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Liberalism Essay

776 words - 4 pages

Overall, the problem for these thinkers is that an expanse of security related legislation, along with an unclear definition of, for example, terrorism or subversion, may leave too much to the discretion of the security agencies and other law enforcers. It may be claimed that where the security agency remit is too broad, there exists the potential for abuse, either by parliamentarians seeking to apply pressure to the security agencies or by the security agencies themselves. They argue that as legal definitions of the types of activity, which may prompt a covert investigation, become wider, the range of targets may tend to grow correspondingly. It is fair to say that such claims may not be without foundation. There have been occasions where surveillance measures may have been introduced with seemingly little consideration of any safeguard to prevent their misuse. For Example, in April 2011, Liberty drew attention to a scheme which involved the installation of hundreds of cameras (overt and covert) in two areas of Birmingham. It was claimed that this project was falsely sold to the local Muslim community as a general crime prevention scheme, when in reality, it was purely a counter-terrorism measure targeted because of a high proportion of Muslim residents. Indeed, following Liberty’s intervention, a review of the scheme was established and a report, authored by the Chief Constable of Thames Valley, Sarah Thornton, acknowledged that the scheme has dramatically undermined confidence in police legitimacy.
Since it is claimed that the current legislative programme for preventing terrorism and violence does not always provide adequate safeguards against government abuses of power, civil libertarians may call for an increased resort to traditional liberal principles. These principles may require that the security agencies adhere to the rule of law and effect adequate control and oversight mechanisms. For liberals, constitutional principles such as the rule of law are fundamental tenets of a just society. The point is that, in the liberal ideal, legislation should be drafted in a manner which is clear, ascertainable and prospective and the power of the state should be limited.

The remainder of this chapter will explore liberal perceptions of the state. The discussion will include an examination of the liberal concept of negative liberty, in which the state’s role in the lives of individual citizens is to be kept to a minimum. It will also examine the relationship...

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