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Neo-Democracy, National Security, and Liberty

By David Cole


In his new book, Liberty and Security, Conor Gearty, professor of law at the London School of Economics and one of the United Kingdom’s leading authorities on civil liberties and national security, argues that many Western nations are in effect “neo-democracies” that fail systematically to live up to the fundamental egalitarian premises of true democracy, and that this development is seen in particular in the context of counter-terrorism policy. This review assesses that claim, and maintains that while Gearty is correct that many counter-terrorism measures are predicated on double standards, that critique is insufficient to answer the many difficult questions that national security efforts raise, even in the absence of discrimination. Thus, while a universalist critique is an important element in assessing the status of human rights in the context of national security measures, the demand for universal protection of human rights does not answer when a targeted killing might be lawful, or how best to preserve privacy in the digital age from mass surveillance of the sort Edward Snowden has revealed. Gearty’s book perspicaciously identifies a transnational phenomenon and a critical problem in many counter-terrorism policies and practices, but the universalist critique still leaves many questions unresolved

Topics: counter-terrorism, surveillance, liberty, democracy, Constitutional Law, Human Rights Law, National Security Law, Rule of Law
Publisher: Scholarship @ GEORGETOWN LAW
Year: 2013
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