State Surveillance and the Erosion of Liberal Democracy

Introduction

     Modern incidents like 9/11, the Charlie Hebdo shooting, and the recent November shootings and bombings in Paris continue to make media headlines among the Western states. Governments have attempted to address the issue of terrorism with laws such as the Patriot Act in the United States, Bill C-51 in Canada, and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act in the United Kingdom. These laws, which usually include the expansion of the police and surveillance capabilities of the state, have been met with controversy. The movement toward these laws has gained greater traction due to a climate of fear for terrorism; a recent Gallup poll suggests that as many as half of the American population is concerned about terrorist activities and that this concern has influenced activities such as airplane travel, travel to other countries, and time spent in public places (Gallup, 2015). Terrorism and anti-terrorism legislation is a significant contemporary issue in the West, as reflected by the media, governmental response, and public sentiment. This begs the question: is the expansion of state police and surveillance capabilities justifiable within the framework of liberal democratic states?

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