Police officers examine potential evidence near the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, Australia, where a hostage crisis prompted the Australian government to raise its terrorism alert level. December 16, 2014. (Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis)

Police officers examine potential evidence near the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, Australia, where a hostage crisis prompted the Australian government to raise its terrorism alert level. December 16, 2014. (Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis)

Last week in Australia, 230 suspected jihadists were prevented from flying to the Middle East, highlighting a trend among governments (Canada and France are others) to implement tough new counterterrorism laws. While these laws have a purported purpose of improving national security, there is a risk that punitive measures that widen police and intelligence powers will have limited utility and narrow the political freedoms and human rights protections that many in these societies consider essential. More significantly, they could prove counterproductive to fighting terrorism by increasing the marginalization of communities.

Counterterrorism measures in each country vary, but collectively the new laws reinforce existing provisions that increase the power of police officials to investigate, detain, and arrest suspects; reduce the due process rights of suspects and limit judicial review; restrict financial transactions and remittances to individuals and entities abroad, especially in Muslim-majority countries; require Internet companies to provide personal communication information to state officials; and increase government authority to control Internet content. Read more