Department of Public Law – Research Program

Department of Public Law

Research Program

The re­se­arch agen­da of the De­part­ment of Pu­blic Law is struc­tu­red on the ba­sis of a three-di­men­sio­nal to­pi­cal ma­trix. The ge­ne­ral doc­tri­nal struc­tu­res and theo­re­ti­cal ques­ti­ons that un­der­lie pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law are lo­ca­ted on the fun­da­men­tal axis of the ma­trix. The se­cond axis re­flects the ma­jor trends in the field: in­ter­na­tio­na­li­za­ti­on, di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on, and frag­men­ta­ti­on. The third axis re­pres­ents the nor­ma­ti­ve chal­len­ges to pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law: fun­da­men­tal rights, ru­le of law, and de­mo­cra­cy. The ma­trix aims to struc­ture a field that is less esta­blis­hed in the in­ter­na­tio­nal dis­cour­se than are mo­re tra­di­tio­nal are­as of le­gal re­se­arch. On the one hand, the ma­trix will ser­ve as a fra­me­work for de­part­men­tal pro­jects; on the other hand, the ma­trix will eit­her be cor­ro­bo­ra­ted by the­se pro­jects or it will be ad­jus­ted and mo­di­fied in ac­cor­dance with their re­sults. So­me pro­jects will ha­ve a fo­cus in one di­men­si­on of the ma­trix; others will be lo­ca­ted at the in­ter­sec­ti­on of two or mo­re di­men­si­ons. For ex­am­ple, a theo­re­ti­cal pro­ject on de­ep di­sa­gree­ments, which con­cen­tra­tes on the epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal, me­ta-ethi­cal, and me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal im­pli­ca­ti­ons of un­re­sol­va­ble di­sa­gree­ments for po­li­tics and law, ad­dres­ses the frag­men­ta­ti­on trend at a fun­da­men­tal le­vel. A ju­ni­or re­se­arch pro­ject who­se goal is the de­ve­lop­ment of a phi­lo­so­phi­cal­ly-groun­ded fun­da­men­tal right to ci­vil di­so­be­dience is po­si­tio­ned at the in­ter­sec­ti­on of all three di­men­si­ons sin­ce it al­so in­vol­ves frag­men­ta­ti­on along the fault li­nes of our de­ep di­sa­gree­ments.

1. Fundamentals: Theoretical Foundations and Doctrinal Structures

Re­se­arch pro­jects at the fun­da­men­tal le­vel fo­cus, on the one hand, on the theo­re­ti­cal aspects of law and how they re­la­te to the in­ter­pre­ta­ti­on of pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law and to its ba­sic con­cepts and struc­tu­res. Cur­rent re­se­arch pro­jects aim at an ana­ly­ti­cal re­con­struc­ti­on of le­gal her­me­neu­tics, at de­ep di­sa­gree­ments in po­li­tics and law, and at the dis­cus­si­on about the theo­re­ti­cal cha­rac­ter of le­gal prin­cip­les, which play a cen­tral ro­le in the con­sti­tu­tio­nal eva­lua­ti­on of so­me of the most in­va­si­ve se­cu­ri­ty mea­su­res. On the other hand, re­se­arch pro­jects in this di­mensi­on ex­ami­ne the ge­ne­ral doc­tri­nal struc­tu­res of pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law. Buil­ding on a struc­tu­ral ana­ly­sis of Ger­man pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law, the aim of one on­going pro­ject is to uti­li­ze the re­sul­ting struc­ture to sys­te­ma­ti­ze the mul­ti­tu­de of po­li­ce po­wers in the va­rious Ger­man po­li­ce co­des at the fe­deral and state le­vels. The pro­ject is gui­ded by the mo­re ge­ne­ral ques­ti­on whe­ther it is pos­si­ble to sys­te­ma­ti­ze pre­ven­ti­ve pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty re­gu­la­ti­on at an even mo­re ab­stract le­vel that goes beyond the boun­da­ri­es of the Ger­man tra­di­ti­on.

2. Trends: Internationalization, Digitalization, Fragmentation

In­ter­na­tio­na­li­za­ti­on, di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on, and frag­men­ta­ti­on – three strong trends in pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law – sha­re a dia­lec­ti­cal struc­ture.

The first of the­se trends in­vol­ves the in­ter­na­tio­na­li­za­ti­on of dan­gers to pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty – e.g., ter­ro­rism and or­ga­ni­zed cri­me – as well as the in­ter­na­tio­na­li­za­ti­on of ef­forts to coun­ter them. The pre­ven­ti­ve turn in cri­mi­nal law has be­en pro­mo­ted by a no les­ser bo­dy than the Uni­ted Na­ti­ons Se­cu­ri­ty Coun­cil, an en­ti­ty that, with its an­ti-ter­ro­rism re­so­lu­ti­ons, be­ca­me the first in the his­to­ry of hu­man­kind to act as a glo­bal le­gis­la­ture. Co­ope­ra­ti­on at the su­pra­na­tio­nal le­vel of Eu­ro­pean Uni­on law is even mo­re in­ten­se. Both si­des of in­ter­na­tio­na­li­za­ti­on put na­tio­nal pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty re­gi­mes un­der stress. Pro­jects will aim at doc­tri­nal fra­me­works and so­lu­ti­ons for a mul­ti-le­vel pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law.

Di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on is one of the dri­ving forces be­hind the evo­lu­ti­on of pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law in­to a field of re­fe­rence in pu­blic law. The gro­wing di­gi­tal in­ter­connec­ted­ness of eve­ry aspect of con­tem­po­ra­ry li­fe has heigh­te­ned the vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ty of mo­dern so­cie­ties through net­work- and cas­ca­ding-ef­fects to such a de­gree that se­cu­ri­ty has be­co­me an ever mo­re per­va­si­ve to­pic. The dia­lec­tic of pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty and its law lies in the fact that ef­forts to coun­ter the risks and dan­gers of di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on them­sel­ves re­ly lar­ge­ly on di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on and thus con­tri­bu­te to the ve­ry vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ties they aim to coun­ter­act. Se­cu­ri­ty agen­cies may keep ze­ro-day soft­wa­re vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ties se­cret in or­der to ma­ke of­fen­si­ve use of them against their ad­ver­sa­ri­es; ho­we­ver, the fai­lu­re to disclo­se such vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ties ex­po­ses mil­li­ons of sys­tems to at­tacks the agen­cies are sup­po­sed to pre­vent. How can pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law ad­dress and ac­com­mo­da­te such dia­lec­tics?

A third trend that af­fects pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty is the frag­men­ta­ti­on of con­tem­po­ra­ry wes­tern so­cie­ties. It ties in­to di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on in that the tec­to­nic shifts in our com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on and me­dia struc­tu­res spur­red by di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on ha­ve led to a gro­wing frag­men­ta­ti­on of pu­blic dis­cour­se. In­cre­a­sing in­e­qua­li­ty, mi­gra­ti­on, and re­li­gious and cul­tu­ral plu­ra­li­za­ti­on are al­so pro­mi­nent. How can the law ad­dress the chal­len­ges to pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty cau­sed by the­se trends? Ho­we­ver, frag­men­ta­ti­on can al­so be ob­ser­ved on the si­de of pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty agents. Pri­va­te se­cu­ri­ty per­so­nnel in ma­ny coun­tries al­rea­dy out­num­ber the pu­blic po­li­ce forces. Due to the pri­va­ti­za­ti­on of ma­ny key in­fra­struc­tu­res such as te­le­com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on and ener­gy and wa­ter sup­ply, pri­va­te en­ter­pri­ses ha­ve grown in­to a po­si­ti­on of im­men­se se­cu­ri­ty re­spon­si­bi­li­ty. Pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law must al­so ad­dress the needs for coor­di­na­ti­on and co­ope­ra­ti­on that are as­so­cia­ted with the frag­men­ta­ti­on of the sup­ply si­de.

3. Challenges: Fundamental Rights, Rule of Law, Democracy

On the one hand, pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law ser­ves to pro­tect the fun­da­men­tal rights of in­di­vi­du­als and the func­tio­ning of our le­gal in­sti­tu­ti­ons and de­mo­cra­tic pro­ces­ses. The dan­gers po­sed by the de­ve­lop­ments men­tio­ned abo­ve chal­len­ge this func­ti­on of pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law. This is ob­vious with re­gard to the in­ter­na­tio­na­li­za­ti­on of ter­ro­rism and cri­me and to the in­cre­a­se in vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ty due to di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on, but it is al­so true with re­gard to the frag­men­ta­ti­on of wes­tern so­cie­ties, a phe­no­me­non that is espe­ci­al­ly chal­len­ging to our de­mo­cra­tic pro­ces­ses. Pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law must ad­apt to the dy­na­mic of the­se trends.

On the other hand, so­me of the new­ly de­ve­lo­ped in­stru­ments of pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law them­sel­ves chal­len­ge in­di­vi­du­al and col­lec­ti­ve au­to­no­my and ru­le-of-law va­lues. They of­ten co­me with un­in­ten­ded con­se­quences that in­frin­ge on the fun­da­men­tal rights of tho­se whom they aim to pro­tect. They can un­der­mi­ne ru­le-of-law stan­dards that are in dan­ger of col­lap­sing in the face of na­tio­nal se­cu­ri­ty threats. Some instruments especially of the intelligence agencies are notoriously difficult to submit to legal or democratic control due to their functionally inevitable secrecy.

So­me of the ans­wers to the­se chal­len­ges will al­so ha­ve to be dia­lec­ti­cal. On oc­ca­si­on, in­stru­ments must be mo­di­fied in or­der to com­p­ly with exis­ting le­gal stan­dards. The grea­ter chal­len­ge, ho­we­ver, lies in de­ve­lop­ments that call for chan­ges to the le­gal stan­dards them­sel­ves. Is it pos­si­ble to de­ve­lop an­ti-dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on doc­tri­nes that re­main true to their aims but al­low for the pro­ces­sing of in­cri­mi­na­ted in­for­ma­ti­on in big da­ta ba­sed se­cu­ri­ty tech­no­lo­gies? How should the fun­da­men­tal right to da­ta pro­tec­ti­on be con­cep­tua­li­zed and pro­tec­ted in pu­blic se­cu­ri­ty law in a world in which per­so­nal da­ta is col­lec­ted and mar­ke­ted in ubi­qui­tous ways, espe­ci­al­ly by mul­ti­na­tio­nal da­ta mo­no­po­lists?

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