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This blog article was originally posted on the Subrosa blog and has been reblogged here with permission.
When I present or deliver a report to clients or to an audience of any description I usually start of by defining the topic. I do that to ensure that everyone present is clear on the topic and understands where I’m coming from during the presentation itself. You may also do the same thing, lots of people do.
So with that in mind I’ll now provide a definition of “terrorism” from Dictionary.com “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”.
The Oxford Dictionary Online defines it as “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”.
However, it’s not that simple. There is no agreed international definition of terrorism. Terrorism Research provides a lot more information on Terrorism if you feel inclined to know more.
Terrorism is an uncomfortable subject not least because terrorist acts are deeply shocking and morally wrong, that is as morally wrong as morally wrong as can be. We tend to think of 9/11, 7/7, Omagh, etc. and most recently Norway when we think of terrorist attacks. A further problem with terrorism however, is that someone terrorist is someone elses freedom fighter and harder to stomach potentially, someone’s terrorist becomes someone’s very senior government minister.
The nature of terrorism is to attack innocent people and finally, you’ll be pleased to hear, we come to the subject of this blog article. Simply put, Governments have a core responsibility to protect the populace they represent. How they respond to terrorist threats has become something of a difficulty for them however, as we are all too well aware.
The conundrum is how to protect the populace without infringing basic rights and imposing reactive solutions, which prove to be, shall we say, less productive as originally planned or intended. Guns have been removed significantly from our society and knife carrying is increasingly attracting more serious penalties. This is a good thing. The criminals also think it is a good thing since there is much less chance that a law abiding person will carry either a gun or a knife. Not that we want people doing either so how does the government assess cause and effect? I don’t think they actually do or if they do they follow the logic trail.
Airports tend to be the places at which we come face to face with these intended security features. How many airports do you regularly travel from? Do all of the airports you use have the same security requirements, which you have to meet? That’ll be a no.
A trip to London for me, when I use planes and I do tend to avoid them to be honest, is dependent on cost and can mean I travel through three airports. Which might include any three from Edinburgh, Gatwick, Heathrow or London City. They all have different procedures. The security requirements require shoes off or not off, same with belts, laptop out of carry bag or not. Next, I ping sometimes when I go through the metal detector thingy even when I wear exactly the same things as I did when it didn’t. Are these examples familiar to you? This is annoying but we all comply on the basis that it helps make flying safer for us all.
There is a flaw in this however. The security requirements are based on responses to terrorist attempts, which were or were not successful. We aren’t really being protected from new threats are we? The security forces seem to do a good job rooting out terrorist cells but as the IRA said after the Brighton bombing “you have to be lucky all the time, we only have to be lucky once.”
The latest moves to increase security, especially at Heathrow, is to request people go through full body scanners if the security people aren’t satisfied following swabbing hand luggage, scanning, pat down or individual wand scanning. Also bear in mind that they have also developed profiling which on the face it should be a major step forward. The evidence I’ve seen with my own eyes is that people singled out for higher security attention does not fit the profile of any terrorist we have seen pictures off on TV and in the newspapers. Unless of course middle-aged ladies, older men and teenage boys have been blowing up planes and the MSM have been keeping that very quiet. The Israelis use profiling to good effect, which has protected them to a high degree.
There is a need to have security at airports and for us all actively support this. However, our individual rights should not be eroded without sufficient justification and controls.
We should not be exploited because the rules imposed provide an opportunity for some people to make money. (Airport drop off charges and liquid controls which increase the likelihood that passengers buy drinks, make-up etc at prices higher than they would elsewhere).
The use of all security requirements should be subject to strict controls and based in laws, which our MPs have at least voted for. Horrifyingly, the use of full body scanners are subject to Department of Transport guidance only, which cannot be viewed in their entirety. The reason being that they may expose security operational aspects, which may be useful to potential terrorists. There is no opt out as there is in the USA. Be scanned or you will not be allowed on the flight.
You may have read articles based on the potential implications following the Norwegian attack. They may contain claims that the Police and security services may become more interested in people who express views of government which are critical, do not support big government or suggest radical change is required. Convenient?
The erosion of our rights should not be an option and we should not allow it to happen.