Counterterrorism as Risk Management Strategies
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Original versionCounterterrorism as Risk Management Strategies by Sissel Haugdal Jore, Stavanger : University of Stavanger, 2012 (PhD thesis UiS, no. 178)
After the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001 (9/11), most Western countries, including Norway, implemented a multiplicity of counterterrorism measures. 9/11 seems to have lowered Western governments' threshold for introducing far-reaching measures in the fight against terrorism and heightened people's tolerance of such measures. The fact that countries that had not been targeted by terrorism on 9/11, such as Norway, also implemented a myriad of counterterrorism measures is not evident. European states had been dealing with the threat of terrorism for decades without finding it necessary to take such drastic steps as they did after 9/11. This implies that 9/11 might have changed the public's perception of the necessity of counterterrorism measures in society. This thesis has explored the changes in the terrorism risk discourses that laid the grounds for counterterrorism measures in Norway. Scholars have claimed that counterterrorism measures should be seen as a part of the risk management culture that dominates contemporary society and that counterterrorism measures, in this respect, can be seen as terrorism risk management strategies. Following these scholars I claimed that counterterrorism measures can be seen as risk management strategies, and, subsequently, I sought to investigate the role of risk-based thinking in the public terrorism discourses. My philosophical point of view rested on social constructivism, because I claim that terrorist attacks like 9/11 and other terrorist attacks are real, but their meanings and political consequences are constructed. The social constructivist view also had implications for how I viewed the concept of terrorism. Terrorism is not a neutral word used to refer to an independent, objective, ontological phenomenon; it is seen, rather, as a frame that shapes and constructs how individuals and society view a phenomenon of violence and associated threats. This means that what society perceives as effective ways to counter terrorism will depend on how society comprehends terrorism as a threat. In this process, I claimed that language plays a central part, because communication is the medium through which individuals acquire knowledge and understand the phenomenon of terrorism risk. My theoretical standpoint rested on critical perspectives to the study of terrorism, risk analytical and risk governance perspectives. Since these theoretical perspectives do not deal with the process of how a phenomenon is framed and defined as a risk in society, I suggested "Argumentative Discourse Analysis" (Hajer, 1995) as a perspective that can fill this gap. I saw this perspective as useful for analyzing the social-political processes by which terrorism was framed as a major threat to Norwegian society. The following research questions have guided the analysis: • How has the terrorism risk phenomenon been understood and conceptualized? • Have the changes in the terrorism risk discourses contributed to legitimizing implementations of counterterrorism measures? • What have been the arguments behind the implementations of counterterrorism measures? • What role has risk-based thinking played in the public discourses on terrorism? The assumption of this thesis was that how the phenomenon of terrorism risk is communicated affects how severely the public see the risk of terrorism and influences what counterterrorism measures are seen as adequate to meet the threats. By studying how the risk of terrorism has been communicated in different sectors between 1993 - 2007, I aimed to gain an understanding of how the risk of terrorism was communicated before and after 9/11, and I investigated if the changes in the terrorism risk discourses have contributed to legitimizing counterterrorism measures. This thesis has seen the societal understanding of terrorism at a given time as being the product of different discourses in society. The four sectors this thesis investigated are the Norwegian terrorism research, viii Summary the Norwegian authorities' communication, media communication and the aviation sector. The empirical data this thesis was based on have mainly been written documents, and the methodological approach was mainly based on the tools of Argumentative Discourse Analysis. The research in this thesis comprised six articles, in addition to the cross-case analysis presented in Part I. The first article was based on a literature survey to describe different approaches to terrorism risk assessment. Different approaches to risk have different implications for communication and actions in society. However, for the topic of terrorism risk, these approaches revealed clear limitations. Subsequently, the article concluded that the roles of risk management needed to be questioned in a perspective that recognized the role of power, institutional interests and the actors' agendas behind the use of risk analysis as decision support. Discourse analysis was proposed as a perspective that could meet these requirements. Articles two to five were based on empirical data selected from the different sectors in society and focused on how the phenomenon of terrorism has been represented and how terrorism countermeasures have been justified. These studies revealed that the overall way the terrorism risk has been represented has changed drastically during the studied time period. Norwegian society in the 1990s was described as being geographically remote, homogeneous, including and transparent, all factors that appeared to make Norway less of a probable target for terrorism. During the studied time period, the country was increasingly described as more vulnerable and an attractive target for terrorists. Terrorism after 9/11 has been framed as a catastrophic risk that threatens democracy, national security and critical infrastructures, and, consequently, society needed to be protected. Even though there have been major changes in the way terrorism has been represented during the studied time period, the Norwegian understanding of terrorism was not uniform but comprised two different discourse coalitions that interpreted counterterrorism policies according to different sets of storylines. On the one hand, the "targeted political crime" set of storylines has described terrorists as political activists, where the best way to reduce the risk of terrorism was by dialogue and social justice. On the other hand, the "omnipresent societal threat" set of storylines ix Summary ignores terrorists' motivation and focuses on terrorism as a catastrophic threat towards the whole society on a scale where national security was threatened. By employing both sets of storylines, the Norwegian authorities could safeguard Norway's role as a peace-promoting nation by seeing terrorists as freedom fighters, but they could also protect society and participate in the military "war on terrorism" by employing the alternative set of storylines. The way counterterrorism measures have been presented in the public sphere in Norway has also changed during the studied time period. Counterterrorism measures have gone from being presented as threats against civil liberties in the 1990s to something that were required after 9/11. The last article presented results from a study of the changes in the aviation security regime in Norway during the last two decades. It discussed the role of the security regime seen in the light of public discourses on terrorism and security. Before 9/11, aviation security was a national issue and not a topic generally debated in the public media. After 9/11, compliance with international regulations has been the main storyline for implementing security measures. This storyline made sense, because the threat was described as international. Thus, it was deemed reasonable that Norwegian airports should have the same level of security as other European airports. The perceived international character of contemporary terrorism and the storylines that described terrorism as a threat to everyone everywhere justified protection of small and rural airports in Norway. The data supported the trend towards seeing the terrorist threat as omnipresent and devastating. Despite the fact that counterterrorism measures can be seen as an expression of the risk management culture that dominates contemporary society, risk-based thinking has not been part of the public discourses on terrorism and security. The empirical data have given a picture of implementations of terrorism countermeasures as a topic that is defined away from traditional normative risk criteria. Terrorism risk, as presented in the public discourses, seems beyond rational evaluations and assessments. Measures against terrorism have primarily been described as necessary independent of the risk, and arguments as precaution, compliance, solidarity and moral obligations have been the dominating underpinning arguments behind the x Summary xi implementations. This approach to counterterrorism measures might open up further implementation of such measures, because there are neither criteria for further implementations nor criteria for removing existing measures.