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Prof probes impact of post 9/11 surveillance

Immediately after the 9/11 Al-Qeada terrorist attacks, government officials in both the U.S. and Canada were quick to pass legislation to increase surveillance of their citizens. But now, four years later, as fear of further terrorist attacks has become less acute and suspicion of government leaders’ motives has heightened, more and more people are starting question the increased invasion of their privacy, says Dr. Kevin Haggerty, director of the criminology program in the University of Alberta Department of Sociology.

“Right after 9/11 it was impossible for anyone to say no to anything that would purportedly increase security,” said Haggerty, who recently co-authored a paper on the use of surveillance as response to terrorist threats, which was published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology.

Increasing the ability of lawmakers to monitor our Internet use, financial transactions, personal movements and cell phone use were just a few of the measures in the U.S. Patriot Act and the Canadian Public Safety Act that became law shortly after 9/11. But many of these measures had been proposed and rejected as unwarranted privacy invasions in previous years, Haggerty said.

The steep increase in surveillance infrastructure after 9/11 has been “intensive” and has “proceeded with little public debate or protest,” he added. “But polling and censor numbers are showing us that people have lost some of their trust in authorities, and we are now looking more critically at the restrictions being placed on our civil liberties.”

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