Societies of Control – Blacklisted

by | 20 Jan 2011

A quick suggestion of reading from here:

reportIn the report we aimed to provide a comprehensive review of the development and implementation of the ‘terrorism lists’ over the last decade and document the crisis of legitimacy that is currently facing. Since the inception of the regimes, Courts and human rights advocates have pointing out that fundamentally incompatible with the most basic of due process rights. Listing decisions, for example, are usually based on secret intelligence material that neither blacklisted individuals nor the Courts responsible for reviewing the implementation of the lists will ever see. In short, people cannot contest the allegations against them (and exercise their rights to judicial review) if they are prevented from knowing what the allegations actually are. This is the Kafkaesque situation that faces most of those on the blacklists.

Most of the commentaries on the lists limit their analyses to the obvious incompatibility with fundamental rights and rehearse the usual debates concerning ‘security v liberty’. We wanted to take the report further than that. First, by looking at the broader social and political impacts that the lists have had such as criminalising self-determination struggles and the Diaspora communities that support them as well as actively de-legitimising armed resistance worldwide. Second, we wanted to show how the lists have been productive of new kinds of unaccountable supranational authority at the UN level to directly target individual suspects. Finally, we wanted to show how blacklisting and asset-freezing function primarily as pre-emptive security measures aimed at prolonged interference with the lives of suspects rather than criminal conviction. Once the lists are situated in this broader context alongside other preemptive security measures (such as control orders), we can see that the issue is not simply one of incompliance with human rights norms. The lists themselves were explicitly set up to bypass due process concerns in reliance on intelligence material incapable of withstanding proper judicial scrutiny.

As Wolfgang Sützl writes in the introduction to the great new Autonomedia text Creating Insecurity – which I will aim to review for this site shortly – “The concept of security works well without peace, but security must secure access to violence – specifically, to a type of violence not endorsed by the legal system – in order to perform its securing function”. Seen in this way, the blacklists are highlighting core tensions that are emerging in process of liberal biopolitical governance, rather than a series of unfortunate incidences of fundamental rights breaches.

It’s a fairly lengthy read. For those who are law-averse, I would suggest reading the introduction, a couple of cases, and the final two chapters. Failing that, go for the executive summary. Otherwise, enjoy the Report and feel free to send any comments through to me at


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