Research with real world impact: Counter=Terror = Counter=Global-Equality?

This week’s post is by Dr Steve Wright on his experience of scrutinising counter-terror technology and its implications for a free, fair and equal society.

Does ‘counterterrorism in praxis’ act as a cover for practices which are also aimed at securing other agendas? This was the theme of a conference I spoke at in Dublin last autumn under the auspices of the EU funded Secile project.

One of the speakers from the EC’s Counter Terrorism Unit argued cogently that the amount of taxes evaded by corporates across Europe would actually pay of the national debts and deficits of all member states’ beleaguered economies.

You can watch all the presentations, including mine by clicking here.

You can watch all the presentations, including mine by clicking the image.

Of international importance was the speech made at the event by Edward Snowden’s attorney, Ben Witzner, who examined the implications of carrying a mobile tracking device in every pocket such as yours – i.e. your mobile phone! I will  examine many of these issues with my students in the classes of this semesters’ Advanced Surveillance module – but for those unable to attend – its worth remembering that much of the early work scrutinising advanced militarised telecommunications interceptions was made by academic modelling using open sources. Some of this work was undertaken by current and former PAGE staff including myself as work undertaken both as a postgraduate and for the European parliament’s Science & Technological Options Panel.

This work was recently celebrated as an achievement of historic importance, by the European Parliament in a newly released report. This report which analyses the impact on European history (!) of my findings and the consequent political fall-out. I am delighted that EPRS have chosen this work for their first archive report and have deemed its impact to be of historical significance.

A new report on the 'echelon affair' documenting Dr Steve Wright's impact on European history

A new report on the ‘echelon affair’ documenting Dr Steve Wright’s impact on European history

STOA has subsequently returned to the issue of what to do and has advocated future encryption of all telecommunications.

This would certainly go some way to avoiding the massive drain of €120 billion estimated to have been extracted from the economy by the NSA. But Snowden’s revelations go much deeper and show just how far mass surveillance especially of the developing majority world, is a key tool in sustaining structural and economic inequalities. No surprise then that our Prime Minister is arguing for exactly the reverse of the European Parliament, namely de-encryption. So we come back full circle to SECILE’s opening mission statement:

Is Counter terrorism only about Countering Terror?

Dr Steve Wright Reader in PAGE

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