Terrorism as a Law-Enforcement Challenge

(This is a current extract from the Patterns of Power Repository.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition02/5251.htm)

Terrorism has created a new law-enforcement challenge.  The danger to life and limb has caused the emphasis to be placed upon prevention, so considerable resources have been made available, but sometimes the threat exceeds the capacity of the Legal Dimension and spills over into an armed struggle that is classified in this book as a State’s use of Self-Protection (7.2.6).  New techniques in intelligence have been deployed, including electronic surveillance, which have been seen as a threat to the civil liberties of the population as a whole – though many people find such measures acceptable because they feel that safety is more important.[1]  The emergence of global terrorism networks has also increased the need for police to cooperate across national boundaries, as described later in this chapter (5.3.4).

Although terrorists, by definition, use unpleasant techniques, this does not mean that the police have a right to be equally unpleasant.  The role of police is to protect society, not to be a threat, so it is appropriate that the police are subject to the rule of law and that they respect people’s rights.  Police breaches of the law, including torture, are treated in this book as violent abuses of institutional power that leave people with no alternative but to protect themselves by any means available to them.  It is unwise to provoke the population to have to protect itself against its own government ( because the outcome is unpredictable.

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014                                                 

[1] The Economist reviewed the issue of surveillance, in an article which was subtitled Secrets, lies and America’s spies; it was published on 15 June 2013 and was available in May 2014 at http://www.economist.com/node/21579455.