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Tony Bunyan: Just over the horizon 5
[thought] this could provoke a chain reaction and further negative press in the media’.9 In effect, the ‘leaking’ of the contents of ENFOPOL 98 and ENFOPOL 19 and a widely reported campaign by civil society NGOs in the national European and international media at that time scuppered these proposed surveillance ‘requirements’.
But, a few years later, in 2004, no such constraints stopped the bulldozing through of a much wider provision: the mandatory retention of all communications traffic data.
The trigger The deadly attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001, and its aftermath, changed the scenario in two important ways. First, ‘war’ was declared on terrorism, a war that for its continuation drew on a wider politics of fear, enhanced and sustained by what was conceived as the ‘clash of civilisations’ – which, in turn, fostered, exacerbated and intensified a latent anti-Muslim racism, engendered by states, endorsed by politicians, propagated by popular media and embraced by majority publics. For the West, and most notably the US, this new hydra-headed enemy filled the political ideological void left by the ending of the cold war as globalising, economically powerful and technologically sophisticated western nations defined themselves in opposition to it.10
Second, the sweeping measures to control the threat, adopted in the US and the EU, and initially presented as necessary, temporary responses have now become permanent. What was perceived and presented as ‘exceptional’ and time-limited, became the norm. And as time has gone on, the ‘exceptional’ has come to define the norm, and not just in the area of potential threats to security, but across the board. In a very real sense, the official mindset has changed. Take, for example, an area that is completely remote from any link with national security – is indeed as far away from it as possible – child protection. Of course, children deemed at risk require all available protection but does this mean that all children should be logged, tracked and surveilled from birth into adulthood, to death? Yet, in the UK, all children, from birth, are being placed on a national database with their personal details, school record and behaviour, and parents and guardians’ details too.11 It is hard to see the rationale for this, except that, because it can now be done, it is being done.
The vectors At this historical juncture of the ‘war on terrorism’ and accelerating, intensifying globalisation, the interests of governments and states (especially their internal security and law enforcement agencies) and of transnational corporations and financial institutions neatly coincided.12
In another happy coincidence, the technological revolution was ready for the next stage of its development. The humble kilobyte computer that had allowed widespread access to wordprocessing and the creation of databases was taking on