From precaution to prejudice: Mistakes in counter-terrorism

Timothy Legrand, Michael Lister

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The area of counter-terrorism (CT) is littered with mistakes, be these high-profile mistakes which have dire consequences (the fatal shooting of John Charles de Menezes) or more mundane errors (such as incorrect detention/questioning of those suspected of terrorism). In this chapter, we seek to disaggregate the mistakes, errors and miscalculations around counter-terrorism policy. We begin by noting the particular difficulties and complications in assessing when ‘something goes wrong’ in terms of counter-terrorism. There are particular issues around uncertainty in terms of counter-terrorism. This uncertainty gives precautionary logics a prominent place in counter-terrorism, such that the absence of knowledge about terrorist attacks is often seen as no barrier to pursuing counter-terrorism measures. In such a situation of uncertainty, does the absence of a terrorist attack mean that counter-terrorism has successfully averted an attack? Or was an attack not likely/never planned? How do we calculate the impacts, or costs and benefits, of counter-terrorism in more subjective terms?
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPolitical Mistakes and Policy Failures in International Relations
    Editors Andreas Kruck, Kai Oppermann, Alexander Spencer
    Place of PublicationSwitzerland
    PublisherSpringer Nature
    ISBN (Print)978-3-319-68173-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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