Rezension: Security, Surveillance and Terror

Rezension: zusammen mit Criminologia-LogoKopie

Randy K. Lippert, Kevin Walby, Ian Warren, and Darran Palmer: National Security, Surveillance and Terror: Canada and Australia in Comparative Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

von Minas Samatas, University of Crete.

Canada and Australia are traditional close allies with the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (USA), sharing both similar socio-economic histories and links to the Commonwealth and common law traditions. Since the post-World War II period Canada and Australia together with New Zealand, the UK and the USA are the five parties of the Western intelligence alliance, known as “Five Eyes” (FVEY). During the cold war FVEY developed the ECHELON surveillance system to monitor the communications of the Soviet bloc, and after its fall it is used to monitor communications worldwide. Since the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the USA and the ongoing War on Terror, the FVEY further expanded their capabilities, for global surveillance, i.e, supranational mass surveillance of entire populations across national borders, including monitoring the World Wide Web, as it was revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. Yet, after the terror- related shootings in both Canada and Australia in 2014, they agreed to become members in a coalition of nine countries to fight against ISIS militarily and financially in Iraq and Syria. Hence, Canada and Australia, two major affluent Western capitalist democracies have built serious security and surveillance apparatuses, reinforcing their national security, closely coordinated with each other and with their allies’ fight on the War on Terror.

What are the similarities and differences on the critical issues of national security and surveillance against terrorism between Canada and Australia and their major allies, UK and USA, which play the leading anti-terrorist role? Answers to these questions are given by the edited volume National Security, Surveillance and Terror: Canada and Australia in Comparative Perspective. This volume explores in a comparative and multidisciplinary way “the complexity of national security and surveillance practices, policies and laws, in the early twenty-first century, …bringing together empirical research by criminologists, sociologists , political scientists, legal and other scholars, investigating these issues and raising conceptual questions about the relationship among governments, police and security agencies, and citizens in these two major Western jurisdictions”(p 2). Although the editors make clear that “national security is the primary organising concept of the volume” (p 3), surveillance and terror policing are key themes in this volume. Surveillance, studied as part of power structures, political forces and social relations, is a crucial element of enhancing government security practices, as well as a challenge to civil liberties in both Canada and Australia (p 4).

The volume is a collection of 14 chapters organised in three sections. The first section offers 4 chapters that elaborate on legal approaches to analysis of national security and terror laws in Canada and Australia. The second section includes 4 empirical driven chapters on national security, surveillance, and terror policing in both countries. The third section comprises of chapters that focus on the issues of dilemmas of national security, surveillance and emergency management, including crucial issues like accountability, transparency, privacy, ethics, legitimacy.

The first chapter “Interrogating National Security, Surveillance, and Terror in Canada and Australia” by the editors K. Walby, R.K.Lippert, I.Warren, and D. Palmer is the most useful and informative chapter as it provides a very comprehensive introduction to the comparative volume, its rationales and context about national security, surveillance and terror in both Canada and Australia; it also describes contributions and concludes with an overview of the volume.

The second chapter is entitled “One Warrant to Rule Them All: Reconsidering the Judicialisation of Extraterritorial Intelligence Collection” by Craig Forcese. He explores the role and jurisdiction of Canada’s two chief intelligence services, He underlines the problematic issue of extraterritorial surveillance activities that impact on Canadian citizens located or communicating with other people outside of Canada, Forcese proposes several remedies for the growing incoherence in spying laws in all Five Eye jurisdictions.

Patrick Walsh in the 3rd chapter entitled “Australian National Security Intelligence Collection Since 9/11: Policy and Legislative Challenges” examines both policy and counter-terrorism legislative landmarks underpinning intelligence collection since 9/11, and the many challenges Australian agencies have faced managing policy and legislative reform.

The fourth chapter by Richard Jochelson and Mark Doerksen deals with “The Supreme Court of Canada Presents: The Surveillant Charter and the Judicial Creation of Police Powers in Canada”. Using the notion of “surveillant assemblage,” (Haggerty and Ericson 2000) they argue that deployment of this charter of surveillance is opposed to a Charter of Freedoms in Canada.

“Assemblage, Counter-Law and the Legal Architecture of Australian Covert Surveillance” by Brendon Murphy and John Anderson is the fifth chapter that explores the Australian legal architecture of surveillance practices by state and private actors.

The following Part II contains five empirical case studies on national security, surveillance, border security and terrorism in Canada and Australia. David Brooks, Jeffery CorKill, and Michael Coole are the authors of sixth chapter, entitled “The Australian Security Continuum: National and Corporate Security Gaps from a Surveillance Language Perspective.” They present the concept of surveillance as embedded into the Australian security continuum, arguing there are still significant and challenging gaps in surveillance capabilities and ultimately security.

“Securitising ‘National Interests’: Canadian Federal Government Departments, Corporate Security Creep, and Security Regimes” is the title of the seventh chapter by Kevin Walby, Randy K. Lippert, and James Gacek. This chapter explores how the two security domains (national and corporate) are increasingly fused in Canada at the federal level. The overlap between these realms is not limited to national security ‘responsibilising’ or activating private corporations to gather information. Instead the overlap is primarily in the organisation of these departments.

The 8th chapter is “The ‘Security of Security’: Making Up the Australian Intelligence Community 1975–2015” by Darren Palmer and Ian Warren, which traces the development of Australian national security policies since the mid-1970s as part of a strategy of security governance. The authors observe a self-legitimating cycle of security expansion, enhanced mass population surveillance and the increased circulation of information about citizen activity with fewer legal constraints, limiting the erosion of citizen rights.

Erin Gibbs Van Brunschot is the author of “Justifying Insecurity: Canada’s Response to Terrorist Threat Circa 2015,” that is the ninth and last chapter of Part II. The author suggests much closer examination of cases that shape how political responses are framed, and more attention to the diversity of factors underpinning any act of violence, avoiding more simplistic explanations.

The tenth chapter and first of Part III is entitled “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Law Enforcement in Australia and Canada: Governance Through ‘Privacy’ in an Era of Counter-Law?” by Adam Molnar and Christopher Parsons. They compare Australian and Canadian government attempts to regulate aerial surveillance technology and provide an interesting window into how UAV surveillance are enabled and constrained by factors beyond the conventional purview of national security and law enforcement activities.

Anna Pratt is the author of the eleventh chapter which examines “The Canada–US Shiprider Programme” that was created in 2005 to respond to criminality and security concerns along the shared maritime border by removing the international maritime boundary as an obstacle to law enforcement. The author underscores that when more than two nations are relevant to what happens in maritime security the notion of national security is complicated.

“Intelligence and National Security: Australian Dilemmas Post-9/11” by David Martin Jones, is chapter twelve. The pursuit of national security has exposed a paradox at the core of Australian democracy, namely, that political freedom might entail proscribing those dedicated to subverting it by violent means. This chapter explores this paradox.

Chapter 13 is “The Day the Border Died? The Canadian Border as Checkpoint in an Age of Hemispheric Security and Surveillance” by Benjamin J. Muller, who considers to what extent there is still something we can meaningfully refer to as the Canadian border. Rather than suggest we have arrived at a neoliberal borderless dreamscape, he asks whether the Canadian border has become more analogous to the prolific interior checkpoints that exist within 100 miles of the US border.

The final chapter 14 by Tia Dafnos, Scott Thompson, and Martin Fench is entitled “Surveillance and the Colonial Dream: Canada’s Surveillance of Indigenous Self-Determination.” This chapter argues that the self-determining status of Indigenous peoples represents a challenge to claims of Canadian sovereignty. Within this paradigm, assertions of Indigenous self-determination and jurisdiction are commonly conceptualised in the post-9/11 era as threats to critical infrastructure, and are now integrated into the emergency management paradigm of national security.

The above brief excerpts illustrate the rich variety of topics which are critically investigated on one or the other country. Very few chapters e.g. the one by Craig Forcese, Patrick Walsh and Adam Molnar address and compare issues in both countries. Although the editors did not provide parallel comparative chapters for each specific topic in the two countries, they have tried to fill this gap with very concise introductions in the volume and sections. These introductory essays are very helpful for the reader, however, parallel comparisons in serious pertinent issues in the two countries are missing , for instance a comparative chapter for the surveillance of Indigenous people in Australia, Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers in both countries. Also, the volume is not giving direct answers to the question which one country, Canada or Australia, is more efficient in protecting of both national security and civil liberties. It is clearly depicted that Canada and Australia, two great democratic societies under the impact of post 9/11 securitization, consider the primacy of security against terrorism as prevailing over all rights and liberties, and promoting the privatization of several sectors of national security. These countriese not just transforming into surveillance societies, but they also risking to become illiberal democracies. The post 9/11 intensification of national security and surveillance practices continue to this day under a perpetuation of state of exception (Agamben, 2008). There is an overt impact on border politics (Muller in the volume), immigration and expansion of mass surveillance within countries, tracking all citizens communications and also populations abroad, around the world.

Although Canada follows the general trend of expanding surveillance, making citizen’s lives transparent (Bennet et al 2014), it seems to act more sensitive to protect Canadian citizens and democracy. Because in Canada many ordinary citizens, academics and the Privacy Commissioner express a vivid civil society resistance to privacy and civil liberties violations. Hence, the liberal Trudeau’s government has promised more oversight of the security agencies. On the contrary, there is no such resistance in Australia, which is still one of the most aggressive states for mass surveillance, not just to its own citizens, but on global scale, subcontracting the US- NSA, as Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have revealed.

Overall, the edited volume National Security, Surveillance and Terror: Canada and Australia in Comparative Perspective, is a valuable collection of comprehensive chapters and explanatory introductory essays that provide critical analysis of these crucial topics in these two great Western nations. It is enriching the dialogue on national security vis a vis freedom and terror, and the difficult challenge of contemporary surveillance societies to cope with various threats, preserving at the same time human rights and democracy in the twenty-first century, which started with 9/11.


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Minas Samatas, University of Crete,