Terrorism is a covert practice. It can happen anywhere, at any time, and to anyone. Since the recent foiled plot of a mass shooting on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, it has been shown that attacks can take place on trains, planes (9/11), and automobiles (predominantly used in the Middle East during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars). The question, which is a long-standing one, is whether we can stop these barbaric acts without sacrificing our liberty.
The threat of terrorist attacks in the UK is now rated as ‘severe’ after the ‘blowback’ – the return of violence in Syria and Iraq, led by ISIS. The priority of a nation-state, first and foremost, is to protect its borders. Now, with the evolution of warfare, the job of the state is to protect against aggressive intrusion of any nature, initiated by either a nation-state, a paramilitary organisation, or lone rangers. It is thus fully justified for the UK to use armed resistance and counterterrorism tactics to foil potential attacks.
Increased surveillance by Western security services, which prompted questions surrounding the legitimate role of the NSA and GCHQ, could be seen as the coming of the dystopian Orwellian nation-state. The facts are stark. The UK government, over the past few decades, has installed approximately five million CCTV cameras which monitor our daily activities, according to the British Security Industry Association.
The government’s surveillance commissioner, Tony Porter, has admitted that a vast number of these cameras are, essentially, ‘useless’ from the point of view of the average citizen. Yet, it is becoming increasingly necessary for the government to use technology to tackle terrorism. Groups such as ISIS are using social media expertly to mobilise impressionable individuals against the West. It would be negligent for Western security agencies not to evolve their own counter-strategies. This inevitably involves information sharing across borders, of the kind that Edward Snowden highlighted.
Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. In my book, Franklin was wrong. Citizens deserve temporary safety against terrorist attacks, even if it means sacrificing general liberty. Brutish terrorist organisations such as ISIS are more threatening to my life and livelihood than the benevolent British state.