Researching counterterrorism: a critical perspective from the field in the light of allegations and findings of covert activities by undercover police officers

Basia Spalek, Mary O'Rawe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The article addresses some of the key issues that are raised for researchers engaging with counterterrorism police officers and initiatives, when undertaking research. A significant area to explore in this context is, in fact, the issue of relationships with counterterrorism police officers who may themselves directly have been covert police officers in the past and/or who may be continuing in their current, apparently more open, role (wittingly or otherwise) as agents of broader state strategies of exploiting trust for intelligence-gathering purposes. This article suggests that it is important for researchers to understand that working within the counterterrorism field involves degrees and shades of risk in the service of trust-building, sensitivity and the empowerment of communities, and that researchers themselves can (wittingly and unwittingly) be part of wider strategies instigated by security-minded individuals or groups of counterterrorism police officers. Reflecting upon the research that we have undertaken individually and collectively over the last number of years, in the light of the most recent spate of allegations about counterterrorism police officers infiltrating activist and political protest groups, having sexual relationships, and indeed, on occasion, children, with women whilst undercover and of potentially working to entrap vulnerable individuals into planning terrorist acts, this article raises questions around trust, credibility, legitimacy, the prevalence and near unavoidability of dysfunctional agendas and the implications of all of the above for community-based approaches to counterterrorism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-164
Number of pages15
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Volume7
Issue number1
Early online date7 Apr 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2014

Keywords

  • counterterrorism
  • policing
  • research
  • trust

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