The direct, immediate legislative and policy response of many governments to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States highlighted an increasing reliance by governments on surveillance technology. Many of these post-9/11 laws and policies have attracted controversy and public attention for their impact on privacy protections, particularly in the US, where civil liberties advocates have accused the US government of favouring security over liberty. Given the US government's continuing lead role in the fight against terrorism, its actions and the public reaction to them may provide useful lessons for other governments and lawmakers as they too seek to find an appropriate, justifiable and legitimate approach to deal with similar threats. In addition, because the US is popularly perceived by many non-Americans to be a fully-fledged democracy and a leading defender of civil liberties, the current view of many privacy advocates and watchdog groups – that post-9/11 the US government has adopted rules and mechanisms that threaten free speech and increase government secrecy – deserves closer attention. The picture that emerges from this chapter is a sobering one for governments seeking to model their policies after those of the US government. Even where a responsible and democratic government is taken to be acting in what it believes to be in the best national interest, it can nonetheless be perceived as unnecessarily secretive and possibly untrustworthy.
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