We should prize freedom over security and abolish anti-terrorism legislation
Last updated: March 2, 2017
“Calling rose by another name does not change its beauty neither smell”… There are quite a few differences between the events in Germany on February 27, 1933, and in the US on September 11, 2001. Where do these fundamental differences arise from? From where else than from the importance of how we call things. In the latter case, the name of the building which burned was not Reichstag, but World Trade Center. The threat signaled by that was not called of Jewish but of Muslim origin. The place for keeping “dangerous” people was not called a concentration camp but the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The organization, which essentially was allowed everything for the purpose of national security, was not called SS, but FBI this time. The person widely associated with the events was not called the TIME Magazine's Man of the Year for 1938 – Adolf Hitler, but instead TIME Magazine's Person of the Year for 2000 – George W. Bush. Last but definitely not least, the “temporary” measures taken after were not called Law for Terminating the Suffering of People and Nation but THE PATRIOT Act.
On proposition’s side, we do not deny the threat of terrorism. We concede that the threat is very real. Nevertheless, we believe that current measures of countering terrorism are ill-considered and highly inappropriate. Broad discretionary power of enforcement agencies is incompatible with the acknowledgement of human rights and the general notion of human justice.
We are abolishing anti-terrorism legislation. We define it as legislation which gives broad discretionary power to enforcement agencies, denies basic safeguards (access to lawyers) and contains ambiguously defined offences, all with the purpose of explicitly countering terrorism. Namely, we are abolishing anti-terrorism legislations which implicitly promote detention without trial, denial to legal defense, denial to independent and impartial court and other measures which are incompatible with the rule of law. We are abolishing laws which allow government agencies to intercept communication freely and read mails of the citizens for the sake of fighting terrorists. To make everything even more clearly, an example of a standard document that we are abolishing is the USA PATRIOT Act.
Instead of using anti-terrorism legislation, terrorism shall be countered using the conventional measures to counter other public offences, relying on standard criminal procedures to punish terrorists. The underlying premise of our case is that extraordinary measures are not needed to counter terrorism, because of the harms that these extra measures create by undermining democracies (and their efficiency is doubtful).
The first point that Opposition wish to raise in this against the Proposition case is one of practicality. Let it be noted that the Proposition concede from the outset the threat that terrorism poses. We on the Proposition would qualify the threat of terrorism as one that has the capability to not only place those in a nation in a mindset of fear, which prevents them from acting ‘freely’, but the possibility that a group of people who wish to antagonise the state shall come together to exercise another event similar to the devastating proportion of 9/11.
The Proposition and Opposition also agree that the purpose of anti-terrorism legislation is to combat the threat of terrorism. However, the Proposition does not seem to explicitly state the grounds upon which they doubt the legislation’s efficacy, but instead use the supposed breach to “human justice” the anti-terrorism legislation commits as grounds to adopt the method of countering the threat of terrorism through “standard criminal procedures to punish terrorists”.
The Opposition hope that the Proposition does not wish to suggest that any punishment delivered through current judicial systems could in fact compensate for the onslaught an actualised threat of terror would entail. It should surely be accepted that the optimal way to deal with terror threats is to make sure that the threats do not actually turn into action, and this is what qualifies anti-terrorism legislation, a means to preventing a dreaded end.
Anti-terrorism legislation undermines democracies
It was exactly why after the Second World War, in the shadow of massive crimes for humanity, an obvious realization came into the minds of people. It was appreciated that certain rights have to be protected no matter what, because these rights are so fundamental to the functioning of free and democratic societies that, once neglected, they undermine democracies. Bearing in mind the ideas of the Enlightenment and general human justice, documents as Universal Declaration of Human Rights were adopted. It promotes the ideas that all people are equal and should be treated so, under no circumstances they could be subject to inhumane treatment. Implicitly the document puts quite strong limitations on the state and safeguards for its citizens.
For instance, we allow people to choose whoever they want to be and to have an identity, because the fact that they have these freedoms is valuable in and of itself. We allow them to keep the facts that they regularly browse gay pornography, read Mein Kampf for leisure or are interested in contemporary life of Kurdish people. We allow all these things, because it is an expression of our general values which tell us that people are free and we cannot restrict their liberties unless they violate the liberties of the others. Moreover, we allow them to keep these facts for themselves as the very feeling of being in control of your personal zone is what is fundamental for the right to privacy, and, in the broader sense, the freedom to live.
Once anti-terrorism legislation kicks in, the implicit relationship between government and people is violated. By allowing interception, widespread tracking of public records, unfair legal treatment, we erase the trust between citizens and the government. When all your library patrons can be seized and all your browsing logs checked just on a claim that they are relevant to intelligence information, we do not see this respecting human privacy and dignity. Previous examples have shown us that governments are prone to abuse human rights when given excessive power. The powers, which anti-terrorist legislation gives to the state, effectively undermine democracies and human rights.
However, we would guess that Prop are taking ‘democracy’ to mean the extent to which a citizen (one who is governed by a legislating body) is able to control their agency and the exact realms of that agency. Within ‘democracy’, Prop wish to establish the existence certain rights (realms of agency that are supposedly incontestable) such as “the right to privacy”, and the right to “identity”. Firstly, the Opposition would ask the Proposition to elucidate for us to what extent the nature of personal identity is threatened under anti-terror legislation.
Having the government know whether you use the internet to such gay pornography is not the same as having your mother know you are doing so. Being in the knowledge that the government knows would probably not cause you to change your behaviour, unless what you were doing was something that was discredited on a public scale, such as racism.
Secondly, one right we feel that they missed off their list is the familiar one of “free speech”. However, just as we don’t see “free speech” as an absolute (we recognises areas in which this freedom or ‘right’ is curtailed) there are times when the “right to privacy” must be curtailed, and this is no large leap. For example, companies often have to publicly publish their accounts to deter fraud. The difference is that today, unlike in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia, people are free to take part in debates (such as the one both Prop and Opp are currently engaged in) on the government’s jurisdiction to infringe on civil liberty and make appeals to the government if they do believe the government has overstepped their jurisdiction.
We would argue, as Opp Side will elaborate on below, that as there are greater safeguards against the infringement on our (the citizen’s) liberty by the governing body than a terrorist body, safeguards which include our freedom to debate and our system of voting.
The Opposition take note that it is the “powers” (the definition of which could also have been clarified), that the state have been granted which the Proposition find contentious, and it is the grounds on which they find this contentious we shall go on to explore.
Anti-terrorism legislation promotes abuse of the state
Now once we established the mechanism, let’s take a look at how that happens in real life, if happens at all.
Sri Lanka adopted Provision of Temporary Act in 1979 which is an anti-terrorist legislation[[http://www.tamilnation.org/srilankalaws/79pta.htm]]. Does it give any substantial powers to the state? Well, for instance, we think that the rights of police officers to arrest any person, search any premises, stop and search any vehicle and seize any personal belongings WITHOUT ANY WARRANT speak for themselves. This is merely one article from the whole legislation which extensively violates the concept of human justice as we imagine it nowadays. It should not come as a big surprise that legislation was followed by decades of substantial human right violations by the state. Torturing with burning cigarettes, depriving of food and sleep, using iron rods to humiliate and inflict strong pain is a proven record in the prisons of Sri Lanka[[http://www.tamilnation.org/saty/9806torture.htm]]. Scholars conclude that “draconian measures taken by Sri Lanka have only enhanced the cycle of violence, leading to the destruction of the social and political fabric of a democratic society.”[[Radhika Coomaraswamy and Charmaine de los Reyes, “Rule by Emergency: Sri Lanka’s Post Colonial Constitutional Experience”, in International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol.2, No. 2, April 2004, p. 272.]]
But the government can easily ensure that bad things do not happen by enacting appropriate provisions, right? It seems that reality is just so much more complicated. Sri Lanka adopted Torture Act in 1994 which was supposed to solve the problem. The result is enormous amounts of indictments and only three (!) convictions over 13 years with torture and human right abuses as prominent as before[[http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24457]].
But these are very bad people who are tortured, no? Terrorist and Disruptive
Activities Act was established in 1987 in India. It appears that under the act 77,550 persons had been arrested. 8000 of them had been tried and 725 actually convicted until the Act was abolished in 1995[[Assessing Damage, Urging Action. Report of the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Human Rights.]]. It does not take a genius to figure out that with this proportion of arrested to convicted people (more than 100-1); most of the people arrested had no relation to terrorism whatsoever. But the arbitrary nature of the Act allowed numerous violations of human rights; something you would normally expect when for questioning the sovereignty of India you can be imprisoned for life[[http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/document/actandordinances/Tada.htm#4]].
Now obviously these are evil and corrupt countries and this would not happen in countries with strong democratic traditions? The assertion does not ring true taking into account recent developments. The example of Guantanamo Bay detention camp is well known[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Bay_detention_camp]]. Despite the strong traditions of liberty and protection of human dignity, the government of the United States seems to be generally supportive of the inhumane actions in Guantanamo Bay detention camp. It is most definitely not the case that anti-terrorism legislation is something that has a marginal impact on our everyday life. We see cases of public abuse again and again. A 16-year-old boy not only taken away from his home in Indiana and having his belongings seized, but also being held by FBI for months is quite an example of the extraordinary power the anti-terrorism legislation gives to enforcing agencies[[http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=97099]]. When 12-year-old kid researches information about the Bay Bridge, FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force arrive to the school[[http://www.prisonplanet.com/211003boyinvestigated.html]]. The evidence that the state actually abuses its powers is abundant. In these cases, the anti-terrorism legislation once again strikes back against us when it just allows enforcement agencies to violate human rights and disrespect fundamental human dignity.
Therefore we look to understand when the legislation is used inappropriately. This is when the government exercises the searching of mail or the prolonged detention of an individual about whom there is not sufficient evidence to qualify as a terror threat, the case of Sri Lanka brought up by Prop to illustrate this. The rebuttal of this point is substantiated in the rebuttal below, where the Prop moves on to the explicit idea that discrimination in its entirety is in conflict with 'human equality', which is the implicit idea of this point.
Anti-terrorism legislation indirectly evokes terrorism
What does this imply? Intelligence agencies, given broad powers by anti-terrorist legislation (unlimited detention, etc.), will effectively discriminate against a certain group of people. This has two undesirable implications.
First, it is incompatible with every treaty of human rights that is usually recognized in our society. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights postulates that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”. We do not think that in this debate we have to prove this truism. We think that any reasonable person would agree with the notion. Taking into account the wide discretionary powers anti-terrorism legislation gives for the state, it will eventually result in suppression and discrimination of minorities when they are considered a cause of terrorism. We see the fundamental principle of equality breached here.
Second, it will have broader negative implications. The discrimination will send a message to these communities, and not a very positive one. The image that will be instilled in the minds of these people will be something among these lines: “They are the ones who discriminate us for no reasons; they are the ones who treat us inhumanely”. Once we separate the society into US and THEM, we cannot expect them to act so kindly towards us. Obviously we can expect some kind of retaliation from the people we treated poorly. So for instance, when Muslims are being tortured in Guantanamo, it sends quite a message to all Muslim community, and not a friendly one. It just gives another reason to hate the Western world. Empirical evidence supporting our case is extensive. Scholars find that the penitentiary system tends to punish most vulnerable social groups[[MONCLÚS MASÓ, Marta (2005) La gestión penal de la inmigración. [Tesis Doctoral] Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona.]]. Evidence from immigration policies portray the unpleasant picture: immigrants are usually discriminated, with longer detention rates and other discriminatory measures targeted at them[[Cristina Fernández, Alejandra Manavella and José María Ortuño. The effects of exceptional legislation on criminalization of immigrants and people suspected of terrorism.]]. Such separation does not necessarily have to be among citizens of different countries – we can see it arising from within States when they try to counter the internal terrorists.
To wrap up, anti-terrorist legislation implicitly promotes discrimination of minorities. This discrimination separates the societies and the repressed ones seek to retaliate. Abolishing anti-terrorist legislation will be a step towards closing the gap between us and them; it will be a signal that everyone should be treated equally and fairly.
The Proposition appears to deem the act of discrimination as wrong within itself. This is fallacious, as the act of discrimination itself is accepted on a day to day basis, for example only a man can use the men’s toilet facilities, we only disagree with discrimination when there is no justified criteria behind it. This refers to the denunciation of the marginalizing a faction of society upon no substantial fact or reason, the bit which we believe relevant to the debate.
Therefore, in terms of efficiently seeking out terror suspects, some criteria must be adopted. However, if we understand that due to the nature of the abilities anti-terror legislation gives a government, we must either accept living with the infringement of certain 'rights' or having to live without the legislation entirely, we may understand that the trade off may work in favour of the legislation existing.
The paper to which the Proposition refers on how “the penitentiary system tends to punish most vulnerable social groups” uses the example of illegal immigrants, not people of different races. An analysis of this situation shows that as nations tend to see the LEGAL movement of a foreign citizen into your state as an acknowledgement and regard of the laws of that state, it is no wonder that the manifestation of those laws, the judicial system, often seeks out those who have moved into a nation ILLEGALLY.
A second, different, point the Opposition look to rebut is the one that anti-terror legislation provokes terrorism as it is the nature of bodies exercising the legislation to target certain groups with it, and these targeted groups will go on to become the terror threat we oppose. Now the Proposition refute this not only on the basis that in order for the terror legislation to have been instigated, there must have already been present a large enough terror threat (ie a threat not constituted by those who reacted in anger to the legislation) but on the basis that the legislation is probably not what the terrorists are fighting against. For, when was the last time Osama Bin Laden’s broadcast included “you know what really grinds my gears? The fact that the US government is filtering through my emails”? Instead he rouses resentment against the US through highlighting the US government’s support of Israel or its insistence through foreign policy towards as of yet unfounded hostility to Iran.
The marginalization of a faction of society is not conducted through anti-terror legislation, which does not explicitly target a section of society, but through propaganda, and aggressive foreign policy which does.
Anti-terrorism legislation is a paragon of vagueness
Unfortunately, there are many examples where governments do tailor the definition of terrorism to suit their agendas. Take the example of "Mothers of Beslan", an organization of victims of Beslan terror act. It was accused of extremism after criticizing the Russian government for inadequate handling of extreme situation[[http://www.siberianlight.net/mothers-of-beslan-victims-charged-with-extremism/]]. Take the case of Walter Wolfgang, who was thrown out of a political meeting for shouting "nonsense" at the foreign policy in Iraq. Under Section 44 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000 (that allows police to stop and search anyone without any need to show why) he was detained. Take the case of Saly Harpod who was detained (and later prosecuted) for buying medicine for her family [[http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/37212.html/]]. These are only a few examples when the anti-terrorism laws are used for anything but to prevent actual terrorism.
The threat of terror acts after 9/11 was promptly translated into lower standards for evidence. A man in diabetic coma, for instance, was shot by police officers just for looking suspicious [[http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article472087.ece]]. It is not only these examples that we find terrifying (you can find many more here [[http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/october2004/091004patriotact.htm]]), it is the overall tendency to restrict even more liberties under the clause of anti-terror that is particularly disturbing. Such things as glorification or public approval of terrorism acts, association with groups that may be considered as supporters of terrorist organizations are being outlawed. Anti-terrorist legislation, unfortunately, draws such a vague line that anything can be inferred as incitement of terrorism, for instance, even indirect encouragement when it "could reasonably be expected to infer what is being glorified" is in anti-terrorism legislation in the UK[[Section 1.3(b) of the UK Terrorism Act 2006.]]. Even a western democracy, Canada, in its Anti Terrorism Act prohibits "facilitation" of terrorist organizations regardless of whether they actually perform terror activities [[Canadian Anti Terrorism Act, Section 83.18 (1)]].
If laws are clearly defined, then law enforcing institutions can provide reasonable level of accountability, which is extremely important in forcing state to keep being benevolent to its citizens. The broad definition of terrorism gives very much power to the state and its enforcement agencies, leading to slippery slope when they start abusing their power in cases where ordinary criminal justice should be applied. We see this as very alarming.
In democratic countries, accountability still remains with anti-terrorist LEGISLATION as it does with all law. The clue is in the name. Take the recent case of Binyam Mohamed, prosecuted under a similar branch of law who took his case to court. The vagueness of the legislation is in place to allow for its use dependent on case of emergency, but there'sa single and very clear end- to prevent a terrorist attack. Accountability works retrospectively. It will usually be clear if the measures taken by a governement were proportional, to some extent based on outcome.
But propositions argument that vagueness makes it liable to be abused is weak on another ground. Governments who abuse liberties, will abuse liberties regardless of whether ther is legislation to allow them to do so or not. Such abuses as proposition depicts are a symptom of regime, not of the legislation they pass. They said:
'It has to be understood that sources of insecurity may not only be an external threat to the state. It may also be the threat to individuals stemming directly from the state in the form of unlawful actions. This is especially important in countries with little democratic traditions (like the Middle East and many African states) where anti-terrorism laws lead to torture, detention without trial, and discriminatory treatment of suspects. We also showed cases where abuse takes place in democratic countries. The bottom-line is that real security means being able to act, speak, move without fear. This fear increases once the government increases the restrictions of such freedoms."
But we need to draw a distinction between states 'with little democratic traditions' and mature democracies. The evidence they cite in the above paragraph attributes abuses of anti-terrorist legislation primarily to the former - this is not attributable to the legislation so much as the regimes which abuse it. Regimes like these, which habitually torture, discriminate, detain without trial etc. don't need to pass legislation to enable them to do so. And will continue to do so even if the legislation is repealed.
Criminal justice system should be used for countering terrorism
For instance, your neighbor works in the secret service. He is not a nice guy and does not like you, because once you slept with his wife. Being a smart and ingenious guy, he intercepts your conversations. Since in one of the conversations you explicitly denounce the government of your own country and say that it is no wonder that terrorists attack it, it is enough for him to tell to his friends in the secret service that you are a dangerous guy. Afterwards, you are detained in prison with no charges against you for two months.
Although our example is completely fictional, it can happen easily. We see absurd situations around us – we’ve given quite a lot of examples of them already, for instance, our story of 16-year-old boy fetched from home and detained for months fits well enough to illustrate the point.
It is most certainly not true that ordinary criminal justice system does not have the preventive capacity and would not help to prevent terrorist attacks. On the contrary, the system of criminal justice has a long record of successful investigations and prevention of terrorism. A comprehensive study finds out that in the US since late 1980's there were 135 terrorist prosecutions. It confirms that "that the federal courts have a proven track record of serving as an effective and credible system for prosecuting and incapacitating terrorists"[[http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/prosecute/]]. Scholars conclude that the greatest danger of terrorism is overreaction of democracies [[Kent Roach, The Criminal Law and Terrorism]]. In a detailed study of human rights and terrorism, it is found that anti-terrorism legislation pose a serious threat to human rights and democracies, as confirmed by witnesses from various countries: "(In Argentina) Legislation risked replicating the serious human rights violations of the past and that the existing criminal law was sufficient to address new terrorist threats. In Kenya too, the Panel was told that counter-terrorist laws, supported by western governments, may reverse important safeguards. In Northern Ireland, concerns were expressed that new UK-wide anti-terrorism legislation might hurt the process of political normalization underway"[[Assessing Damage, Urging Action. Report of the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Human Rights. p. 28]]. The same panel of jurists conclude that countries should rely on their criminal justice systems for countering terrorism.
The virtue of the criminal justice system is that it does not rely on completely discretionary power of enforcement agencies. It is subject to the checks and balances which are so fundamental in ensuring justice. It is false that if we abolish anti-terrorism legislation, suddenly we will no longer be able to have any preventive measures. Now intelligence agencies are able to intercept any conversation at their own discretion, whenever they want to. If we abolish the legislation, they will have to get approval of a judge for their interceptions. The judge in this case acts as an independent party which ensures that investigators do not abuse their powers. Hence, the criminal justice system is capable of a) countering terrorism, b) ensuring justice. It can be claimed falsely that criminal justice system is “not flexible enough for these circumstances”. We strongly reject accusations like this. It is not flexible enough, because it is *not supposed* to be flexible in the first place. It is not supposed to allow unlimited detention without any charges. It is not supposed to place the burden of proof on the detainee. It is not supposed to allow military courts in civil cases. It is supposed to have appropriate checks and balances which ensure that enforcement agencies do not abuse their power (which they apparently do with anti-terrorism legislation as is proven in many of our examples). They have checks and balances, because we as a society are opposed to concentration of power, we want a balance which ensures that our freedoms and justice are preserved.
If security would be our ultimate goal, we would convict every person when there is is even low probability that he actually was guilty and we would apply the strongest measures. Also, we would do this not only with terrorists, but also with ordinary crime. But this is not how we want our society to function. We also want people who are convicted of terrorism but are innocent to be able to prove their innocence. The standards applicable to ordinary crime and terrorism should be in line. Ordinary crime causes more deaths than terrorism and is more frequent. There is no fundamental difference why terrorism should be treated separately from other crime, especially taking into account the vagueness of what terrorism is (as was developed in our previous point). It is easier for the governments to psychologically position and justify terrorism as it is something which creates fear, but by no means it justifies extraordinary measures taken to prevent it, especially assuming it takes away from us so many of our liberties, abuses us and convicts innocent people.
The criminal justice system is exercised through prosecuting people who have broken laws. These laws, just like anti-terror legislation, can be used for self-interest in the same way the Proposition claim anti-terror legislation can. Just as side Proposition’s neighbour in the secret service can use the powers of the legislation to his own advantage, there is still judging bias or jury bias, and what is more, it is even harder to hold a judge or member of the jury accountable for their verdict on a trial as it is a government. In the famous “Let Him Have It” case of Derek Bentley[[http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A9115229]], the judge pushed the death penalty on tenuous evidence, which has been lamented ever since. The judge did eventually publish an apology, however, no move was made to remove him from judicial practice. So where are the “checks and balances” Proposition talk of which are so different to the ones which would apply to anti-terror legislation? Despite these drawbacks we maintain an overall faith in the power of legislation and THIS is what Opposition wish to draw your attention to: the fact we uphold our legal system in the face of times when the wrong man is convicted. Why do we do this? This is because we understand that a society without a legal system would be one riddled with fear of a breach of national security (which we described at the outset of our case) that would also affect individual security, as this fear would impact the way people would have to live their lives. Knowing the state was not able to protect me from threats of terror on the scale of 9/11 or even the 7/7 London bombings would deprive me of a mindset where I felt safe to go about my daily travel for example, and we see this itself as a breach of individual liberty. If people are able to get over the fact corporations frequently monitor their spending habits in order to target them with advertising, the feeling of invasion that will result from the priveleges granted to government through legislation such as the PATRIOT act surely cannot compare to the fear of literally moving through my local city.
Above all, however, we still do not think that the Proposition have explained how the justice system would serve as a preventative measure against terrorist attacks. They may appeal to their comprehensive US studies, however they forget that in order to convict anyone of terrorism we would need evidence, and much of the evidence that would have to be brought to trial would be have to have been recovered using the warrant of anti terror legislation. This is because the evidence that would convict those who are planning terror attacks would not be ballistics or a lipstick mark on the coffee cup left at the house of a dead lover, but email correspondence between suspected individuals discussing plans of the attack or papers explaining how to construct your own explosive device on an aeroplane.
Anti-terrorism legislation is not how we should fight terrorism
When it comes to fighting terrorism, the first option is to practically restrict the capabilities of terrorists. The second option is to decrease their motivation to commit the acts of terror. Obviously, restricting is fine – we acknowledge the importance of it. But we contend that maybe even more important should be to tackle the main roots of terrorism. Why is that so important? Well, once it’s gone, we won’t have to deal with it anymore. Diplomacy, dialogue and showing good intentions should be the core of the message that we are conveying to them.
The problem with anti-terrorist legislation is that it does not display any good intentions, on the contrary, it merely illuminates that our main objective is to directly fight the terrorists. It allows discrimination (as was proven previously), so when these people see detentions without trial, tortures, or simply humiliating and degrading treatment of the people of their own (whose guiltiness is not proven and doubtful); this is going to send a grave message about our intentions. Yes, we might be preventing more acts, but on the other hand, we have more incentives to commit terrorism, so the final effect is far from clear.
For instance, maybe Al-Qaeda wants revenge to the US at any cost. But once we withdraw from pre-emptive and fruitless wars with the Middle East, once we apologize for past mistakes (messing up with their countries for the last 50 years), once we try to establish diplomatic relationships, once we abolish discriminative laws (anti-terrorist legislation) then the tension and past mistakes will fade away. While we fight wars, while we discriminate their citizens in our countries, it is very easy for the people of Al-Qaeda to appeal to the general public with saying: “Look, they are occupying our land, they are discriminating our people”. If we show unambiguously good intentions, maybe Al-Qaeda will still want the revenge, but convincing the general public to support their actions, to join them, will become complex. The terrorist organizations will die internally.
On a second point of rebuttal, Side Opposition (having actually debated in favour of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in an earlier WODC round) recognise very well the promotion for diplomatic relations a move to end the wars in the Middle East may earn, however, there is no reason why we cannot do this whilst keeping our anti-terrorism legislation as a safeguard for national well-being.
First, we say there is value in our freedoms. We like when people are free, when their rights are respected, when they have a right to privacy and identity. They should be able to have this as long as they do not violate the rights of other people. We are terrified by how opposition responded to our claim. They asked why it should matter if the government knows the secrets of its citizens. They say, as long as it is not their mom, everything is fine. For the starting point, we can recommend reading Orwell. The whole idea of government knowing our secrets is repugnant in a democratic and free society and we do not think that we have to prove anything here. In the end, it leads to abuse of the state; it violates the implicit relationship between the state and its citizens, and in the end it undermines free societies as the history proved (Nazi case).
On the government side we have pointed out very real actualizations of potential abuse of anti terrorism laws. The laws neglect human freedoms through such 'provisions' as too broad discretionary power for enforcement agencies, detention without trial, denied access to evidence and legal assistance, and, in extreme cases, torture. The mentioned measures of countering terrorism are no longer questioned after the extra anti-terrorism laws are passed. Now in most countries it is okay to abuse human rights just because there is a possibility of terrorism. We claim that this is not fair, that cumulatively the offences states make far more harm than the terrorists could possibly achieve.
The anti-terrorism laws are discriminatory in their nature. They do separate treatment of "ordinary" organized crime from terrorist - a person suspected of terrorism has lesser chances to defend herself in a fair trial. A person suspected of terrorism is very likely to be a minority group of the country. "Inconvenient" persons might be silenced using the laws. The state now gets broad discretionary power, which it is very likely to use against its own citizens. We have provided numerous examples of this in our case. These laws are not 100% effective, as the opposition tends to depict that. Differential treatment and undermining of human rights fuels motivation of potential terrorists. First, hardly any measures would deter them from trying to commit terror acts. Second, the anti-terrorism measures gives perfect pretext to point out at target countries and use examples of state abuse to justify the attacks. Though the anti-terrorism legislation is not the root cause of terrorism, the retaliatory nature of the laws adds momentum to current conflicts.
Is anti-terrorism legislation necessary? On the proposition we proved quite firmly that it is not. Criminal justice system is a rather sound method on countering terrorism. We have proven that it has the most desirable checks and balances to ensure that justice is achieved. To that, opposition said that it is not perfect. We agree. There is little perfection in the world. But we ought to stick to what ensures the best balance, and it is the criminal justice system which has this desirable balance, after all, we use it for each and every crime.
The criminal justice system has the capacity to counter terrorism. First, it has a proven history of doing so. Second, many studies indicate that it is appropriate for doing so. The opposition allegedly did not understand the mechanism how it can prevent terrorism acts ex ante. Although we explicitly stated that in our argument, we can do that again. Enforcement agencies can intercept any conversations under anti-terrorism legislation, leading to abuse. Under the system of criminal justice, they have to get an approval of a judge. This ensures that enforcement agencies do not overuse their powers. So, we have better alternatives.
Also, our case quite firmly showed that anti-terrorism legislation by itself undermines the whole system of criminal justice. The way the legislation is formulated is so broad that for almost anything you can be tried under anti-terrorism legislation. This will lead to more abuse and more convictions. To this the opposition responded that it is more than a problem in weak democracies which would abuse their powers anyway. We disagree with this, because throughout the debate we gave a number of examples where democratic countries abused their power. Sure, we gave examples of “bad” countries, but it was to prove the point that anti-terrorism legislation is bad wherever we would find it.
In several sentences, what does anti-terrorism legislation do? It undermines our criminal justice, it violates the rights of our people, it enables to convict innocent people, it promotes the abuse of the state, it restricts the freedom of the citizens to act without fear, it discriminates and separates societies. While we have a normal method to deal with the threat – the criminal justice system. These are quite bad consequences, which all lead to one fundamental thing – a REDUCTION of security, not an increase of it. Maybe as a state we are more secure, but individually we are anything but secure.
To summarize our case, we come back to the idea underlying it. We prize freedom over security, because we recognize that once we allow our governments not to respect the rule of law, we do not gain security. By forsaking freedom, we lose both. We merely gain something vague as “national security” which is nothing as security in the real sense – security of citizens to act and speak freely. This security (the security from abuse of the state) is lost together with the loss of our freedom.
We choose freedom and we are proud to propose.
Proposition have identified the main problem with acts like the PATRIOT ACT in a significant place:
“The main concern that we have with anti-terrorist laws is that they give excessive power to the state”
“The abuse of power was almost always inevitable when the states granted themselves privileges to freely undermine the rights of the people.”
These two quotations are merely succinct ways of demonstrating Proposition’s big issue behind points 2 & 3- the potential it produces for state’s abuse of the powers it gives them. This points us to a second central contention of Proposition’s case: that the main problem is not an absolute condemnation of rifling through the mail of a person, but the potential rifling through the mail of an innocent person. The levity of this sentence masks the importance of the argument. As we know from our first principle, Government are happy to sanction extreme curtailments of liberty to guilty parties, so we know that they would be happy with ad hoc anti-terrorist action- a terrorist being identified, this single person having his computer seized, and jailed for the blueprints of the Houses of Parliament he was making on Photoshop and the receipts for all the gunpowder. In this instance, Prop could find no fault, as it does not represent actualisation of their main problem- THIS IS NOT ABUSE OF POWER BY THE STATE, this conforms to regular criminal law. So we understand that their real philosophy is Utilitarian after all. They dislike the PATRIOT ACT for the wider threat it poses to innocent people: it “undermines democracies” and “promotes abuse of the state”.
With the essence of their case thus understood, we would now like to draw attention to an intermediate step in their logic, which they seem to have omitted. It’s perfectly possible for a group of people to decide to enforce a precautionary measure that knowingly consents to their freedoms being curtailed in the event that they come under suspicion, in the knowledge that if any other members should be suspected, they must also conform to this measure. Proposition cannot suggest that no body could rationally decide to sanction precautionary measures (it makes it easier if we imagine a state of 20 people, whose every decision is voted on), yet they seem to imply this without full analysis. The problem only comes when executive and legislative power is divided, as they are in all representative democracies. The problem only exists where the possibility of abuse of this power becomes a sufficient threat to cancel out the security value such legislation might have for those members to agree to it. This observation will be paramount to the Opposition case.
In the very end, they reach the conclusion that people can consent to their freedoms and rights being limited. On the proposition we concede. For instance, as a society we allow taxation, because although it curtails our private property rights, the states need budgets to operate and administer themselves. But in doing so, we recognize that it is necessary and proportionate to our goal. But exactly the lack of necessity and proportionality to the aim is why we oppose anti-terrorism legislation in our case. It is not necessary, because we have other, better ways. It is not proportional, because the price that we pay (the loss of our liberties, the abuse of the state, discrimination that breeds terrorism) is just too much (and this was elaborated explicitly previously).
The whole purpose of our case is not to prove that society cannot adopt anti-terror legislation (they have done that already), but to show that they should not – because what they forsake (their fundamental rights) is much more important than the benefits the legislation brings.
That National Security is of comparable worth to Liberty
Let us illustrate this with an analogy: In the state of nature, ie. one with no laws or formal agreement, the concept of ‘property’ becomes essentially meaningless. I cannot speak of ‘owning’ something apart from the fact that I expect to remain in possession of it until there arrives a person strong enough to take it from me. The establishment of a State and its attendant legal system confer meaning on the term ‘property’.
We believe the same is true of ‘liberty’. Clearly, the full use of freedom and its existence proper, is diminished or dissolved if the state does not survive. I might still be able to act freely in the sense of being unrestricted, but all those great freedoms which we value, like to be educated or to fulfil my potential, become lost. Liberty is dependent on a degree of National security.
We say this means that national security must be and can only be the first goal of a state. Its absence precludes the presence of any others.
We on the government side take a more holistic view: our referent of security is not a state but an individual. Why this matters? By applying human security view we can better evaluate benefits and harms of a certain policy to an individual.
It has to be understood that sources of insecurity may not only be an external threat to the state. It may also be the threat to individuals stemming directly from the state in the form of unlawful actions. This is especially important in countries with little democratic traditions (like the Middle East and many African states) where anti-terrorism laws lead to torture [[http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/04/08/uganda-end-torture-anti-terror-unit]], detention without trial [[http://wadnerpierre.blogspot.com/2009/08/detention-without-trial-in-haiti.html]], and discriminatory treatment of suspects [[http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA28/006/2003/en/b6e1013a-d71f-11dd-b0cc-1f0860013475/asa280062003en.pdf]]. We also showed cases where abuse takes place in democratic countries. The bottom-line is that real security means being able to act, speak, move without fear. This fear increases once the government increases the restrictions of such freedoms.
Therefore, what is achieved by counter-terrorism legislation is a reduction of individual security, for the sake of achieving national security. We claim that it is not an equal trade off (one sort of security exchanged to another). It‘s because national security is a very abstract term. Achieving national security does not necessarily mean acting in the interest of the state‘s citizens, but rather increasing the power of those in the ruling elites. On the other hand, criminal justice system and policies that strive to ensure security on individual level are more aligned to the interest of people, rather than the state.
That the crux of this argument is merely a balance of risks
Let us qualify that statement with another analogy. The phrasing of the prop term cleverly disguises what is a statement about the possible potential effect of something as being something which it empirically IS. They attempt to categorise ‘anti-terrorism law’ as something which ‘undermines democracy’, when what they really say is that it has the potential to do so. In the same way, I might say that the existence of a nuclear bomb might undermine international peace. What I really mean is that the potential for detonation it poses is a threat to peace, so that if somehow it was guaranteed that it could never be detonated the power it had to undermine peace would dissolve. (There may of course be ancillary detriment to peace like the indignation of other nations that I even thought to build a bomb; these equate to Props point 4 about the effects of the very presence of even un-actualised anti-terror legislation, to be dealt with separately.) So the potential for the abuse of anti-terrorism law is actually what would undermine democracy, and it is the risk of this abuse that Prop seek to avoid.
Now for the crux of our reasoning that must follow from the premises we have supplied!
Prop’s case has been based on the minimisation of this risk. To return to the end of our first point:
“The problem only exists where the possibility of abuse of this power becomes a sufficient threat to cancel out the security value such legislation might have for those members to agree to it.”
For our rational, discerning citizen body, there is definite empirical value in a voluntary agreement to forfeit certain liberties in formerly agreed situations, provided it is mutual. Prop merely point to the risk of abuse of this agreement by their external despotic body of government, which we acknowledge exists. Our case is also based on risk: the risk of a terrorist threat. The anti-terrorist legislation is removed to combat the risk of abuse of liberties by government; it is enforced to combat the risk of abuse of liberties by terrorists. So it comes down to a balance of threats. We maintain that the present existences of these laws represent the consensus that the latter is the more tangible risk, and we in opposition are part of that consensus.
Not only this, but we believe the risk of abuse by government is a threat that is more easily and readily rectifiable, as well as being less likely. Abuse by government by the systematic shutting down of human rights of the kind the prop describes is more malign because it is enacted in the practical interests of a power mad despotic body. But it is in the nature of a terrorist attack to be (frequently) irrational or religious, and hence prone to random, non-rectifiable acts of extreme violence. Sudden emergency is harder to avoid or repair than an insidious attack on liberty that a state whose first step was the Patriot Act, might enact.
Our risk is more tangible, more threatening, and more likely. We reckon legislation to combat it is worth it.
Then they move on to prove that their risk is more tangible. Here we want to refer to our own case which established that the risk can be dealt appropriately with ordinary measures. By doing so we would prevent the risk of abuse, which, as our examples have clearly shown, tends to actualize itself. Even if abuse is very unlikely (and we have showed that it likely and it happens), the anti-terrorism laws restricts liberties with 100% certainty. Furthermore, the opposition merely assert that they *believe* that terrorism is more likely than abuse of the state. Well, we believe vice-versa, because the acts of terrorism are infrequent, while the state agencies operate under anti-terrorist legislations every day, so the accumulated risk is very tangible and actualizes itself.
Abolishing anti-terrorist legislations means not giving states the excuse to abuse human rights, and effectively reduce the use of discriminatory practices. Leaving the legislation in place means (hopefully?!) a bit more preventive capacity. But at what price! Abuses, convictions of innocent people, and disrespect for rule of law! But it should be realized that there is no way you could actually stop their acts 100%, just as we cannot stop ordinary crime 100%. Adopting extraordinary legislations does not even deal with the problem, just encourages it by separating societies (as is proven in our case). Humane treatment of every person and effort to understand the underlying motives of the terrorists and reach out to them is very important. Anti-terrorist legislation, on the other hand, does not recognize this and only perpetuates the conflict between societies.
We don't regret the times anti-terrorism legislation has prevented attacks
"The men's arrests in August 2006 caused chaos to the global aviation industry and prompted continuing restrictions to the amount of liquids passengers can take on to aircraft"[[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8254156.stm]] The change has not only meant massive expenditure and inconvenience for travellers and travel companies but a high emotional cost and cost to their feelings of security.
Coming back to their example, it is doubtful whether criminal justice system would have failed to prevent this act (or any other act of terrorism). It is very easy to point out at one preventive success, while in fact, you have no idea how things would have turned out in other circumstances. In our substantive case we have proven that criminal justice system has preventive capacity, but we are glad to repeat that once more. Under anti-terrorism legislation, you can freely intercept whoever you wish. Under criminal law, you have to get an approval of a judge (or somebody else who has the authority to do so, which depends on the legislation of a country), so the prevention of this act without anti-terror legislation is perfectly plausible.
The opposition tells us that they do not regret the acts prevented by anti-terrorism legislation. For some strange reasons they forget several other things that they do not regret. They do not regret that they curtail the rights of their citizens. They do not regret that they promote abuse of the enforcement agencies. They do not regret that under their legislation innocent citizens are afraid to freely act and speak in the fear that they will be abused by their own government. They do not regret discriminating people and separating societies. They do not regret convicting innocent people. They do not regret undermining the whole system of criminal justice when for any crime you can be tried in military courts and denied legal defense.
If we extrapolate the case of the opposition a bit further, it becomes quite obvious that the next logical step from their viewpoint would be to release an anti-crime legislation which would allow unlimited detention, unfair trials, limit access to witnesses for each and every crime. After all, they would not regret that they prevented that robbery, would they? If we come to the scenario of 1984, their legislations would arguably prevent all crimes. What about regretting that, also no?
The cornerstone of the opposition’s case in the debate should have been a proof that terrorism is a threat of such immensity that just after hearing the word ‘terrorism’ we should dreadfully quiver in fear and beg for mercy. Just because the proposition in the beginning of the case conceded that it is a threat (hey, old crooked trees falling on us is also a threat), they took for granted that they do not have to prove anything here. Besides this, they could have proven that the legislation has enough of potential to curb the potential misuse of it. Instead, the opposition merely believed that fighting terrorism and preserving the national security at any means is the ultimate goal of theirs. They forgot that the state by itself is nothing but only borders and laws, and it consists of people, and it is the people who actually matter – their ability to move, speak and think freely.
The whole case of the opposition can be fairly well summarized in one sentence: “Terrorism is bad, let's fight it”. We outlined the superficiality of it above. Since there is not much more to their case, it simply does not stand.
The debate rests on whether anti-terrorism legislation increases security, and if so, whether this justifies the impositions it requires to operate.
The clashes came under 1) the inviolability of certain rights 2) the accountability of the state 3) the substitution for alternatives
1) The Prop believes that the existence of anti-terrorism legislation is worse for the citizens over whom the state presides than living in a society where the legislation did not exist. They explain their stance by saying that, despite the efficacy of the legislation, and despite knowing the wide-scale damage to society terror attacks (that would occur if the legislation were to be removed) would have, it is the breach of the rights such as the right to privacy of any citizen who was not terrorist, that was condemnable. The Opp contest this on the grounds that we think curtailments of these rights is necessary to ensure in the long term a greater level of liberty for society. Using the example as we have of a state of nature, where there are no laws and every man must fend for himself, we see that people must spend an inordinate amount of time keeping themselves and their interests safe, so that they are left less time to actually live life to the full. This applies to the case of anti-terrorism legislation, as having witnessed or suffered personally the effects of terror attacks, I would endure a greater loss of liberty if I was forced to spend more time acting as if under possible threat of a terror attack than if I knew anti-terrorism legislation was allowing the government to take care of the threat for me.
We on the Opp believe that the Prop do try and use a similar case, but on the grounds that it is the legislation which seeks to make one feel vulnerable. But the Prop cannot present the legislation in this way AS WELL AS presenting it as subtly working its way into lives with citizens UNKNOWING. Therefore saying it would change our behaviour and practices, through the fear and this is a loss of liberty and freedom demonstrates that Prop are definitely with us on Opp in terms of wanting to ensure people have the freedom to feel safe as they act, but merely seem to be following the wrong road. For, unlike in Brave New World (we’ll reference Huxley as opposed to Orwell for originality’s sake), we in democracies are allowed to question ‘our great Ford’ and therefore we don’t modify our behaviour quaking in fear of masterful controllers. The Prop may point to instances where the legislation was used against innocent men or women, but it is the very fact that they can point to them and openly speak about them that demonstrates we are not living in the Nazi Germany Prop suggests.
2) This leads us to the clash on accountability. We have moved away from the Nixon days of “when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal”. We on the Opp drew a distinction between the two types of ‘democracy’. In nations such as the USA and UK where legislation had to be passed through Congress/ Parliament, where debate was had, where votes were taken, we see everything took place before public eyes. The UK recently saw Parliament’s debate over detention periods in our newspaper headlines. The fact that the government had to pass legislation to be able to exercise these infringements on the citizen’s overall liberty shows that they are willing to be held accountable. In other ‘democracies’ such as the Prop wish to use as examples, the government would not need to legislate to commit acts of abuse of its citizens' rights. Nor would repealing such legislation inhibit them in this regard. In countries where there is a strong justice framework, such as the USA and UK, we see the emergence of cases where people can hold the government accountable for using legislation against the innocent, including civil rights abuses conducted under the auspices of anti-terror legislation thereby refuting Props slippery slope argument.
3) This leaves us with the third and final clash. The Prop tried to further their claims by saying that the terror threat could in fact diminish if we remove the legislation and substitute for the current criminal justice system. However, if the Prop were satisfied with using the criminal justice system then surely they ought to be satisfied with anti-terror legislation, as the same supposed checks and balances for the criminal justice system exist with the legislation, in fact perhaps to a greater degree in the case of the legislation. And this is ignoring the major flaw, that the criminal justice system would not do to prevent terror threats, which should be our main priority if we wish to maximise the freedom of our people. The tendency of the justice system to penalise immigrants and other minorities disproportionately which props also invoked, is a fault in the status quo (which Props see as the solution to terrorism) and not the result of anti-terror legislation at all.
There can be no freedom without security, therefore our case rests on the fact that the proven ability of anti-terror legislation to prevent massive indiscriminate attacks and the reassurance this provides citizens, equates not to a threat, but to an overall advance in the cause of freedom.