Counter-terrorism is now a permanent and sprawling part of the legislative and operational apparatus of the state, yet little is known about the law and practice of how it is reviewed, how effective the review mechanisms are, what impact they have or how they interact with one another.
This book addresses that gap in knowledge by presenting the first comprehensive, critical analysis of counter-terrorism review in the United Kingdom, informed by exclusive interviews with policy makers, politicians, practitioners and civil society.
This chapter contains a characterisation of the UK as a counter-terrorist state, tracing its historical development and the processes through which counter-terrorism has become permanent in this jurisdiction. Alongside this permanence, the chapter shows how counter-terrorism pervades a wide range of fields, beyond policing and security, extending both the range of actors responsible for counter-terrorism and those subject to the state’s counter-terrorist gaze. In spite of some marginal disagreement around counter-terrorism law and policy, the chapter shows that UK politics is marked by a hegemonic consensus on the counter-terrorist state’s core propositions. Finally, the chapter shows that the counter-terrorist state is also reflected in the emergence and the stabilisation, through law, of at least some forms of counter-terrorism review, illustrating the potential for counter-terrorism review to reinforce and legitimate the counter-terrorist state.
This chapter presents an in-depth analysis of the (statutory and non-statutory) reviews that are possible in respect of two key parts of counter-terrorism: Prevent, and Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs). In addition to describing the counter-terrorism review assemblage that attaches to Prevent and TPIMs, the chapter also identifies the reviews that have been undertaken over the five-year period from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2018. For each of these, it includes a consideration of the standards against which these reviews evaluated the law or programme, identified by close textual analysis of the reviews themselves. This analysis shows that, in spite of the persistent reliance on review as a safeguard in counter-terrorism legislation, Parliament’s historical tendency not robustly to challenge security narratives from Government is remarkably resilient. While these mandated reviews do take place (and non-mandated or discretionary reviews seem to be less frequent), their success in evaluating the measures, engaging in reality, and showing capacity for action is questionable.
This chapter presents a thematic analysis of 24 interviews with actors we identified as undertaking, participating in, or interacting with counter-terrorism review, including former Home Secretaries, former Independent Reviewers of Terrorism Legislation, high-level political actors, representatives of regulators and complaints bodies, civil servants, lawyers, and representatives from a range of civil society organisations. The chapter considers this data across five themes: (i) the purposes of review, (ii) how those purposes are pursued in practice, (iii) the values that underpin review, (iv) how the different elements of the counter-terrorism review assemblage relate to one another, and (v) the impact of review.
Although counter-terrorism review often works well in the United Kingdom, challenges to realising the accountability potential of counter-terrorism review persist. In large part, those challenges reflect the persistence of exceptionalist thinking within the counter-terrorist state. This chapter zooms out from the detailed accounts given in Chapters 2 and 3 to problematise counter-terrorism review from the perspective of accountability. In doing so it dwells on four persistent challenges that emerge from the analysis of counter-terrorism review: the secret state, the abundance of executive control, the limitations of Parliament, and the absence of trust. These challenges have a serious impact on counter-terrorism review but, to a large extent, this chapter argues that their resolution may be beyond the reach of the assemblage itself.
This concluding chapter argues that, notwithstanding the successes of counter-terrorism review, the counter-terrorist state is not characterised by a commitment to meaningful accountability through evaluative counter-terrorism review. It argues that meaningful accountability requires a commitment to evaluation, to the diversification of evidence, to hearing and recognising the importance of communities’ experiences of the unintended social and security impacts of counter-terrorism, and to the possibility of change. These commitments are not yet in evidence, and without them the chapter argues the counter-terrorist state struggles to establish liberal democratic legitimacy. Such a shift would require the state to recognise that counter-terrorism is now an ordinary state of affairs and that, as a result, the state can no longer appeal to ‘the exception’ in the attempt to exempt itself from our ordinary constitutional expectations when taking steps to combat terrorism. Instead, the conclusion argues, it must inculcate a culture of justification in counter-terrorism that is based not only on bare claims of necessity, but on arguments of legitimacy, legality, long- and short-term effectiveness, rights-respectfulness, and openness to challenge.
This chapter outlines the core argument of the book and the methodological approach to the research. It develops the concept of counter-terrorism review as legal, political, and policy processes that consider the application and impacts of counter-terrorism law and policy in theory as well as in practice, with a view to assessing its merits and contributing towards its improvement. It also establishes the importance of considering counter-terrorism review as a distinct phenomenon with the potential either to legitimate or to enhance accountability in the contemporary counter-terrorist state.