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US perception of terrorist threat overstated: Expert

Professor of Criminal Justice at Harvard Kennedy School,Massachusetts,Christopher E Stone,who has undertaken extensive research work on practices in justice reform systems across several countries,including India...

Written by Gautam Dheer | Chandigarh |
January 8, 2009 2:30:25 am

Professor of Criminal Justice at Harvard Kennedy School,Massachusetts,Christopher E Stone,who has undertaken extensive research work on practices in justice reform systems across several countries,including India,called the US perception of terrorist threat to its boundaries as “overstated”.

Stone,who was here to participate in a seminar on ‘Global Terrorism’ at the Institute of Development and Communication (IDC),said terrorist threat perceived by the US was exaggerated to a large extent.

Talking to The Indian Express,Stone said,”There was more fear in America than what is justified.” Stone,who is also the Faculty Director of the Hauser Center for Non-profit Organizations,said a recent Bill passed in the US at the end of last year,for which even the President-elect Barack Obama voted in support,provides legitimacy to monitoring of every phone call. “This can have serious fallout,even on privacy,because of its misuse. I am worried,” Stone said.

He said the increased threat perception in the US,and even in the UK of late,has triggered a debate in national media and public fora on how immigrants,even the legal ones,were to be dealt with.

Stone said one view,essentially backed by police officers,advocates stricter surveillance,increased checks on immigrants,even if it’s bordering on intrusion of human rights.

The other raging view,Stone said,rubbishes this “paranoid” sentiment and supports human right protection. The professor held that the response to terrorism should not fall in knee-jerk reactions or increasing police powers. He said,”What is required is not greater police powers,but greater police activity and better skills. There are sufficient powers with policemen and laws to confront such situations. It’s only that they have to be well used.”

Citing the response model in Turkey and drawing a parallel with India,Stone said both the countries battle terrorist threats almost on a daily basis unlike many in the West. He said the Turkish authorities have often dealt with such situations by controlling the police authority,enacting provisions that in fact reduce period to hold suspects without basis. “This has brought in legitimacy in functioning and approach. There’s greater community participation this way and lesser human rights violations,” he said.

Stone said his research,which includes analysing practices in several cities in India,including New Delhi,Mumbai,Bangalore and Punjab,point to the growing “politicisation and corruption” in the IPS cadre. “Its reputation has suffered a blow. The delay in trials is also a grave matter of concern,” added Stone.

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