UK Unredacted is a collaborative project between academics, investigative journalists and human rights investigators, designed to check rising government secrecy in the field of ‘national security’, and ensure greater levels of transparency and public accountability.
There exists a clear public need for this project. Over more than 20 years of a highly securitised ‘war on terror’, the scale, scope and impact of the UK’s counterterrorism measures have grown exponentially. Whether in the context of intelligence sharing agreements, detention and interrogation operations, covert mass surveillance and targeting (assassination) programmes, international policing and security training, or securitised immigration and border policies, such practices have in many cases led to violations of the UK’s legal commitments, have fed into the systematic discrimination of people and communities of colour, and have undermined genuine forms of security and wellbeing, both at home and abroad.
Attempts to ensure transparency in these contexts, as well as accountability for related state abuses of power, are exceptionally challenging. There is a pervasive culture of official secrecy in relation to national security and counterterrorism, which has a profound impact on our contemporary politics. It limits the capacity of institutions designed to provide democratic oversight, the extent to which state abuses of power can be challenged, and the ability to render publicly visible the nature and impact of the UK’s ‘war on terror’. In turn, this makes more difficult our collective work to build broad-based support for alternative approaches to counterterrorism and security. Envisaging new ways of engendering security in the UK, built on the principles of human rights, non-violence, sustainability and the rejection of militarism, requires – as a first step – a clear public understanding of the violent state practices conducted in our name.
UK Unredacted will provide an unprecedented challenge to this culture of secrecy, helping to build our collective capacity to understand the scope and impact of the UK’s counterterrorism practices, and to challenge these where necessary. Overall, it will provide a new, permanent home for national security material, for public understanding of the contours of UK national security, and for impact-focused research and investigation into the UK’s practices in the ‘war on terror’.