network.” Professor Carl Thayer, of the Australian Defense Forces Academy, estimated that “at least 6.7 million Vietnamese belong to the many security agencies.” This is roughly one out of every six people within the forty-three million working population of Vietnam that works in security. According to the BBC, “Vietnam’s Communist-controlled state security apparatus is comprised not only of the police forces and regular army, but also paramilitaries, rural militia forces and ‘neighborhood guardians.’ All of these different security forces are under the control of either the Ministry of National Defense or the Ministry of Public Security.

Japan’s police system has actually instituted measures to guarantee police neutrality for their police forces. These measures are carried out through the National Police Agency (NPA). According to INTERPOL, “The NPA is headed by a Commissioner General who, with the approval of the Prime Minister, is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission (NPSC), a state body which holds the rank of Ministry of State, guarantees the neutrality of the police, and administers the NPA.” The NPA oversees the Prefectural Police which is the law enforcement provider within Japan. The NPA is an apolitical body void of direct governmental executive control. The press is also able to freely monitor and express any criticisms of the system without fear of punishment.

It’s quite evident that Vietnam’s low crime rate is mostly due to the extreme amount of social control and censorship imposed by the government. These factors bring to the surface many human rights issues for a plethora of reasons. Political opposition is prohibited, and the administration of justice can be arbitrary and harsh. The idea that the revolution must be protected is what justifies the arrest of individuals choosing to speak out against its government or the state’s beliefs and practices. The state utilizes various modes of surveillance in order to keep an eye out for any incident of disobedience which enables quick, arguably unjust, enforcement of the law. From an objective perspective, this system could be arguably quite effective. However, the future stability of this social control method is somewhat questionable. A government that uses fear and intimidation to maintain social order will continually be potentially on the brink of mass public protest and revolt. In contrast, Japan’s system resembles a completely different form of social control and policing with a more community-oriented approach. According to Pakes, one of the most successful displays of community policing is in Japan. Japan’s community police are called koban. The Japanese policing structure enables the police forces to develop a more personal relationship with the community and ultimately helps erase the social gap typically found between police and civilians. The koban structure also combines policing with general assistance. Some of these general assistance interactions include: surveying, advising on addresses, lending out umbrellas, lost and found services, community activities, production and distribution of newsletters, self-defense classes, and sports. Overall, Japan’s form of community policing aligns with the culture’s emphasis on the importance of harmony.

(Photo: www.wordpress.tokyotimes.org)

Statistically, both Vietnam and Japan are effective at keeping their crime rates relatively low in comparison to the global crime statistics. Perhaps the question of analysis shouldn’t be which state’s police force has the most effectiveness in relation to their low-crime rates. Instead, maybe the focus should be on the means under which these low crime rates are established. Vietnam uses a method of tight governmental influence and social control and censorship to ensure obedience. Japan, in contrast, uses a more community-oriented approach to develop trust and solid relationships with its citizens while also providing for the basic needs of the community. Many would argue that for a state to be successful, it needs to provide the basic needs and services required by its people. This can also be said for communities as well as states. The koban policing system example within Japan seems to go above and beyond in relation to providing communities with services that address the citizen’s everyday needs. Another aspect to ponder is how secure each of the systems are in the long run? It seems quite evident that Japan possesses a significantly more stable system of policing and citizen respect than Vietnam system possesses.  Japan historically had a similar politically-heavy state-controlled system and successfully transitioned to what they are now. One size doesn’t typically fit all. However, Japan’s modern system could, at least in theory, maybe one day be a solution to Vietnam’s shaky and somewhat paranoid system.

Megan Helwig graduated from Lock Haven University with a B.A. in Political Science/Pre-Law. Currently, she is in the International Crime and Justice Masters program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In addition to knowing English and some Spanish, she is currently pursuing an advanced comprehension of Arabic (Classical and Egyptian Colloquial). Megan is ultimately pursuing a career in counter-terrorism. 

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’.

met police sign

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.

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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.

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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.

Punishment before Prisons: Lessons from Medieval Europe for Modern New Jersey

Nickie Phillips

Celia Chazelle teaches inmates in a New Jersey correctional facility (Photo credit: PrincetonInfo)

In this podcast, Celia Chazelle, editor of Why the Middle Ages Matter, and professor at the College of New Jersey, explores how medieval studies can be a means through which to understand the punitiveness of the American prison system.  We may no longer be putting people on the rack, but violent punishments are not quintessentially medieval either.  Physical violence is intrinsic to the prison system and massive social and economic inequality plagued medieval Europe as it does in the U.S. today. In an exploration of the over-incarceration of Camden, New Jersey residents, and the effects this has on families and communities in the most impoverished and violence-prone city in America, Chazelle puts forth an important argument about respect, honor, and punishment in the medieval past and in today's New Jersey.

[audio http://crimcast.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/punishment-before-prisons-11_23_13-7-34-pm.m4a]

This podcast is a recording of the lecture Chazelle presented on November 13, 2013, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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.

When Police Corruption is Normal: Brazil's Criminal Justice Challenge

Nickie Phillips

police-brutality-on-kids brazil

Guest post by Amanda Higazi

Police corruption, though condemned by the international community, is a transnational problem that continues to impede justice. In comparison, although both Brazil and the United States of America suffer from police corruption, the sheer prevalence of corrupt practices displayed in Brazil demand the implementation of reform measures. Modifications should be made that incorporate civilian oversight, training, effective classroom instruction, pilot programs, and an innovative system of checks and balances within the Brazilian police force.

Research shows that Brazil has violated fundamental human rights in breach of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture which was ratified in 2007. Police abuse and torture allegations have been so prominent in prisoner facilities that they are believed to have been what incited the creation of the First Command of the Capital (PCC), arguably Brazil’s most powerful prison gang. There are also routine assassinations of street children and random civilians by police. Furthermore, there is a growing epidemic of police cover-ups for routine assassinations that often get documented on police reports as resisting arrest or retaliatory gang fire. In addition to this, there is an unlawful practice of police tampering and/or destroying evidence.

Since Brazil is only a recently democratized country, the preceding dictatorship has been effective in instilling a code of silence assumed by its citizens. Brazilians continue to live in a perpetual state of fear since witnesses are not welcome to speak out about their police or government. Due to nature of retaliatory killings by police death squads for anyone who questions the regime, there is essentially no witness protection offered. Although both the United States and Brazil evidently have a pervasive trend of police corruption, it appears to be a more prominent concern for the latter because of the severity-- and sense of normalcy-- the citizens have associated with it. Although this appears to be an inextricable quandary there has been considerable effort made towards reform.

My research has addressed the scope of these reformations, considering many of which are mirrored after programs implemented in the United States, such as civilian complaint review boards and increased police training.  Within this context, my research also addressed the rudimentary elements that are present within the society that enable police corruption to continue, as well as some of the efforts already underway to combat it. For example, the Sao Paulo government's requirement that police contact emergency response teams for assistance and treatment at the scenes of shootings, and prohibiting them from altering the scene or removing victims, will go a long way to prevent cover-ups of police abuse.  The policy should be national.  In an effort to create a better tomorrow, it is imperative that all injustices are brought to light today.

Amanda Higazi JJAY MA ICJ BLOG POST PIC

Amanda Higazi is a Masters student in the International Crime and Justice program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is an advocate for international human rights and seeks to ameliorate impunity within the criminal justice system which often challenges the protection of civil liberties.

"Racism Savings Time": Trayvon Martin Verdict Sets the Clock Back 60 Years

Nickie Phillips

Image

Acclaimed comic book writer Mark Waid summed up the frustration with last Saturday's verdict when he tweeted: "Remember, it's Racism Savings Time tonight. Don't forget to set your clock back 60 years before you go to bed." Thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets last night to demonstrate their outrage that Florida's criminal justice system could end up acquitting an armed vigilante who gunned down a black kid who was returning to his home from getting a snack at a convenience store. Demonstrators also amassed in Los Angeles, D.C. and Oakland.  They are asking, who or what is to blame?  The jury?  The prosecutors? The judge?  "Stand your ground" laws?   A racist system?  A racist society?  As one demonstrator summed it up, anyone who cares about social justice knows that the wrong verdict was reached for whatever reason.

But reasons matter.  If something is broken, the fix, however difficult, must confront the reality of the problem. Here are some notable takes on why Zimmerman was acquitted and what it means for American criminal justice and society in general.

  • CNN weighs in saying that the prosecution's case was weak in a number of ways, including over-charging the defendant in the first place. The prosecutors, then, used poor discretion.
  • USA Today opines that the defense failed to refute the Zimmerman's self-defense claim adequately, suggesting they missed an opportunity to paint the picture of racism-based vigilantism that was operating in the situation.
  • One can question whether a mostly white and all female jury could truly understand the social reality of being a black male teenager.  Dr. Delores Jones-Brown has documented the "symbolic assailant" assumption that people often paste onto young black men regardless of their actual individual behavior. In this case, Trayvon, the vicitim, was under suspicion, made all the more easy by stereotypes about young black men as perpetrators.
  • Andrew Cohen in the Atlantic and Common Dreams write that the problem is Florida's Stand Your Ground laws (Cohen: "You can go looking for trouble in Florida, with a gun and a great deal of racial bias, and you can find that trouble, and you can act upon that trouble in a way that leaves a young man dead, and none of it guarantees that you will be convicted of a crime.")
  • The Martin's family attorney says that Trayvon Martin is a symbol of unequal justice in America, along with Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, suggesting that the court failed to provide justice given the context of continued American racism in the minds of criminal justice actors and/or the system itself. (Sadly, in the same press conference, Zimmerman's attorney rolled out reverse racism in suggesting that Zimmerman was vilified because he wasn't black.)
  • Gawker and Racism Review reminded us before the verdict that some media engaged in a racism smear campaign that attempted to discredit Trayvon Martin as a victim; some of these attitudes may have made their way to the courtroom or been in jurors' minds.
  • The genuine, heartfelt reactions of demonstrators say it best here; The criminal justice system just isn't in line with the present-day social justice concerns of Americans.

Crimcast takes issue with State Attorney General Angela Corey's statement that criminal justice should only take place in a courtroom and that people should refrain from having opinions on the Trayvon Martin case and its verdict.  Criminal justice takes place everywhere-- in courts but also online and in movies and on television and in schools and in one's imagination-- and it is a part of public life in a democracy.  We find Corey's appeal, which privileges alleged technical and legal competency, tragically forgets that the criminal justice system must work for the American people.  It does not exist in a vacuum.  It is a system that absolutely must be up for commentary.  Whereas we agree that the court is the formal place for justice, and that it should be respected as an institution aimed at actualizing the rule of law, we also believe that its meaning in the context of the issues of the day and whether it is working is always up for debate.  Participating in a democracy fundamentally means that none of its institutions or actors should be beyond opinion-making-- even when those opinions are critical or uncomfortable.  And progressive criminologists in particular should not be silent in doing newsmaking criminology.

Comment below or email us (crimcast@gmail.com) if you have found a response to the verdict that is particularly good at uncovering why it happened and what it means.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Nickie Phillips

Get tickets for the Human Rights Watch film festival here. Go here for a schedule of all the films showing at the NYC festival. "Anita" is sold out, but tickets remain for other shows.

Born this Way trailer


Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer trailer


99% The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film trailer


An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story


Prosecuting the Big Fish: A Brief Comparison of Organized Crime Laws in the United States and Italy

Nickie Phillips

mafia_loans

Guest post by Katie Kikendall

Despite a reputation as an antiquated concept, organized crime is still prevalent in society today. The FBI elaborates on its depth and reach, asserting that, “Organized crime comes at us from every corner of the globe.” In fact, it has diversified in its scope and activities in ways much more sophisticated than the roaring twenties era concept. In line with its growth have been policy and law enforcement efforts to stem and reduce this spread. Organized crime poses a threat to nation states in both social and economic aspects. Some of the activities it still oversees includes gambling, loan sharking, money laundering, waste hauling, and drug trafficking. Of particular relevance for legislation is an examination of Article 416-bisin Italy, and the United State’s favored legislation against organized crime, RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. Despite the success that both have had in their respective countries, RICO has been more effective in targeting organized crime than Article 416-bis.

The Italian Law Collection at the Library of Congress (http://blogs.loc.gov/law/2012/03/a-visit-to-the-italian-law-collection-pic-of-the-week/)

In defining Organized Crime, Turone (2006) points out that, “Italian case law requires for the criminal association to be more durable and complex than that implied by the UN convention” (p.48) Contrast this definition to that of the United States, where there is not currently one statutory definition of organized crime. In fact, RICO legislation tends to describe, and consequently criminalize, the activities of organized crime members more than the association with the group. In terms of definition, Italy’s more strict requirements differentiate it from international standards and may make it more difficult to prosecute transnational organizations.

In addition to the differences in definitions, the burden of proof required for individuals to be convicted under Article 416-bis and RICO are different. Under 416, witnesses are unnecessary and “prosecution is based upon relating the crimes committed to the documentation of the economic and financial operations carried out by Mafia members” (Scotti, 2002, p.160) This accounts for a lighter burden of proof than RICO. In addition to requiring the establishment of an enterprise, RICO cases must also establish a pattern of racketeering activity, where, “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years” [RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5) (1976)], as well as an additional act beyond this pattern established, for example, investment in said enterprise. This higher burden of proof has allowed prosecutors in the United States to indict those with a higher stake in organized crime, for example bosses and capos, rather than risk just punishing replaceable soldiers. In terms of punishment Article 416-bis provide for mandatory sentencing, but at less length of imprisonment than those mandated by the United States. This length of mandatory sentencing in the United States has meant it keeps higher ranking individuals out of the enterprise for longer, once again, attacking the scaffolding of these enterprises.

Both Article 416-bis and RICO have enjoyed successes in their respective countries, however, RICO has been more effective at reducing organized crime due to its ability to target the higher ranking members of the organization. It is important for countries to have effective legislation and policy in place so that they may effectively address organized crime, not only in the realm of the traditional mafia, but also, looking forward, in terms of white collar crime, Asian-based organized crime, as well as terrorist  networks.

Katie

Katie Kikendall is a current graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the International Crime and Justice Program. She earned her B.A. in Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. Her specific areas of interest include organized crime and terrorism.

The Curious Case of the Criminal Cookie Monster

Nickie Phillips

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The incident involving Cookie Monster shoving a little boy in Times Square has led to proposed legislation to regulate, if not ban, persons dressed in costumes in New York City.

The “cookie monster” was arrested and charged with assault, child endangerment and aggressive begging. He denied the charges and is due back in court on May 1.

As a result of this (and other incidents), city Councilman Peter Vallone is attempting to regulate, or ban altogether, persons dressed in costumes. AM New York reports that Vallone supports the move because the aggressive and offensive behavior "could ruin Times Square’s image as a safe place for tourists and New Yorkers.”

While not a particularly lucrative job, those in costumes, many of whom are immigrants, are trying to make a living. While accepting a tip is not illegal, assault certainly is. But what is the true connection between the costume and the crime? Certainly something can be worked out here so that all the law-abiding Cookie Monsters can continue on. Not to mention that proposing a ban on costumed characters brings up serious First Amendment issues.

Bleeding Cool asks the obvious: What does this mean for Comic Con? Will Superman and Green Lantern be arrested on their way to the Javits Center? Defending Sesame Street characters just might be a job for Captain America.