, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 70–79 | Cite as

The Fear of Counterterrorism: Surveillance and Civil Liberties Since 9/11

  • Mathieu Deflem
  • Shannon McDonough
Global Society


In the post-9/11 era, claims can repeatedly be heard that counterterrorism and related surveillance practices involve illegitimate invasions of privacy, free speech, and other violations of civil liberties. This puzzling theme of a fear of surveillance is echoed in both the relevant scholarly literature and civil liberties activism. We analyze the contemporary discourse on surveillance and civil liberties in confrontation with reports on empirical cases of claims of abuse that are made against surveillance and intelligence activities. We argue that these civil liberties claims are not only a function of the incidence of actual violations, but are also a reflection of a civil liberties culture and an accompanying fear of counterterrorism and surveillance. Allegations of civil liberties violations in the post-9/11 era, therefore, do not have a wholly justified basis in the reality of surveillance practices, but should instead also be viewed as a manifestation of certain cultural sensitivities related to privacy rights and personal liberties.


Surveillance Counterterrorism Civil liberties September 11 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social ScienceAllen UniversityColumbiaUSA

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