To win more votes, politicians propose simple solutions that sound good to the public because they focus on strengthening security and limiting our freedoms. Each time there is a new attack the authorities announce a new, harsher policy that interferes more with our liberties. But the attacks have not stopped or slowed down. If anything, they have become more frequent. The simple, tough policies are not working. We have been forced to sacrifice our values and rights. And in return we have become less safe.
Rights = security
Liberties has just published a report, looking at two counter-terrorism measures popular with governments in Europe: mass surveillance and ethnic profiling. Over the next few months, a new series of #MeAndMyRights will explain these practices, why they are counter-productive and how alternative measures that are compatible with human rights standards are actually more effective and more likely to deliver public security.
By mass surveillance, we mean the kind of thing that Edward Snowden told us that spy agencies in the USA and Europe have been up to. That is, the fact that security services are keeping a record of things like your calls, emails, your location or the websites you visit on the internet. By ethnic profiling we mean when security services stop and search a person or raid their home just because the target seems to be Muslim, rather than because they have real evidence that this person might have broken the law.
Mass surveillance doesn't work
The authorities in many countries have been using mass surveillance and ethnic profiling for several years. All the available evidence shows that these policies aren't useful to catch terrorists or to prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, the opposite is true. They make us more vulnerable to attack. For example, mass surveillance pulls officers and money away from traditional forms of investigation that actually help stop attacks. Ethnic profiling breaks down trust between minorities and the police, making it harder for the security services to get information that could help stop or catch suspects.
Our upcoming articles will explain how our governments could make us safer if they were willing to comply with their legal obligations to uphold human rights standards. We will go into more depth on why mass surveillance and ethnic profiling are damaging our societies and are useless and actually counter-productive in the fight against terrorism. We will explain how long-established, tried and tested counter-terrorism policies that respect human rights standards are more effective. And we will break down for you how our governments are inadvertently helping terrorist organisations turn more people into violent extremists by failing to give minorities equal rights at home, and by collaborating with repressive regimes abroad. In short, we will explain how human rights keep us safe.