Security Strategies Across Europe

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Since September 11th there have been many countries that have upgraded their security strategies to guard against terrorism in light of the heinous attacks on the United States.  The countries I wish to compare and contrast in regards to these security strategies are England, France and Italy.  Also, this essay will explore whether the European Union is better equipped to counteract terrorist attacks than the United States using the strategies which have since been implemented.

To begin, England has enacted a set of security strategies to prevent terrorism attacks.  These acts have been passed in both 2000 and in 2006 and a renewal bill is up for reinstatement for 2008.  These acts are known as “TACT”s, whose aim is to “reduce the risk from international terrorism,” and “is divided into four principal strands: prevent, pursue, protect, and prepare” by making it a criminal offence to “directly or indirectly encourage acts of terrorism…the dissemination of terrorist publications…training in terrorism techniques” or being present when terrorist training is occurring.  This also allows the government to search terrorist property as well as hold a terrorist suspect for up to 4 weeks  (“Countering International Terrorism,” 2006).

In comparison, France has much more power over civil liberties.  According to Dana Priest (2005), “since the Napoleonic Code of 1804, magistrates have had broad power over civil society.  Today, magistrates in the French Justice Department’s anti-terrorism unit have authority to detain people suspected of ‘conspiracy in relation to terrorism’ while evidence is gathered against them.”

In contrast, according to Anne Schimel (1998), Italy’s last anti-terrorism act was put into action nearly two decades ago.  These laws, adopted during the wave of terrorism during the 1980s, known as the “years of lead” were the antithesis of the French conceptualization of law.  These laws allowed the police to make arrests without warrants and free search and seizure.  When suspects are questioned, they are done so without the aid of an attorney, which is a violation of the French constitution.  These further laws allowed wiretapping.  Another change included detaining an individual for up to four years until a court case has begun, up to six years until they may make an appeal, and up to eight years before the case is completed as in contrast to the United States, where Americans are guaranteed a “speedy trial.”

The European Union seems less equipped to deal with terrorism issues than the United States.  One would believe this to be counterintuitive given the fact that many countries are working together to deter terrorism.  However, the enormity of the countries that are trying to coordinate such an effort is in and of itself self-deterring.   The majority of the issues being addressed by the European Union are more broad than those addressed in the United States, such as monitoring passenger manifests for ships and airplanes, inciting or encouraging terrorism by “public provocation” or recruitment for terrorist purposes are considered terrorist activities and are punishable as such (Europa Union, 2007).  While they are making a good effort to coordinate against terrorist activities, the immensity of their task alone makes it gargantuan and therefore, much more difficult than that of the United States government.

Simply the passing of the Patriot Act in the United States changed many privacy acts previously taken for granted, but allowed the government to see information that had previously been forbidden, or required a court order just to access such as emergency disclosure of wire, oral and electronic communications which relate to terrorism, computer fraud and abuse.  It also created funding for counterterrorism actions, access to records under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and funding for technical support for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the expansion of the national electronic crime task force initiative and presidential authority (USA Patriot Act, 2001).   This act in and of itself was a defining moment in history as it allowed the monitoring of American’s for the own good to stop terrorists.  Although this is the desire of the European Union, their scope is simply too broad at this point.  They have not yet reached the scope that the Patriot Act has, and until they do, they will not be able to control or at least attempt to monitor terrorism to the extent that the United States government has reached since the acts of September 11th.


European Union. (6 November 2007). Fight against terrorism: stepping up Europe’s capability to protect citizens against the threat of terrorism. Retrieved December 15, 2008, from

Office for Security and Counter Terrorism.  (10 July 2006). Countering international terrorism: The United Kingdom’s strategy. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from

Priest, Dana. (2005, July 3) Help from France key in covert operations: Paris’s ‘alliance base’ targets terrorists. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2008 from

Schimel, Anne. (1998, April) The freedoms whittled away by terrorism: Justice “lead” in Italy. Le Monde Diplomatique. Retrieved December 12, 2008 from

Talbot, Rhiannon. (2006, April 7). Britain’s anti-terrorism policy: an eternal cycle. Open Democracy. Retrieved December 13, 2008 from

Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot Act) Act, H. R. 3162, 107th Cong (2001). Retrieved December 11, 2008, from

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