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Reviewed by:
  • National Insecurity and Human Rights: Democracies Debate Counterterrorism, and: Security and Human Rights
  • Mahmood Monshipouri (bio)
National Insecurity and Human Rights: Democracies Debate Counterterrorism. (Alison Brysk & Gershon Shafir eds., Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), pp. 236, plus Index.
Security and Human Rights. (Benjamin J. Goold & Liora Lazarus eds.,Oxford and Portland, OR: Hart Publishing, 2007), pp. 383, plus Index.

The possibility of allowing a culture of security rooted in fear to trump, or even [End Page 817] displace, a laboriously constructed—but still incomplete—culture of human rights presents a real dilemma for the West. After 9/11, the Bush administration took several steps in its announced "war against terror" that resulted in the torture or degrading treatment of many individuals and prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration has used "the war on terror" to justify a massive expansion in the jurisdiction of the federal government. The USA PATRIOT Act has widened the use of wiretapping on telephone calls and emails and also authorized the Attorney General to detain foreign nationals on mere suspicion, without due process and normal legal protections under the US Constitution. The executive's fixation with security has diluted the importance of the rule of law in the struggle against terrorism, failing to protect due process rights within ordinary criminal justice systems. The question is: are counterterrorism campaigns bound to undercut civil liberties or can they be reconciled?

As these timely and stimulating volumes make clear, the relationship between security and human rights is complex. A more nuanced analysis is required to capture the true complexity of reconciling the two. National Insecurity and Human Rights, edited by Brysk and Shafir, offers a historical and comparative analysis with a view toward exploring the ways in which democracies have coped and can cope with the threat of terror while protecting human rights. The book's central theme offers a pungent criticism: human rights violations erode national security and democracy. The contribution by Richard Falk calls into question the integration of counter-proliferation into the broader issue of counterterrorism, arguing that this wider set of global objectives further complicates comparisons of US counterterrorism operations with those undertaken by other countries. This approach, Falk points out, explains widening "implications of declaring 'war' rather than relying on enhanced law enforcement."1

Examining the Bush administration's policy under the rubric of "war on terror," David P. Forsythe argues that although coercive interrogation may from time to time yield actionable intelligence of considerable value, there are many negative consequences involved in the process. Those include, among others, the decline of US soft power, "damage to its sense of proper identity and honor, undermining its efforts to protect its own personnel when captured in the future, and above all the antagonism and hostility of foreign populations."2

The chapters by Colm Campbell (Northern Ireland) and Todd Landman (the United Kingdom) demonstrate the rising significance of international humanitarian law in the long run. Britain leaned toward peaceful solutions in Northern Ireland only after they stopped abusive tactics. In the case of Israel, Gershon Shafir, shows that according to the Landau Commission, "physical pressure" was used against 85 percent of Palestinian terror suspects after the first uprising (intifadah). That policy did not prevent the escalation of wider violence in the occupied territories. To make torture exceptional rather than systematic, Shafir asserts, requires ending the cumulative result of war, occupation, [End Page 818] colonialism, and colonization.3 The Spanish case, as explained by Salvador Marti, Pilar Domingo, and Pedro Ibarra, indicates the perils of the politicization of counterterrorism and benefits of leaving the matter in the hands of the police and the judiciary. The context within which the declaration of a "permanent ceasefire" by ETA in spring 2006 was issued underscored the importance of introducing measures of accountability and control over criminal justice procedures. The authors echo the words of Spain's prosecutor of ETA and Pinochet, Baltasar Garzon, who once said: "I come from the country of the Inquisition. . . . We had to learn from experience that torture, mistreatment, and degradation do not work."4 Howard Adelman looks into the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian telecommunications engineer born...


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