Magazine article Information Today

Global Reach of Anti-Terrorism Laws

Magazine article Information Today

Global Reach of Anti-Terrorism Laws

Article excerpt

While the 9/11 attacks were targeted toward the U.S., the global impact of the catastrophe was unsurpassed by any event in recent history. With armed conflicts on the other side of the world, the process of detaining foreign nationals at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay and domestic jails has raised serious legal questions about the rules of war, immigration policy, and the balance between national security and civil rights.

The USA PATRIOT Act, passed a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, has also raised controversial questions about the balance between national security and civil rights. Proponents have praised the act's new and improved tools for dealing with terrorists and terrorism, while also pointing out that no major terrorist acts have occurred in the U.S. since the act was passed. But the act's critics have suggested that some of those tools have the potential for restricting constitutional protections of free speech and rights against unwarranted searches and seizures and that previously existing tools could be as effective, if used properly.

As the 9/11 attacks resulted in the U.S. enacting the PATRIOT Act, the global repercussions of the attacks also resulted in other countries enacting similar antiterrorism policies. Many of those laws are dealing with the same controversies about the balance between security and civil liberties that Americans are facing.

Aftershocks in the U.K.

Two months after 9/11, the U.K. passed the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. This act includes provisions similar to the PATRIOT Act such as additional sharing of information between different investigative agencies and detention of "suspected international terrorists." The act also has several provisions specifically targeting the possession or use of pathogenic, toxic, explosive, or nuclear materials and aviation security.

The U.K. act does not have a specific parallel to the PATRIOT Act's Section 215, which allows seizure of library and business records. However, the U.K. act appears to broaden the ability of authorities to seek disclosure of "information" which includes records) in a variety of terrorist and criminal investigations. This even applies when the purpose of the information is to determine whether an investigation is warranted. In other words, a library could theoretically be asked to provide patron records before a suspect is criminally charged or formally investigated.

The U.K. act met with some controversy over the detention provisions, and some provisions were repealed because they were in conflict with EU mandates. However, the London subway attacks this past summer resulted in new proposals to the act that are creating as much debate in Parliament as the PATRIOT Act did in Congress. One of these provisions would make it a crime to "glorify" terrorism or terrorists or to sell or lend terrorist publications. The act's broad definitions of glorifying terrorism or terrorist publications could make libraries or Internet bloggers susceptible to prosecution for publications that might not appear to be terrorism-oriented.

Similar Waves in Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand have gone through similar exercises and controversies in their anti-terrorism efforts. Australia passed the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Terrorism Bill (ASIO) in June 2003. The bill was originally introduced in early 2002, but the October 2002 terrorist attacks in nearby Bali increased its impact.

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