Tag Archives: national security

Protecting ‘national security’ in the UK: the MI5 and the difference between ‘citizens’ and human beings

As someone who studies ‘security’ in the United States and China rather than the country where I actually live, coming across the following information from the MI5 discussing how they understand ‘national security’ in the UK was particularly interesting. 

They note the lack of a clear definition of ‘national security’ in either UK or European law, while adding that this has been a deliberate and consistent practice of successive UK governments and parliaments to ensure flexibility. The discussion that follows is both thoughtful and reflexive – features academics often make careers out of claiming governments lack.

The piece also states that government policy is taking the term national security to mean ‘the security and well-being of the United Kingdom as a whole’. This is then extended to emphasise not just the survival of the physical state itself but also its ‘citizens’ – wherever they are, and the system of government itself.

The discussion shows much needed recognition that the meaning of ‘security’ remains contested and is far from clear cut or obvious. It also shows an awareness of the role of political actors in constructing security threats. Of course, as it comes from the MI5, the focus is on more traditional notions of security. While the focus on citizens is encouraging, particularly alongside the growth in critical academic work emphasising the need to move away from military security to secure human beings, it also raises a number of questions.

What does it mean to protect UK ‘citizens’ rather than human beings more broadly defined? What does this mean for the rights, security and well-being of individuals living in the UK who do not have the protection of citizenship? What about the security and well-being of migrants and asylum seekers?

And lastly, what are the moral and ethical implications of a security policy that distinguishes between the security of  ‘citizens’ and human beings?

Friday Links

With Jonna starting a new job and myself doing actual PhD  and teaching work rather than watching cat videos all day, we’ve been a bit slow getting Friday links together so here’s a few things that have caught my eye today:

The beeb have a short  guide to the rebel/opposition forces in Syria. As you can see the majority of them are not Jihadist, something which might surprise you if you were to watch/read most of the British media.

Vice have an interesting piece on Jihadist culture in Syria. Parts of it seem to just echo a lot of the typical ‘Syrain rebels = Jihadist’ angle, but it has some interesting stuff on the role music is playing in Syria. Apparently “Al Qaeda is the Simon Cowell of the war zone, churning out hits the war-weary public wants and in doing so, providing itself with the perfect promotional gimmick.”

Meanwhile everyone’s favourite right-wing-fictional-daily-sewerage-spout has a piece with the headline “Tunisia’s ‘sex jihadis’ who were sent to Syria to have sex with 100 rebels EACH are coming home pregnant with their children”. You stay classy Daily Mail.

On another note, Politics has a virtual issue out which is all about teaching and learning in IR and politics, it’s an interesting read having just started teaching myself and worth checking out if you’re a student, researcher or teacher of global politics.

If you’re just starting out on the PhD path in IR and you’re based in the UK then this event organised by the BISA postgrad network will be of interest. It’s in London on the 6th of November and registration closes on the 30th of October.

Oh, and here’s ten reasons why recent intelligence leaks are not threats to national security. Have a nice weekend!