Rationale for Surveillance: the CAGE report on the 'radicalisation' study underpinning Prevent
CAGE — a UK non-profit that advocates on behalf on communities affected by the War on Terror — has released a new report examining the classified study that underpins Prevent and Channel, two of the British government's "anti-radicalisation' counter-terror programmes. Reviewed by 18 academics from a variety of disciplines, The 'Science' of Pre-Crime challenges the evidence base and methodology used to develop Extremist Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+), the assessment tool designed to help public sector workers identify those vulnerable to Islamic 'radicalisation'.
The key areas of concern highlighted by CAGE include:
• The theory and conclusions of the ERG22+ study being unproven.
• The use of the factors from the study to introduce the concept of pre-criminalisation. This is a use that extends far beyond the original remit.
• The non-recognition of political context as being a significant factor within a multitude that result in disenfranchisement.
• No external oversight from the psychology community of the government’s ERG study raising questions of ethics. The authors of the study worked for NOMS, and two members of the advisory committee overseeing the study, were chosen as independent reviewers.
• A lack of credible peer review processes to verify the ‘science’ that was relied on to validate the assessment tool.
• A lack of replicated research supporting the findings of the NOMS study, a process that should have been a precondition to the UK government using the findings as part of its PREVENT and CHANNEL policies.
Below is one of the three forewords included in the report, this one written by Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror.
Over the last fteen years, millions of dollars, pounds, and euros have been spent on research that tries to identify some set of radicalization factors that can predict who is going to be a terrorist. University departments, think-tanks, and national security agencies have all tried to discover a profile that can be applied to what law enforcement agencies call the “pre-criminal space” — the period before an individual begins terrorist activity. No profile that stands up to scholarly scrutiny has ever been discovered. But that has not stopped a proliferation of bogus “radicalization models” in policy-making.
How has this happened? The answer lies in the way that “knowledge” in the field of radicalization studies has been constrained and circumscribed by states. National security agencies have constituted the field, defined the object of knowledge, and set the questions to be studied. Thus, rather than ask what are the social, political, and historical causes of terrorism, radicalization studies ask what leads an individual to adopt an extremist ideology assumed (incorrectly) to be correlated with terrorism. In taking this approach, the political solutions we need are neglected and instead we get a rationale for surveillance that leads to suspicion falling upon thousands of law-abiding individuals. The “pre-criminal space” is really the “non-criminal space.”
With hundreds of thousands of public sector workers in Britain now required to absorb the government’s Extremist Risk Guidance and apply it in their work, the dangers of this research have never been greater. This report's cataloguing of the intellectual aws and damaging implications of the official radicalization model is therefore of crucial importance.