Convenors: John Guelke & Katerina Hadjimatheou

There is public expectation that state empowered policing and intelligence authorities will take all available steps to prevent terrorist attacks and bring perpetrators to justice, but the range of violent activities which fall under the category of terrorism are all extremely difficult to predict.  It is difficult to predict both what places, events or people might be targeted in attacks and also who might perpetrate such attacks.  Because there is so little reliable evidence available and such pressure to prevent disaster, errors are often made in the identification of suspects.

Some of the ways in which counter-terror operatives try to address this paucity of evidence are morally contentious.  First, as most of the evidence of any crime is the planning, which is concealed within normatively protected zones of privacy, the most effective counter-terrorism measures are very often intrusive.  Second, the attempt to focus resources and attention where they are most likely to yield results frequently relies in various ways on stereotypes or profiles.  This reliance is sometimes objected to on the grounds that profiles are too unreliable to be useful, and potentially discriminatory. Third, the uses of privacy-intrusive technologies and potentially discriminatory profiles have been accused of eroding public trust in the police and state. If correct, this suggests that police actions intended to compensate for a lack of reliable evidence may in fact reduce the few sources of reliable evidence that are available.

Assessing these claims is impeded by a lack of consensus on how we ought to characterise the concepts of privacy and intrusion; profiling, discrimination and equality; and trust and legitimacy. One influential author characterises privacy in terms of appropriate flows of information, yet accounts like this should explain why some changes in flows of information are justified while others are not.  Several accounts of privacy provide questionable accounts of the protections governing scrutiny of behaviour in ‘public’ places, such as places of religious worship. Recent scholarship on ethnic profiling reflects a consensus that it is not in principle incompatible with liberal political and moral commitments to equality. Yet this is not matched by consensus about which principles or theory of equality should be engaged in any discussion of those commitments..

In this workshop we welcome all papers contributing to the ethics of counter-terrorism, theory of privacy, ethics of profiling and the role of trust in preventive policing.  Please send abstracts for review to John Guelke and Katerina Hadjimatheou by the 15th of June.  Presenters will be informed by the 30th of June.