United Kingdom: Researching Counterterrorism legislation
The cardinal conclusion of my research is that immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the U.K. adopted a supportive policy of the U.S. in order to combat international terrorism with Prime Minister Tony Blair’s CONTEST strategy. While the U.K.’s cooperation with the U.S. on this issue is unwavering, the U.K. has since largely reverted back to its policies of combatting domestic terrorism, particularly in the aftermath of the 7/7/2005 attacks in the London underground and on a public bus. Interestingly enough, London had already suffered from bombings in its underground system on at least one other occasion. Director Bruce Hoffman points out in his report, Inside Terrorism, lives were claimed by terrorist attacks in the underground system back in 1883. As indicated in the Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights (Sixteenth Report): Annual Renewal of Control Orders Legislation 2010, the U.K. government has received considerable negative feedback regarding the rights of suspected terrorists being ignored under the authority of government control orders.
Why did you choose this particular country and topic?
The United Kingdom, with London specifically, was my destination of choice because of its “special” relationship with the United States. The U.K. may be categorized as not just a U.S. ally, but a unique confidante which the U.S. corresponds heavily with and shares significant intelligence. Given the fact that 9/11 occurred in part due to failed intelligence, in addition to the fact that British intelligence had informed U.S. counterparts of plans to use commercial airplanes as weapons, the collaboration between the U.K. and U.S. on counterterrorism efforts became of incredible interest to me.
When I became aware of the opportunities to travel abroad on behalf of SSP, I immediately knew I wanted to study issues surrounding counterterrorism. This was both in preparation for taking SSP’s counterterrorism/terrorism course in the coming fall semester and to include a substantial contribution to what I have learned in SSP as a U.S. National Security concentration. Terrorism itself is nothing new, but the age of “new-terrorism”—from 9/11 to present—is a concept that surrounds the era in which I grew up. I was eight years old on 9/11, twelve years on 7/7; these major terrorist events on western homeland have been the two defining events of the “new terrorism” age.
What is the best day you had on your trip?
The best day I experienced while abroad was Sunday May 17, 2015. On this day I attended the Sung Eucharist service at Westminster Abbey. It was fascinating to say the Lord’s Prayer amongst hundreds of other visitors who were all saying the prayer in their native languages. After the service I was able to spend some time outside the Houses of Parliament and have a conversation with some London locals who were in charge of the guided tour I decided to take. We discussed the extreme cleanliness of London despite the fact that “rubbish” bins are essentially absent from the city streets as a result of past terrorist incidents. We also discussed the recent general elections that occurred on May 7, 2015. One informed me that many Britons are wary that if they do not vote, the consequence may be their vote automatically being awarded to the majority. To my surprise, they explained to me that many Britons are envious of the U.S. justice system regarding the fact that American police take suspects into custody first and then question them, rather than talking first. I also was somewhat startled to hear that the U.K. has a tremendous problem with alcoholism; however, this really should not have been such a shock to me considering the widespread presence and popularity of pubs.
Later that evening I went to The Shakespeare, one of the many Taylor Walker “Great British Pubs” in the U.K. It was on this night that I enjoyed one of my favorite meals, lamb and sweet potato pie accompanied by steamed green peas and mashed potatoes (picture attached). Peas--steamed or mushy--appeared to be the vegetable of choice in the U.K., as they accompanied nearly every dinner meal offered at every eatery. Pies in the U.K. essentially consist of a warm puff pastry filled with various meats, vegetables, and gravies. Pies are extremely popular in London, at least amongst the tourists; however, pies probably rank second behind the more traditional fish and chips. Alongside pubs there were several casual restaurants and fast food places, many of which acquire their popularity by providing pre-packaged food for customers to “takeaway”.
Did anything surprise you? What?
I was researching counterterrorism legislation and completing several readings regarding counterterrorism strategies of the U.K.; many of which emphasized Britain’s focus on domestic terrorism, particularly in and around London. What I found to be most surprising was the apparent lack of security measures in relation to high-risk target areas, such as: in the underground, at the rail stations, and around major tourist attractions. For example, I did not observe a police presence within the London underground whatsoever, nor did I observe one at any London tourist site.
Moreover, at London King’s Cross rail station (the station where the 7/7 bombings occurred) I was shocked to see there were no security checkpoints throughout the station. I was also surprised there were not even gates restricted to ticket entry only; any person could easily walk through the gates and board a train.
Conversely, I was also surprised by the use of specific security measures. For instance, almost everywhere I went within London I saw signs indicating that I was being watched on CCTVs (closed-captioning televisions). I knew that CCTV was widely used in the United Kingdom, but I was unaware of just how prevalent this practice actually is in that country. I had heard it reported on the radio station, NPR, that there is not a reduction in reported incidents due to these cameras, but there has been an increase in the survey responses of how safe people feel knowing such cameras are in use. This is of particular interest, since in some of Dr. Hoffman’s writings he notes how psychological impact contributes such a significant role in the terrorism realm. Also, inside London Heathrow Airport there was a transit system taking passengers from Terminal 5 to certain A, B, and C gates. This transit system made three stops; at each one security personnel would enter the tram and conduct security sweeps before any new passengers were permitted to board.