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The chain of security

  • Marieke de Goede (a1)

Increasingly, private companies – including Twitter, airlines, and banks – find themselves in the frontline of fighting terrorism and other security threats, because they are obliged to mine and expel suspicious transactions. This analytical work of companies forms part of a chain, whereby transactions data are analysed, collected, reported, shared, and eventually deployed as a basis for intervention by police and prosecution. This article develops the notion of the Chain of Security in order to conceptualise the ways in which security judgements are made across public/private domains and on the basis of commercial transactions. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, this article understands the security chain as the set of practices whereby commercial transactions are collected, stored, transferred, and analysed, in order to arrive at security facts. Understanding the trajectory of the suspicious transaction as a series of translations across professional domains draws attention to the processes of sequencing, movement, and referral in the production of security judgements. The article uses the chain of financial suspicious transactions reporting as example to show how this research ‘thinking tool’ can work. In doing so, it aims to contribute to debates at the intersection between International Relations (IR) and Science-and-Technology Studies (STS).

Corresponding author
* Correspondence to: Marieke de Goede, Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 15578, 1001NB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Author’s email:
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3 UK Parliament, Home Affairs Select Committee, Radicalisation: the Counter-Narrative and Identifying the Tipping Point (London, 25 August 2016), available at: {} accessed 2 September 2016; HR3654, Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015, US Congress, available at: {} accessed 2 September 2016.

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5 Council of the European Union, ‘Note’, Brussels (13 May 2016), p. 7, available at: {} accessed 22 June 2016.

6 UK National Crime Agency, Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) Annual Report 2013 (London, July 2013), p. 5 .

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8 Bigo Didier, ‘Security and immigration: Toward a critique of the governmentality of unease’, Alternatives, 27:1 (2002), pp. 6392 ; Huysmans Jef, The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration and Asylum in the EU (London: Routledge, 2006).

9 Avant Deborah, The Market for Force: the Consequences of Privatizing Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Berndtsson Joakim and Kinsey Christopher (eds), The Routledge Research Companion to Security Outsourcing (London: Routledge, 2016).

10 Berndtsson Joakim and Stern Maria, ‘Private security and the public-private divide: Contested lines of distinction and modes of governance in the Stockholm-Arlanda Security Assemblage’, International Political Sociology, 5:4 (2011), p. 408 . Also Salter Mark B., ‘Governmentalities of an airport: Heterotopia and confession’, International Political Sociology, 1:1 (2007), pp. 4966 ; Schouten Peer, ‘Security as controversy: Reassembling security at Amsterdam Airport’, Security Dialogue, 45:1 (2014), pp. 2342 .

11 Abrahamson and Williams, Security Beyond the State; Berndtsson and Stern, ‘Private security and the public-private divide’; Voelkner Nadine, ‘Managing pathogenic circulation: Human security and the migrant health assemblage in Thailand’, Security Dialogue, 42:3 (2011), pp. 239259 .

12 de Goede Marieke and Simon Stephanie, ‘Governing future radicals in Europe’, Antipode, 45:2 (2013), pp. 315335 ; Heath-Kelly Charlotte, ‘Algorithmic autoimunity in the NHS: Radicalisation in the clinic’, Security Dialogue, 48:1 (2017), pp. 2945 ; Ragazzi Francesco, ‘Countering terrorism and radicalisation: Securitising social policy?’, Critical Social Policy, 37:2 (2016), pp. 117 .

13 Favarel-Garrigues Gilles, Godefroy Thierry, and Lascoumes Pierre, ‘Sentinels in the banking industry: Private actors and the fight against money laundering in France’, British Journal of Sociology, 48:1 (2008), pp. 119 ; Ball Kirstie, Canhoto Ana, Daniel Elizabeth, Dibb Sally, Meadows Maureen, and Spiller Keith, The Private Security State? Surveillance, Consumer Data and the War on Terror (Copenhagen CBS Press, 2015).

14 The notion of ‘grafting on’ is taken from Murray Li Tanja, ‘Practices of assemblage and community forest management’, Economy & Society, 36:2 (2007), pp. 263293 .

15 Guittet Emmanuel-Pierre and Jeandesboz Julien, ‘Security technologies’, in Peter Burgess (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of New Security Studies (London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 235237 .

16 Latour Bruno, Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 2479 ; also Latour Bruno, ‘Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern’, Critical Inquiry, 30: winter (2004), pp. 225248 ; Mol Annemarie, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002); Law John and Mol Annemarie (eds), Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

17 Salter Mark B. (ed.), Making Things International 1: Circuits and Motion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).

18 Best Jacqueline and Walters William, ‘Forum: Actor-network theory’, International Political Sociology, 7:3 (2013), p. 347 .

19 Stritzel Holger, ‘Security, the translation’, Security Dialogue, 42:4–5 (2011), p. 343 .

20 Bueger Christian, ‘Making things known: Epistemic practices, the United Nations, and the translation of piracy’, International Political Sociology, 9:1 (2015), p. 7 .

21 See, for example, Lucie Krahulcova, ‘Europol’s Internet Referral Unit Risks Harming Rights and Feeding Extremism’, Access Now (17 June 2016), available at: {} accessed 22 June 2016.

22 The United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Latif v. Holder, Opinion and Order, 24 June 2014. In this case the court held that there may be ‘numerous reasons [for] needing to travel overseas quickly such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a business opportunity, or a religious obligation’, p. 26, available at: {} accessed 26 August 2016.

23 See, for example, Boon-kuo L., Hayes B., Sentas V., and Sullivan G., Building Peace in Permanent War: Terrorist Listing and Conflict Transformation (London: International State Crime Initiative, 2015).

24 Keatinge Tom, Uncharitable Behaviour (London: Demos, 2014); Durner Tracy and Shretret Liat, Understanding Bank Derisking and its Effects Financial Exclusion (Washington: Global Center on Cooperative Security, November 2015).

25 Leander Anna, ‘Thinking tools’, in Audie Klotz and Deepa Prakash (eds), Qualitative Methods in International Relations (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008), p. 15 .

26 Latour, Pandora’s Hope, pp. 24–79.

27 Ibid., p. 51.

28 The relation between materiality and representation is debated in a vast literature within International Studies, including, for example, Campbell David, ‘International engagements: the politics of North American International Relations theory’, Political Theory, 29:3 (2001), pp. 432448 ; Shapiro Michael J. and Alker Hayward R. (eds), Challenging Boundaries: Global Flows, Territorial Identities (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996); Zehfuss Maja, Constructivism in International Relations: the Politics of Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Weldes Jutta, Constructing National Interests: The United States and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999). See also the Special Issue of Review of International Studies, 26:1 (2000).

29 Latour, Pandora’s Hope, p. 40.

30 Latour Bruno, ‘From realpolitik to dingpolitik’, in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), p. 21 .

31 Latour, Pandora’s Hope, p. 70.

32 Barry, ‘The translation zone’; Holger Stritzel, ‘Security, the translation’, Security Dialogue, 42:4–5 (2011), pp. 343355 ; Stritzel Holger, ‘Security as translation: Threats, discourse and the politics of localisation’, Review of International Studies, 37:5 (2011), pp. 24912517 ; Langenohl Andreas, ‘Scenes of encounter: a translational approach to travelling concepts in the study of culture’, in Doris Bachmann-Medick (ed.), The Trans/National Study of Culture (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2014), pp. 93118 .

33 Stritzel, ‘Security, the translation’, p. 344, emphasis in original; Barry, ‘The translation zone’, p. 414.

34 Nissenbaum Helen, ‘Privacy as contextual integrity’, Washington Law Review, 79 (2004), pp. 119158 .

35 Jeandesboz Julien, ‘Smartening border security in the European Union: an associational enquiry’, Security Dialogue, 47:4 (2016), p. 300 ; Eyal Gil and Pok Grace, ‘What is security expertise? From the sociology of professions to the analysis of networks of expertise’, in Trine Villumsen Berling and Christian Bueger (eds), Security Expertise: Practice, Power and Responsibility (London: Routledge, 2015), p. 53 ; Porter Tony, ‘Tracing associations in global finance’, International Political Sociology, 3:7 (2013), pp. 334338 .

36 Bourne Mike, Johnson Heather, and Lisle Debbie, ‘Laboratizing the border: the production, translation and anticipation of security technologies’, Security Dialogue, 46:4 (2015), pp. 307325 Also, see for example, Cowen Deborah, The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).

37 Daston Lorraine and Galison Peter, ‘The image of objectivity’, Representations, 40 (1992), pp. 81128 ; Shapin Steven, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

38 de Goede Marieke, Speculative Security: the Politics of Pursuing Terrorist Monies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012); Cooper Melinda, ‘Pre-empting emergence: the biological turn in the War on Terror’, Theory, Culture & Society, 23:4 (2006), pp. 113135 .

39 Stampnitzky Lisa, Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented ‘Terrorism’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Leander Anna, ‘Technological agency in the co-constitution of legal expertise’, Leiden Journal of International Law, 26:4 (2013), pp. 811831 ; Opitz Sven and Tellmann Ute, ‘Future emergencies: Temporal politics and law and economy’, Theory, Culture & Society, 32:2 (2014), pp. 107129 .

40 Belcher Oliver and Martin Lauren, ‘Ethnographies of closed doors’, Area, 45:4 (2013), pp. 403410 ; Walters William, ‘Drone strikes, dingpolitik and beyond’, Security Dialogue, 45:2 (2014), pp. 101118 .

41 Walters, ‘Drone strikes, dingpolitik’, p. 105.

42 All discussed in Salter, Making Things International (fn. 18)

43 Knorr Cetina Karin, ‘Objectual practice’, in Theordore R. Schatzki, Karin Knorr Cetina, and Eike von Savigny (eds), The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 181 .

44 Knorr Cetina, ‘Objectual practice’, pp. 182–3.

45 Ibid., p. 184.

46 Stäheli Urs, ‘Indexing: the politics of invisibility’, Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, 34:1 (2016), pp. 1429 ; Strathern Marilyn, ‘Cutting the network’, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2:3 (1996), pp. 517535 .

47 Aradau Claudia and Blanke Tobias, ‘The (Big) Data-security assemblage: Knowledge and critique’, Big Data & Society, July–December (2015), p. 3 ; also Weber Jutta, ‘Keep adding: On kill lists, drone warfare and the politics of databases’, Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, 34:1 (2016), pp. 107125 .

48 Bellanova Rocco and Gonzalez-Fuster Gloria, ‘Politics of disappearance: Scanners and (unobserved) bodies as mediators of security practices’, International Political Sociology, 7:2 (2013), 188209 .

49 Bellanova Rocco and Duez Denis, ‘A different view on the making of EU security’, European Foreign Affairs Review, 17 (2012), pp. 109214 ; Bellanova Rocco, ‘Data protection, with love’, International Political Sociology, 8:1 (2014), pp. 112115 ; de Hert Paul and Gutwirth Serge, ‘Privacy, data protection and law enforcement: Opacity of the individual and transparency of power’, in Eric Claes, Antony Duff, and Serge Gutwirth (eds), Privacy and the Criminal Law (Oxford: Intersentia, 2006).

50 Elena Holodny, ‘2015 could be the year we witness the weaponisation of finance’, Business Insider (5 January 2015); Zarate, Treasury’s War.

51 Rasmussen Mikkel V., The Risk Society at War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Sauer F and Schörnig Niklas, ‘Killer drones: the silver bullet of democratic warfare?’, Security Dialogue, 43:4 (2012), pp. 363380 .

52 Valverde Mariana and Mopas Michael, ‘Insecurity and the dream of targeted governance’, in Wendy Larner and William Walters (eds), Global Governmentality: Governing International Spaces (London: Routledge, 2004).

53 In Europe, the main legal parameter is the EU Fourth Money Laundering Directive (2015). For discussions of this regulatory domain, see Heng Yee-Kuang and McDonagh Ken, ‘The other war on terror revealed: Global governmentality and the Financial Action Task Force campaign against terrorist financing’, Review of International Studies, 34:3 (2008), pp. 553573 ; Amicelle Anthony, ‘Towards a new political economy of financial surveillance’, Security Dialogue, 42:2 (2011), pp. 161178 ; Mitsilegas Valsamis, ‘Transatlantic counterterrorism cooperation and European values’, in E. Fahey and D. Curtin (eds), A Transatlantic Community of Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); Sullivan Gavin, ‘Transnational legal assemblages and Global Security Law: Topologies and temporalities of the list’, Transnational Legal Theory, 5:1 (2014), pp. 81127 .

54 Latour, Pandora’s Hope, p. 70.

55 Keatinge Tom, Identifying Foreign Terrorist Fighters: The Role of Public-Private Partnership (The Hague, International Center for Counterterrorism, 2015), p. 29 ; see also Thomson Reuters, ‘Paris Attacks Showed Role of Small Transactions in Terror Finance; UN Meeting Hears’ (15 April 2016), available at: {} accessed 3 March 2017.

56 This transaction is mentioned, alongside eight other transactions, in the Court Judgement that sentences the suspect for the financing of terrorism, Judgement, Court of Rotterdam, 15 March 2016, available at: {} accessed 1 March 2017. Publicly available information from the Dutch National Bank reveals that in this particular court case, the transaction information was passed on from Western Union to the Dutch Financial Intelligence Unit to the Fraud Police (Position Paper Dutch National Bank [DNB]), Tweede Kamer (Dutch Parliament) (7 February 2017), available at: {} accessed 3 March 2017.

57 UK National Crime Agency, Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) Annual Report 2013 (London, July 2013), p. 5 .

58 Ball et al., The Private Security State?; Haggerty Kevin and Samatas Minas (eds), Surveillance and Democracy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2010); Mara Wesseling, ‘The European Fight Against Terrorism Financing’ (PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2013).

59 For example, the controversial decision by Barclays in 2013, when it closed the accounts of eighty businesses remitting money to Somalia without proof of abuse. As documented in the subsequent court case: Dahabshiil Transfer Services Ltd v. Barclays Bank Plc: High Court of Justice of England and Wales (EWHC) 3379, 2013.

60 Bellanova and Duez, ‘A different view’; Hildebrandt Mireille and Koops Bert-Jaap, ‘The challenges of ambient law’, The Modern Law Review, 73:3 (2010), pp. 428460 ; van der Ploeg Irma, ‘Biometrics and privacy’, Information, Communication & Society, 6:1 (2003), pp. 85104 ; van der Ploeg Irma and Valkenburg Govert, ‘Materialities between security and privacy: a constructivist account of airport security scanners’, Security Dialogue, 46:4 (2015), pp. 326344 .

61 FIU-The Netherlands, Annual Report 2014, p. 21, available at: {} accessed 1 March 2017.

62 FIU-The Netherlands, Annual Report 2014, pp. 21, 42, available at: {} accessed 1 March 2017.

63 29,382 transactions were declared suspicious of a total of 277,532 reports in 2014; see FIU-The Netherlands, Annual Report 2014, pp. 40, 21.

64 de Goede Marieke and de Graaf Beatrice, ‘Sentencing risk: Temporality and precaution in terrorism trials’, International Political Sociology, 7:3 (2013), pp. 313331 ; Krasmann Susanne, ‘Law’s knowledge’, Theoretical Criminology, 16:4 (2012), pp. 379394 ; McCulloch Jude and Pickering Sharon, ‘Precrime and counter-terrorism’, British Journal of Criminology, 49:5 (2009), pp. 628645 ; Zedner Lucia, ‘Pre-crime and post-criminology?’, Theoretical Criminology, 11:2 (2007), pp. 261281 .

65 ‘Een bijdrage geleverd aan de (verdergaande) destabilisering en onveiligheid in (de regio van) Syrië’, Judgement, Court of Rotterdam, my translation.

66 ‘Levensonderhoud van een IS Medestrijder’, available at: {} accessed 14 June 2017.

67 Position Paper Dutch National Bank (DNB), Tweede Kamer (Dutch Parliament) (7 February 2017), available at: {}, accessed 3 March 2017.

68 See also, Bennett Colin J., ‘What happens when you book and airline ticket? The collection and processing of passenger data post 9/11’, in Elia Zureik and Mark B. Salter (eds), Global Surveillance and Policing (Devon: Willan Publishing, 2005), pp. 113138 .

69 European Commission, ‘EU Internet Forum: A Major Step forward in Curbing Terrorist Content on the Internet’, Press Release, Brussels (8 December 2016), at: {} accessed 14 June 2017.

70 Social media content, including, for example, Whatsapp messages, provide important evidentiary material in the criminal trials of people suspected of supporting IS.

71 Amoore, The Politics of Possibility; Bellanova and Duez, ‘A different view’.

72 This literature is sometimes, but not exclusively, inspired by STS approaches. See Adler and Pouliot, International Practices; Adler-Nissen Rebecca, Opting Out of the European Union (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); Bueger and Gadinger, ‘The play of international practice’; Bueger Christian, ‘Making things known: Epistemic practices, the United Nations, and the translation of piracy’, International Political Sociology, 9:1 (2015), pp. 118 ; Neumann Iver B., ‘Returning practice to the linguistic turn’, Millennium, 31:3 (2002), pp. 627651 ; Salter Mark B., ‘Border security as practice: an agenda for research’, Security Dialogue, 45:3 (2014), pp. 195208 .

73 Bueger and Gadinger, ‘The play of international practice’, p. 451.

74 Adler and Pouliot, International Practices, p. 16.

75 See, for example, UK Treasury, The Financial Challenge to Crime and Terrorism (London, February, 2007).

76 Knorr Cetina, ‘Objectual practice’, p. 175.

77 Mol Annemarie, ‘Proving or improving: On health care research as a form of self-reflection’, Qualitative Health Research, 16:3 (2006), p. 406 .

78 Osborne Thomas, ‘In defense of security’, in Villumsen Berling and Bueger (eds), Security Expertise, pp. 6075 ; Frowd Philip M., ‘The field of border control in Mauritania’, Security Dialogue, 45:3 (2014), pp. 226241 .

79 Knorr Cetina, ‘Objectual practice’, p. 175.

80 Hoffman Jesse, ‘Theorizing power in transition studies: the role of creativity and novel practices in structural change’, Policy Sciences, 46:3 (2013), p. 26 .

81 Amoore and De Goede, ‘Transactions after 9/11’; Huysmans Jef, ‘What’s in an act: On security speech acts and little security nothings’, Security Dialogue, 42:4–5 (2011), p. 376 ; Magalhães Bruno, ‘The politics of credibility: Assembling decisions on asylum applications in Brazil’, International Political Sociology, 10:2 (2016), pp. 133149 .

82 Berling Trine Villumsen and Bueger Christian, ‘Security expertise: an introduction’, in Villumsen Berling and Bueger (eds), Security Expertise, p. 8 .

83 Twitter, ‘Combating Violent Extremism’ (5 February 2016), available at: {} accessed 22 June 2016, emphasis added.

84 Loeber Anne, ‘Designing for Phronèsis: Experiences with transformative learning on sustainable development’, Critical Policy Analysis, 1:4 (2007), p. 394 .

85 See also de Goede, Speculative Security, ch. 3.

86 Boltanski Luc and Thévenot Laurent, ‘The reality of moral expectations: a sociology of situated judgement’, Philosophical Explorations, 3:3 (2000), pp. 208231 ; also Gadinger Frank, ‘On justification and critique: Luc Boltanski’s pragmatic sociology and International Relations’, International Political Sociology, 10:3 (2016), pp. 187205 ; Jeandesboz Julien, ‘Justifying control: EU border security and the shifting boundaries of political arrangement’, in Raphael Bossong and Helena Carrapico (eds), EU Borders and Shifting Internal Security (Switzerland: Springer International, 2016), pp. 221238 .

87 Boltanski and Thévenot, ‘The reality of moral expectations’, p. 216; also Loeber, ‘Designing for Phronèsis’.

88 O’Grady Nathaniel, ‘Data, interface, security: Assembling technologies that govern the future’, Geoforum, 64 (2015), pp. 130137 .

89 Amicelle Anthony and Faravel-Garrigues Gilles, ‘Financial surveillance: Who cares?’, Journal of Cultural Economy, 5:1 (2012), pp. 105214 ; Ball et al., The Private Security State; Canhoto Ana Isabel and Backhouse James, ‘Profiling under conditions of ambiguity – an application in the financial services industry’, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 14 (2007), pp. 408419 ; Lyon David, Surveillance After September 11 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003).

90 O’Grady, ‘Data, interface, security’, p. 131, drawing on Manovich. See also Annany Mike, ‘Towards an ethics of algorithms: Convening, observation, probability and timeliness’, Science, Technology and Human Values, 41:1 (2016), pp. 93117 ; also Amoore, The Politics of Possibility; Weber, ‘Keep adding’.

91 For example Amicelle Anthony and Jacobsen Elida, ‘The cross-colonization of finance and security through lists: Banking policing in the UK and India’, Environment & Planning D: Society and Space, 34:1 (2016), pp. 89106 .

92 Hayles Katherine, How We Think (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

93 Amoore Louise and Piotukh Volha, ‘Life beyond big data: Governing with little analytics’, Economy & Society, 44:3 (2015), pp. 341366 .

94 Stengers Isabelle, The Invention of Modern Science (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 15 .

95 Ibid., p. 69.

96 Ibid., p. 15.

97 This point is made in Abrahamsson S., Bertoni F., Ibanez R., and Mol A., ‘Living with Omega 3: New materialism and enduring concerns’, Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, 33:1 (2015), pp. 419 ; but see for example, Bonelli Laurent and Ragazzi Francisco, ‘Low-tech security: Files, notes and memos as technologies of anticipation’, Security Dialogue, 45:5 (2014), pp. 476479 ; Jaffe Rivke, ‘The hybrid state: Crime and citizenship in urban Jamaica’, American Ethnologist, 40:4 (2013), pp. 734748 ; Salter Mark B., ‘Expertise in the aviation security field’, in Mark B. Salter and Can E. Mutlu (eds), Research Methods in Critical Security Studies (New York: Routledge, 2013).

98 Stengers, The Invention of Modern Science, p. 15; see also, for example, Amoore Louise, ‘Security and the incalculable’, Security Dialogue, 45:5 (2014), pp. 423439 .

99 Latour Bruno, The Making of Law, trans. Marina Brilman and Alain Pottage (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), quotes taken from pp. 220, 225, and 209, respectively.

100 Opitz and Tellmann, ‘Future emergencies’.

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