The focus of critiques of authoritarianism today lies increasingly in the use by liberal governments of ‘exceptional’ powers. These are powers in which an imminent threat to national security is judged to be of such importance as to warrant the restriction of liberties and other socially repressive measures in order to protect national security. ‘Terrorism’ has offered a particularly salient source of justification for a level of social repression that would be intolerable in normal times. A dominant line of criticism is that the use of exceptional powers to this end has gone too far. Critics emphasise the need to curtail such power by bringing it into line with basic human rights standards.